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Indian influence on Jamaica and Rastafarianism

Jamaica is a country in The West Indies. East Indians form <1 % of total population. Jamaican culture is influenced by Indian culture. Rastafari religious belief is considerably influenced by Hindu spiritual beliefs and practices

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By Shubhi Mangla

The popular music form, Reggae has been acknowledged by a large number of people around the world. This form of music has actually originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. Reggae involves a powerful four-beat rhythm through drums, electric guitar, bass guitar and the scraper. The rhythms of Reggae soon emerged as Jamaica’s leading modern music and its diaspora. Reggae, gained international recognition and was soon popular in countries like US, Britain and Africa.

Reggae music- wikimedia commons
Reggae music- wikimedia commons

Jamaica, an island in the West Indies to the south of Cuba and west of Haiti is mostly linked to Africa owing to the large population of African descent present there. The island has a rich heritage, glorious history and is a fusion of diverse cultures. However, Jamaica has also been largely influenced by the Hindu culture which still remains highly unacknowledged.

Indian influence on Jamaican cuisine

Jamaican Curry Goat
Jamaican Curry Goat

An important element of Indian influence on Jamaican culture is its cuisine. Jamaican food consists of a good usage of curry leaves. Curried chicken and goat dishes are the most popular dishes of Jamaica. Locals and tourists are mostly served with curried shrimp, curries red snapper, curried lobster etc. More health conscious citizens and visitors are treated with curry vegetables. Roti and curry goat even form a part of the island’s national cuisine. Indian chutneys and hot sauces are also adopted by Jamaica’s culinary cuisine. One can easily be fascinated with the Jamaican cuisine due to this Indian flavors.

Indian arrival in Jamaica

Indian migrant workers in Jamaica- Wikimedia commons
Indian migrant workers in Jamaica- Wikimedia commons

According to livity.info, Jamaica first saw the arrival of Indians on May 10, 1845, who came to work in the sugar plantations of Clarendon, the island’s third largest church community. Their main aim was to replace the liberated African laborers who refused to work for their masters. Indians had friendly relation with African descent in Jamaica at first; hence Jamaican Africans accepted many of the Indian cultures and practices. Indians now form the third largest part of Jamaican society.

Rastafarianism and Indian influence

At the time when Reggae music was gaining dominance, Rastafarianism was growing in Jamaica. Rastafarianism began in Jamaica in 1920s and 1930s. Rastafarians believed in Jainism and Christianity and worshipped Judeo-Christian God, Jah. According to releigonfacts.com, “The Rastafarian lifestyle usually includes ritual use of marijuana, avoidance of alcohol, the wearing of one’s hair in dreadlocks, and vegetarianism”.

The leading father of Rastafarianism, Leonard Percival Howard belonged to Clarendon and grew up amongst Indians and Hindu culture. Howard believed in various Hindu rituals, their ceremonies of worshipping God, chanting “Jai Mata Di” and drinking bhang/ ganja, which are sweet flavored liquid consisting of little amount of alcohol. The practice of Ganja consumption was brought by Indian apprenticed workers which was known to cure all ills and also for religious purposes and vegetarian food. The main achievement was not food but the spread of spirituality. The early Rastafarian tenets were also influenced by Indian astronomy.

Leonard Percival Howell- twitter.com
Leonard Percival Howell- twitter.com

Leonard Percival Howard, who preached African ancestry and was a nature lover, borrowed many dogmas of the Rastafarian movement from the Indians. The Rastafarians also adopted the Ital diet which is of the idea that our body is a temple and it should be kept pure. Thus, it focused on eating vegetarian food (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans etc.). The diet came to be known as the Rastafarian diet. This high disciplined diet of vegetarianism was known to be influenced from the Indian servants who were vegetarians following an age old tradition in Hindu culture.

Ganja- wikimedia commons
Ganja- wikimedia commons

Jamaicans who lived in the countryside amongst Indians and Rastafarians were majorly utilizing Ganja/marijuana for medicinal and spiritual purposes. Though Africans used Marijuana for similar purpose, but it is Indians who were responsible for its arrival in Jamaica. People of African descent made use of this ‘herb’ for ceremonial practices. Those who practiced Kumina (an Afro-Jamaican culture which practiced western culture) also used marijuana in order to communicate with their ancestors.

Leonard’s Hindu influence was also acknowledged by Joseph Hibbert, another funding father of the Rastafarian movement in an interview with Leonard’s biographer Helene Lee who said, “After learning about the Hindu God incarnates Rama, Krishna and Buddha, Howell was convinced that every nation had their own God”. Leonard considered Emperor Selassie of Ethiopia as his African God.

Robert Nesta Marley, a popular face of reggae and Rastafari, was nicknamed as “Tuff Gong” associated to Leonard Howell who was known as Gong. The term “Gangunguru” means ‘Great King’ or ‘king of kings’ in the Hindi language as proclaimed by the book “Dread History” by Professor Robert A Hill.

Even today, Jamaica holds a significant population of Indians who are more segregated as compared to their early arrival. Most of the Indians in Jamaica are merchants who look down upon the Afro-Jamaicans. Irrespective of their present dogmatism, they must be appreciated for their contribution towards Rastafarianism and the Jamaican culture at large.

References:

http://www.religionfacts.com/rastafarianism

Shubhi Mangla is a student of Journalism and Mass Communication in New Delhi. She is currently working as an intern at Newsgram.

Follow her on twitter @shubhi_mangla

 

 

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How telecom has become driver of economic change in India

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The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front.
The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. Wikimedia Commons
  • India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution
  • The sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991
  • India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world

For the most part of human history, the change was glacial in pace. It was quite safe to assume that the world at the time of your death would look pretty much similar to the one at the time of your birth. That is no longer the case, and the pace of change seems to be growing exponentially. Futurist Ray Kurzweil put it succinctly when he wrote in 2001: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” Since the time of his writing, a lot has changed, especially with the advent of the internet.

India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution. The country’s hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. In fact, according to Reserve Bank of India data, the sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991, growing by over 10 percent. On the other hand, no other sector has had a productivity growth of above five percent during the same period. It is no wonder that it has also been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy, growing at over seven percent in the last decade itself.

Also Read: Social Media in India: Understanding The Dynamics of ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’

Such an unprecedented pace of growth has been brought about the precise levels of change that Kurzweil was so enthusiastic about. Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Meanwhile, India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world, which has hit rock bottom after the entry of Reliance Jio. This has ensured access to those even at the bottom of the pyramid.

A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country.
A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. Wikimedia Commons

Even though consumers have come to be accustomed to fast-paced changes within the telecom sector, the entry of Jio altered the face of the industry like never before by changing the very basis of competition. Data became the focal point of competition for an industry that derived over 75 percent of its revenue from voice. It was quite obvious that there would be immediate economic effects due to it. Now that we’re nearing a year of Jio’s paid operations, during which time it has even become profitable, we saw it fit to quantify its socio-economic impact on the country. Three broad takeaways need to be highlighted.

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First, the most evident effect has been the rise in affordability of calling and data services. Voice services have become practically costless while data prices have dropped from an average of Rs 152 per GB to lower than Rs 10 per GB. Such a drastic reduction in data prices has not only brought the internet within the reach of a larger proportion of the Indian population but has also allowed newer segments of society to use and experience it for the first time. Since the monthly saving of an average internet user came out to be Rs 142 per month (taking a conservative estimate that the consumer is still using 1 GB of data each month) and there are about 350 million mobile internet users in the country (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data), the yearly financial savings for the entire country comes out to be Rs 60,000 crore.

To put things in perspective, this amount is more than four times the entire GDP of Bhutan. Therefore, mere savings by the consumer on data has been at astonishing proportions.

Today's smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons
Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons

Now, this data has been used for services that have brought to life a thriving app economy within the country. So, the second level of impact has been in the redressal of a variety of consumer needs — ranging from education, health and entertainment to banking. For instance, students in remote areas can now access online courseware and small businesses can access newer markets. Information asymmetry has been considerably reduced.

Third, a rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. These effects arise not merely from the creation of an internet economy, but also due to the synergy effects it generates. Information becomes more accessible and communication a lot easier. Businesses find it easier to operate and access consumers. Labour working in cities has to make less frequent trips home and becomes more productive as a result. Education and health services become available in inaccessible locations. Multiple avenues open up for knowledge and skill enhancement.

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An econometric analysis for the Indian economy showed that the 15 percent increase in internet penetration due to Jio and the spill-over effects it creates will raise the per capita levels of the country’s GDP by 5.85 percent, provided all else remains constant.

Thus, India’s telecom sector will continue to drive the economy forward, at least in the short run, and hopefully catapult India into 20,000 years of progress within this century, as Kurzweil postulated. The best approach for the state would be to ensure the environment of unfettered competition within the industry. Maybe other sectors of the economy ought to take a leaf out of the telecom growth story. The Indian banking sector comes to mind. However, that is a topic for another day. (IANS)

(Amit Kapoor is Chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. He can be contacted at Amit. Kapoor@competitiveness.in and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, a senior researcher at the institute, has contributed to the article.)