The arrival of East Indians

THE EDITOR: Today TT celebrates Indian Arrival Day, which commemorates the arrival of the first Indian indentured labourers to Trinidad in May 1845 on the Fatel Razack. The ship brought not only a new labour force to assist in the economic development of Trinidad, but also a new people with a new culture.

While this momentous event has been celebrated among the East Indian community for many years, it was not until 1994 that it was made a public holiday. It was first called Arrival Day but the next year it was renamed Indian Arrival Day. On May 30 each year, this event is commemorated with the re-enactment of the arrival of the Fatel Razack at various beaches and outstanding members of the community are honoured for their contributions to society.

Indian immigration to Trinidad spanned the period 1845-1917, during which over 140,000 Indians came to the island. The journey was long and arduous and living conditions were deplorable. After disembarking at Nelson Island, the arrivals were fed and rested for a couple weeks and then sent to various estates.

A recorded number of 147,592 Indian labourers came to Trinidad from 1845 to 1917 to work on the sugar plantations. They came mainly from the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar provinces of north India, with a few also coming from Bengal. Many worked for the duration of their contract of five years or more, and the majority opted to make Trinidad their home. Some returned to India.

Evidence of the arrival of the Indian labourers can be gleaned from the general Registers of Indian Indentured Labourers available at the National Archives of TT as part of the Indian Indentureship Collection. These are official records. They document the arrival of each labourer and the estate to which he/she was assigned. The registers include information on the name of the ship on which they arrived, the arrival date and personal details.

The East Indians brought to Trinidad a wide range of festivals and religious observances. For both Hindus and Muslims, these celebrations were important. They allowed the immigrants to hold on to the values and principles which had sustained them for centuries. They also served to make the harsh daily life more bearable.

Events such as Divali, Eid-ul-Fitr, Phagwa and Hosay have, over the years, become part of the cultural fabric of TT.

And from engineering, to medicine, to entertainment, to politics, the East Indian community has played a great role in the development of TT.

On behalf of my family and myself I wish a happy Indian Arrival Day to all citizens.


San Fernando


"The arrival of East Indians"

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