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South African Settlers - Indian

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  • Mahatma Gandhi, महात्मा (1869 - 1948)
    Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi , born 2 October 1869[1] – 30 January 1948), commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi, was the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. Employing non-violent c...
  • Anthonij Jansz van Bengale, SV/PROG (1638 - bef.1682)
    Anthonij Jansz van Bengale vryswarte; ofskoon hy sy naam teken as Anthonij van Japan' word ook na hom verwys as Anthonij de Chinees'; eerste vryswarte aan die Kaap van Goeie Hoop : Cape Muster Ro...
  • Amarensie van de Caep / van Bengale (deceased)
    Den selven dito (19 Febr)* Amarensie * een halfslagt van Monsr. Vlaesvat*
  • Dorothea Ahlers, SM/PROG (c.1772 - d.)
    Dorothea of Bengale South African SlaveBaptised as an adult in 1765.x wife of Oltman Ahlers, married 10 Dec 1780, Cape Town. She was his slave, whom he had emancipated in 1772. 7 children. * b1 Rachel ...
  • Angela van Bengale, SM/PROG (c.1648 - bef.1720)
    And partner of Angela van Bengale? Jan van As or Asschen was from Brussels and he arrived at the Cape in 1659, he then worked as a cooper. ? Arrival 1671 with his spouse at the Cape ? Children still b...

Early Indian Settlers in South Africa

This project is for Early Indian Settlers in South Africa. It is also a place where you can share links to online resources, tell other users where records etc. can be found and make queries or ask for help through the discussion facility.

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  • Please add the profiles of Progenitors from India - (not their entire families and descendants!) and also those of prominent, famous, influential South Africans from that part of the world. This is easily done from the profile page using the Add to project link.
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In the 1850's and 1860's, because fewer Zulus were prepared to work on the sugar plantations in Natal as the British had hoped, labour was brought in from India, with SS Truro arriving in Durban harbour in 1860 with 300 people onboard. In the next six years a total of 6445 men, women and children arrived.

The second batch of indentured labourers, arriving between 1874 and 1879, numbered between eight and nine thousand and were all from Northern India. They were in great demand not only for sugar estates but also for the construction of the railway line from Durban to the interior. The Natal Government Railways, established in 1876, became the largest single employer of Indian labour, some of their employees being experienced and skilled men who had worked on railway construction in India.

150 000 more Indians arrived over the 50 years from 1860, resulting in Natal (today KwaZulu-Natal) becoming one of the largest Indian communities outside Asia.

However, there had been Indians at the Cape from around 1653. The Dutch merchants brought them back with them from their voyages to the East and sold them to the Dutch settlers at the Cape. Between 1653 and the early 19th Century there were already over 1000 Indians at the Cape, forming over 36% of the imported slave population.

Most had been shipped from Bengale or the Coromandal coast. Because they married slaves from East Asia, other parts of Africa and the local KhoiKhoi and San people they didn't maintain their Indian identity and were generally called 'Malays' - a name that was applied to all the Muslims at the Cape. [2]

Computerisation of the Indian Shipping Lists

"The Indian Shipping Lists, complete in 91 volumes, provide the most extensive and important data relating to any immigrant community in Southern Africa. Indentured Indians arrived in Natal in 384 vessels, of which 262 sailed from Madras and 122 from Calcutta. The first, the Truro, arrived in Port Natal in November 1860 and the final Umlazi 43 on 21 July 1911. The captain of each vessel was provided with a list
of passengers and this was handed over to the Protector of Indians, or his representative in Natal, who, after checking the list against the passengers, had it bound in what have become known as the Indian Shipping Lists or Ships' Lists.

Every indentured labourer from India is listed in these registers according to the colonial number given at the time of indenture or departure from the ports of Madras (for south Indians) and Calcutta (for the north). This number remained with the individual throughout his or her stay in Natal. It followed them into marriage where the colonial number of the husband appeared on the marriage certificate with his wife's number and on the birth record of their colonial born children. The colonial number appeared on every official document including licences, employment agreements and finally death certificates. They run from 1 (Truro) to 152184 (Umlazi 43).

The Shipping Lists provide the following information: Name, Father's Name, Age, Sex, Caste, height, and places of origin, namely Zillah, Thanna (or Taluk), and Village.

A final column in the registers provides identifying information on caste marks, scars, moles and warts. This has not been included. Instead Remarks have been added providing information obtained from the Report of the Protector of Indians on unnatural deaths, suicides and accidents, and from the Estates Registers, the names of employers and transfers from one estate to another. In addition, using the Registers of those returning to India, which are unfortunately incomplete, information has been given, as far as possible, about those who left to return to India. This has been explained in the next section on Indentured Indians who returned to India. Other information has been captured from the copious correspondence of the Protector of Indians and the Indian Immigration Trust Board; this included lists of those leaving Natal under licence for other parts of South Africa. The final remarks column provides the employer, an individual or an estate, where the first indenture period was served. It is important to note that no complete list of PASSENGER INDIANS exists. That is to say that Indians who paid their own passage to Natal and needed no passport, because they had come from British India, entered South Africa and left again as they pleased in the 1870s and 1880s" Read more. [1]

  • The most famous Indian to settle in South Africa was, of course, the great soul, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who arrived in 1893 and left in 1913, having played an important role in the “South Africanising” of the Indian community.
  • Ms Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of the Mahatma and a Member of Parliament for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) summed up the cultural issue:

“I am a South African; a very proud South African. The Indianness comes in at the level of culture, the way we eat, the kind of things we eat, the kind of things we appreciate – like music, drama, the language we speak. We only enrich our country by having all these different tastes and habits. What I am basically saying is that that is where the Indianness stops.”

  • Minister of Finance, 'Mr Pravin Gordhan;
  • One Day International (ODI) cricket batsman, Mr Hashim Amla, who plays for the Proteas (South Africa's national cricket team).
  • Abubaker Jhavary, originally from Porbander on the Kathiawad Peninsular, arrived in Natal via Mauritius. By dint of hard work and business acumen he prospered, his trade flourished and he was soon exporting dried fish cured by Indians on Salisbury Island in Durban Bay to India in his own fleet of ships.
  • In South Africa one local family member organised a huge family reunion to celebrate the anniversary. She is Ms Mandy Moodley who wrote in the local popular magazine You (of 23 September 2010): “My grandfathers on both sides were born in India and arrived in South Africa as young boys. The year was 1860 and they struggled. They worked in the sugar-cane fields and lived in barracks. They were poor but well-raised despite the hardships of those days.”

Ms Moodley managed to get 189 family members together for the reunion on 17 April 2010 at the community centre in Chatsworth, Durban.
As Ms Moodley wrote: “We are proud Indians who were born and brought up in South Africa. We fly both the South African and Indian flags at our homes and we're proud to belong to two such wonderful countries.”

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