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South African Indians

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ARRIVAL OF INDIANS

In Natal, the arrival of the Indentured Indian in 1860 marked the beginnings of an organised scheme whereby approximately 152,184 Indians arrived to seek gainful employment in a fledgling sugar industry. While many worked on the sugar fields, others worked on the wattle and tea plantations and in the coal-mines . Some came as domestic servants as Dhobis, waiters and house-servants and were able to command a respectable salary of 20 shillings per month.

When the ships left India, the name of the person, his age sex, caste height, area he came from, the village, the name of the Ship and the year were documented. Hence a "ships list" of all passengers were compiled and where possible when the labourers arrived in the Colony of Natal, the name of his employer was inserted in the register. This record served to keep track of the Indians and even in later years Indians were not allowed to cross the border into the provinces of Natal, Cape, Orange Free State and Transvaal unless a permit was secured.


While they stayed in the Colonies, they set up residence, built their own homes, temples and engaged themselves in a variety of festivals. The kavady festival was prevelant in the earlier years and was dubbed the "marigold festival" due to the abundance of marigolds used. The Mohurrum festival, which is usually a Muslim festival, was celebrated by all Indians. The event was called an Indian Xmas by the White settlers.

The Indian trader made his appearance shortly after the arrival of the Indentured Indian. This pattern is evident wherever the Indentured Indian set foot, be it Mauritius, Trinidad, British Guiana or any of the British colonies. This was to be expected as the Indian is unique in his manner of dressing, his religion, his customs, folklore and general life-style. The Indian trader was able to provide for the indentured Indians needs : clothing, musical instruments, specific foods, religious artifacts and the like.

The Indian trader prospered. He was able to make a successful living by trading with the local black population in the remote areas, giving items on credit, selling items in small quantities and often cheaper than his white counter-parts. This invoked the envy of the White trader, who by virtue of his political standing was able to influence the government of the day to pass numerous anti-Indian legislation which restricted the Indian trader as to where he could live and trade. Indians were restricted into locations and bazaars. These restrictions were bitterly opposed by the merchant class, who contested the many anti-Indian legislation meeting with limited success.

The ex-indentured Indian on the other hand prospered. He rented and leased land after the expiration of indenture, grew vegetables on a small scale and sold them at the market or went from door to door selling his products (hawkers).===