Indians in Vietnam
|Regions with significant populations|
|Ho Chi Minh City|
|Vietnamese · Tamil|
|Hinduism · Buddhism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|People of Indian Origin|
As of 2011[update], there were about 2,000 people of Indian origin settled in Vietnam, mainly in Saigon. Prior to the Vietnam War, there was a vibrant Indian community, primarily Tamils and specifically Chettiars. The community still maintains a Hindu temple in Ho Chi Minh City, the Sri Mariamman temple which is also a tourist attraction.
Today, the majority of Indians in Vietnam practice a religious syncretism of Hinduism (Brahminism) with Mahayana Buddhism. And Hindu temples are also serving for both Hindus and local Buddhists in both religious festivals.
There's 2 main categories of Indians in Vietnam: pre-1975 Indo-Vietnamese, who have been living in Vietnam for a few generations starting from the late 1800s, and post-1990s Indian expats who came to Vietnam recently after the implementation of the Doi Moi economic reforms, as entrepreneurs, business people, professionals and foreign workers. The pre-1975 Indo-Vietnamese are very few in number today in Vietnam.
In contemporary history, Indians began migrating to Vietnam in the late 19th century, to escape difficult economic conditions back in India in search for better prospects elsewhere, and/or for colonial civil service. There were several categories of Indian migrants:
- low- to middle-ranking civil servants from French colonies in India like Pondicherry;
- South Indian business people like Chettiars and Tamil Muslims;
- unskilled South Indian laborers;
- Gujarati and Sindhi merchants from Mumbai (Bombay);
- Sikhs and other Punjabis as security guards and shop owners.
According to a 1937 census taken by the French Indochinese colonial regime, there were around 2000 South Asians living in Southern Vietnam (Cochinchina), and another 1000 residing in Northern Vietnam (Tonkin), Central Vietnam (Annam) and Laos. An estimated 3,000 - 4,000 Indians lived in the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) in the 1950s and 60s, very few to none in communist North Vietnam after its independence in 1945. A Vietnamese source estimated that around 1000 Indians were in Saigon in the 1950s, of whom 400 were from the former French India, and the remainder were Bombay Gujarati and Sindhi merchants. Hindu, Muslim and Sikh Indians were all present. The majority of Indian Vietnamese were South Indian (e.g. Tamil), however a sizeable minority were North Indian (e.g. Gujus, Sindhs, Punjabis). Many Indo-Vietnamese lived in Saigon, but some also lived in other cities and towns like Đà Nẵng, Đà Lạt, Huế, and Nha Trang.
Gujus and Sindhis were mostly textile, clothing and jewelry merchants, and tailors, esp. in Saigon where they have many shops. Chettiars were mainly engaged in moneylending and brokerage, and rental of commercial buildings, vehicles, boats etc. The Chettiars started returning to India in 1963 due to political instability after the 1963 coup d'etat and assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem. Tamil Muslims built several mosques in Saigon, including the Central Mosque (vi: Thánh Đường Đông Du (Dong Du Mosque)) (ar: Jamia Al-Musulman), and the Chợ Lớn Mosque (vi: Thánh Đường Chợ Lớn) (ar: Jamiul Islamiyah), Tamil Hindus constructed several prominent temples in the city, incl. the Sri Mariamman temple and Sikhs have built a gurdwara (Sikh temple). Some non-Muslim Indians, e.g.. Hindu Sindhis and Gujaratis, intermarried with local Vietnamese women and started families with them, some, especially Chettiars, despite already having wives back in India.
India - Vietnam Relations 1975 and Prior
After 1975 Fall of Saigon
After the 1975 communist invasion of South Vietnam, the communist regime confiscated and collectivized all private property in the South for little to no compensation, as it had done in the North since 1945, which included the confiscation of Indian-owned private properties such as homes, businesses and places of worship. The former South's free market economy was also brought to an end by the communists, and a state-run economy was imposed, which prohibited all private enterprise. Foreigners were unwelcomed and harassed in Vietnam. There was also a general fear of persecution and fear of communist rule among Indo-Vietnamese. All these factors resulted in an exodus of Indian Vietnamese, coinciding with an ongoing mass exodus of Vietnamese Boat People refugees, leading to the near depletion of the pre-1975 Indo-Vietnamese population