Thursday, May 29, 2014

Indian Arrival Days In The Caribbean (Information & Songs)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides information about various Indian Arrival Day celebrations in the Caribbean. This post also showcases a video of the Caribbean song "Indo Caribbean Man by Terry Gajraj (Guyana) and a sound file mix of Chutney Soca songs celebrating Indian Arrival Day in Grenada.

The content of this post is provided for historical, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the contributions that people of Indo-Caribbean descent have made in their countries & throughout the rest of the Caribbean & the world. Thanks to all those quoted in this post and thanks to Terry Gajraj for performing the featured Indian arrival song and 1socaholic for producing the featured Chutney Soca mix and posting comments about the history of East Indians in Grenada.

"Indian Arrival Day is a holiday celebrated on various days in the nations of the Caribbean and the island nation of Mauritius, usually commemorating the arrival of people from the Indian subcontinent to that nation as indentured labor brought by British colonial authorities and their agents.

History of the celebration
Indian Arrival Day was first celebrated in Skinner Park, San Fernando, as the East Indian Centenary on May 30, 1845[2] which marked the hundredth anniversary of the coming of Indians to Trinidad. The Acting Governor representing the Government of the United Kingdom attended indicating the significance of the observance. Other local dignitaries who addressed the large crowd included Timothy Roodal, George Fitzpatrick, Adrian Cola Rienzi, and Murli J. Kirpalani. Greetings were also read from Mahatma Gandhi, Lord Wavell, and Colonel Stanley, the Secretary of State for the Colonies...
In Guyana the holiday is celebrated on May 5th commemorating the first arrival of indentured servants from India to the country, on May 8, 1838. On this day, the workers arrived in Guyana to work in sugar plantations. Their descendants today comprise 44 percent of Guyana's population of over 750,000.[1]

In Mauritius, the holiday is celebrated on November 2 to commemorate the arrival of indentured laborers.

In Suriname, Indian Arrival Day is celebrated on June 5.

Trinidad and Tobago
Indian Arrival Day is a holiday celebrated on May 30 in Trinidad and Tobago each year since the 1990s. It commemorates the first arrivals from the Indian subcontinent to Trinidad, on May 30, 1845, on the ship Fatel Razack (a rendering of the Arabic Fath Al Razak 'Victory to Allah the Sustainer'). The many versions of the spelling for this historic ship reflects the difficulties of pronunciation and transliteration of foreign and East Indian names in Trinidad (as with the street festival of "Muhurram" or "Hosay" and "Hussay")...

Since its establishment in Trinidad, Indian Arrival Day has given rise to similar celebrations in Jamaica, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Australia. However, there is no similar celebration in Fiji, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa or Kenya, which are also home to large Indian-origin populations."
As per its Wikipedia page "Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) off the southeast coast of the African continent."

As a coincidence, I just happened to watch a house hunters international television show the same afternoon after publishing this post that featured a couple moving from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands to Mauritius.


Arrival Song - Indo-Carribean Man

Terry Gajraj, Published on Apr 30, 2013

This song tells the story of our Ancestors who left India & come to Guyana. Lyrics written by Terry Gajraj. Music by Simeon Ramesar. Recorded at JTS Studio, Jay Kewla. Sung by Terry Gajraj.
Here's comment from that video's viewer comment thread:
Lakshmee Singh, 2014
Happy Arrival Day To All Indo - Guyanese. Let Us Not Forget The Struggles Of Our Fore Parents ..... To Help Us Reflect On This History, Here Is A Wonderful Song By Guyana's Very Own Terry Gajraj.

Indian Arrival Day 2013 - Grenada Chutney Soca Mix- DK Socaholic Prodz

1socaholic, Published on Apr 30, 2013

The 1st of May kicks of the celebration of Indian Arrival Day 2013 in Grenada.

This is a little Chutney Soca mix I put together, for the Indo Grenadian People out there.

Indian culture is alive in Grenada and the Caribbean

On Caribbean family, It's all about unity

Mix put together by DJ SocaholicOCAHOLIC

Happy Indian Arrival Day!!!
Here are several comments from 1socaholic about the history of East Indian in Grenada:
1socaholic, 2013
"The first group of East Indians arrived on the ship ‘Maidstone', which landed at Irwin's Bay in St Patrick on May 1 st 1857. It is estimated that 268 males and 68 females boarded the ship and of that number approximately 24% of them died in transit. Upon reaching Grenada, it is believed that the survivors were first taken to Belmont Estate as a holding area and were then distributed to about 15 plantations in St Patrick.

....The period of indentureship officially ended in 1890, though some Indians continued to work under existing contracts until 1893. In that year a few Indians chose to repatriate to India, but most used their bounty funds that they were entitled to, to purchase lands or to start a savings account in the local banks.

...They were not allowed to wander beyond two miles from the estate to which they were attached, without a pass. If they were found guilty of disobeying this rule, they were liable to arrest and imprisonment. Failing to report to work and misconduct were considered criminal offences, which were punishable by arrest and charged with a fine or imprisonment. Indentureship contracts were initially for one year and later extended to three years. In 1862 five year contracts were granted.

It is imperative to note that although one of the original objectives of immigration of indentured labourers failed - salvaging the island as a sugar producer - some of the indentured workers played a fundamental role in converting some estates from sugar to cocoa. As a result of this combined effort, by 1878, cocoa cultivation had surpassed sugar in its importance to the economy.

Over the last 40 years, there has been a new wave of migration of Indian nationals to Grenada as businesspersons. Most of these recently migrated Indians have had ties or businesses in other Caribbean islands like Trinidad, Barbados, St. Maarten and Curacao. Many have made Grenada their permanent adopted home, and have made a significant input into the economy of the island. In addition, they have influenced Indo-Grenadians greater appreciation for the shared Indian culture.

Life in Grenada was difficult for the Indians due to the cultural differences, language barrier, and the imbalance in the number of female to male and being a minority group on the island. The East Indians were expected to work nine hours a day for a six day work week. In return, they received free accommodation, weekly food rations and a minimum wage."

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. There is in fact an Indian Arrival Day in Fiji. It is called Girmit Day, translatable as Ancestor Day. Last year they would have had the 138th anniversary of Girmit Day. See attached article

    Girmit Day celebrations
    Charlene Lanyon
    Wednesday, May 18, 2016
    + Enlarge this image
    National Archives staff members pose for a group photo during the celebrations. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU
    SYRIA Park in Nausori was the venue of this year's 137th Girmit Day celebrations by the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts.
    Students, friends and family converged at the grounds to mark a historical part of Fiji's history.
    Booths showcasing the Girmitiya and the history and culture of the people were also on display.

    Ram Jagessar

    1. Ram Jagessar, thanks for sharing that information with pancocojams.

      It's good to know that there is also an Indian Arrival Day in Fiji.

      What does "Girmit" mean?

      For those who might want to read more of that article, unfortunately what is written above is the complete article.

      Thanks again and One Love!