Little India (location)

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Little India
India Square JC jeh.JPG
India Square in Jersey City, New Jersey, USA, is one of at least 24 Indian American enclaves characterized as a Little India which have emerged within the New York City Metropolitan Area, with the largest metropolitan Indian population outside Asia, as large-scale immigration from India continues into New York.[1][2][3][4]
Hindi name
Hindi प्रवासी भारतीय
Pravāsī Bhāratīya

Little India is an ethnic enclave containing a large population of Indian people within a society where the majority of people are either South Asians or where the majority in the enclave are indigenous to states in the country of India within a South Asian society identifying as Indian. It may also refer to an area with a high concentration of South Asian shops and restaurants.


Indian trader's family in Bagamoyo, German East Africa, around 1906/18.

Little Indias across the world represent a diaspora of expatriate Indians. These expatriates may be non-resident Indians (NRI) who are citizens of India and hold an Indian passport but have temporarily emigrated to another country for employment, residence, education or any other purpose. Or these expatriates may be persons of Indian origin (PIO) who were born or whose ancestors were born in India but who are no longer citizen of India and are the citizen of another country.

According to the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, India is the source of the second largest diaspora in the world after overseas Chinese. The overseas Indian community estimated at over 25 million is spread across every major region in the world.[5][6]

The most significant historical emigration from India was that of the Romani people, traditionally known by the term "Gypsies".[7] Linguistic and genetic evidence indicates the Romani originated from the Indian subcontinent, emigrating from India towards the northwest no earlier than the 11th century. The Romani are generally believed to have originated in central India, possibly in the modern Indian state of Rajasthan, migrating to northwest India (the Punjab region) around 250 B.C.

Another major emigration from the subcontinent was to Southeast Asia. There is possibility that the first wave of Indians migration towards Southeast Asia happened when the Ashoka's invasion towards Kalinga and Samudragupta's expedition towards the South.[8] It followed by early interaction of Indian traders and, after mid-first millennium A.D., by some import of members of the Brahmin social caste. This resulted in the establishment of the so-called Indianized kingdoms in Southeast Asia. The Tamil Cholas, who were known for their naval power, conquered Sumatra and Malay Peninsula. The influence of Tamil culture is still strongly felt in Southeast Asia, for example with the royal Brahmins of Thailand (rajkru), or especially in Bali (in Indonesia). In such cases, it is not reasonable to apply the label 'PIO' to the descendants of emigrants from several centuries back. Intermixture has been so great as to negate the value of such nomenclature in this context.

After the 1970s oil boom in the Middle East, numerous Indians emigrated to work in the Gulf countries. With modern transportation and expectations, this was on a contractual basis rather than permanent as in the 19th century cases. These Gulf countries have a common policy of not naturalizing non-Arabs, even if they are born there.

The 1990s IT boom and rising economy in the USA attracted numerous Indians who emigrated to the United States of America. Today, the USA has the third largest number of Indians. Also, as per UNESCO Institute for Statistics the number of Indian students abroad tripled from 51,000 in 1999 to over 153,000 in 2007, making India second after China among the world’s largest sending countries for tertiary students.


Indian cuisine[edit]

Pesarattu, a popular Andhra dish, served with kobbari pachadi (chutney made using coconut)
Main article: Indian cuisine

Most Little Indias are known for their Indian cuisines, which encompass foods from a wide variety of regional cuisines native to India. Given the range of diversity in soil type, climate and occupations, these cuisines vary significantly from each other and use locally available spices, herbs, vegetables and fruits. Indian food is also heavily influenced by religious and cultural choices and traditions.

The development of these cuisines have been shaped by Dharmic beliefs, and in particular by vegetarianism, which is a growing dietary trend in Indian society.[9] There has also been Central Asian influence on North Indian cuisine from the years of Mughal rule.[10] Indian cuisine has been and is still evolving, as a result of the nation's cultural interactions with other societies.[11][12]

Historical incidents such as foreign invasions, trade relations and colonialism have also played a role in introducing certain foods to the country. For instance, potato, a staple of Indian diet was brought to India by the Portuguese, who also introduced chillies and breadfruit.[13] Indian cuisine has also shaped the history of international relations; the spice trade between India and Europe is often cited by historians as the primary catalyst for Europe's Age of Discovery.[14] Spices were bought from India and traded around Europe and Asia. It has also influenced other cuisines across the world, especially those from Southeast Asia, the British Isles and the Caribbean.[15][16]

Hindi language[edit]

Main article: Hindi

Many Little Indias employ signage that can sometimes be seen in written Hindi. As with many Asian languages, different dialects of Hindi can often be heard even within one established Little India. Hindi (हिन्दी), or more precisely "Modern Standard Hindi" (मानक हिन्दी), is a standardised and Sanskritised register of the Hindustani language. Hindustani is the native language of people living in Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Rajasthan.[17] Hindi is one of the official languages of India.

Standard Hindi is mutually intelligible with the other standardized register of Hindustani, Urdu, which is associated with the North Indian Muslim community.[citation needed] The two standards are nearly identical in structure and grammar. Mutual intelligibility decreases in literary and specialised contexts, which rely on educated vocabulary drawn from different sources; Hindi drawing its specialised vocabulary from Sanskrit, whilst Urdu does so from Persian and Arabic. In their colloquial forms, the two varieties are nearly indistinguishable.

Placards such as this one were placed above street signs at the district's official naming ceremony on January 16, 2010.

People who identify as native speakers of "Hindi" include not only Hindu speakers of Hindustani, but also many speakers of related languages who consider their speech to be a dialect of Hindi. In the 2001 Indian census, 258 million (25,80,00,000) people in India reported Hindi to be their native language;[18] as of 2009, the best figure Ethnologue could find for speakers of actual Hindustani Hindi (effectively the Khariboli dialect less Urdu) was a figure of 180 million in 1991. This makes Hindi approximately the sixth-most-widely spoken in the world.

Only a few Little Indias in the world have actually received official recognition in the form of a name in the local language, as with the Mahatma Gandhi District in Houston, official only since 2010.

Hinduism and Hindu festivals[edit]

A Balmiki Ashram

Many Little Indias are evidenced by the presence of Hindu festivals, such as Diwali and Holi and the presence of Hinduism as practiced in the country of India itself, where it is the dominant religion[note 1] of the Indian subcontinent, particularly of India and Nepal, which consists of many diverse traditions. It includes Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism[20] among numerous other traditions, and a wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions of "daily morality" based on karma, dharma, and societal norms. Hinduism is a categorisation of distinct intellectual or philosophical points of view, rather than a rigid, common set of beliefs.[21]

Hinduism has been called the "oldest religion" in the world,[note 2] and many practitioners refer to Hinduism as Sanātana Dharma, "the eternal law" or the "eternal way"[31] beyond human origins.[31] It prescribes the "eternal" duties all Hindus have to follow, regardless of class, caste, or sect, such as honesty, purity, and self-restraint.[web 1]

Western scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion[32][note 3] or synthesis[34][note 4][35] of various Indian cultures and traditions,[34][36][32][note 8] with diverse roots[47] and no single founder.[48] Among its roots are the Vedic religion[36] of the late Vedic period and its emphasis on the status of Brahmans,[49] but also the religions of the Indus Valley Civilisation,[47][33][50][51] the Sramana[52] or renouncer traditions[36] of north-east India,[52] and "popular or local traditions".[36] This "Hindu synthesis" emerged around the beginning of the Common Era,[34][53][note 9][note 10] the "Hindu synthesis" emerged,[34][53] which incorporated shramanic[53][54] and Buddhist influences[53][55] and the emerging bhakti tradition into the Brahmanical fold.[56]
During the Gupta reign the first Puranas were written,[57][note 11] which were used to disseminate "mainstream religious ideology amongst pre-literate and tribal groups undergoing acculturation."[57] The resulting Puranic Hinduism differed markedly from the earlier Brahmanism of the Dharmasastras and the smritis.[57][note 12] and co-existed for several centuries with Buddhism,[61] to finally gain the upper hand in most royal circles during the 8th century CE.[62][note 13][web 2][note 14]

From northern India this "Hindu synthesis", and its societal divisions, spread to southern India and parts of Southeast Asia.[64][note 15][68][note 16][69][note 17] It was aided by the settlement of Brahmins on land granted by local rulers,[66][42] the incorporation and assimilation of popular non-Vedic gods, [70][note 18] and the process of Sanskritisation, in which "people from many strata of society throughout the subcontinent tended to adapt their religious and social life to Brahmanic norms". [note 19][72]


Non-resident Indian and person of Indian origin
Flag of India.svg
Flag of India.
A bar chart showing the distribution of Overseas Indians.
Total population
Est. 25,000,000[5][73]
Regions with significant populations
   Nepal 6000,000
 Burma 356,560
 United States 2,245,239
 Malaysia 2,050,000
 Saudi Arabia 1,789,000
 United Arab Emirates 1,789,000
 Sri Lanka 1,601,600
 United Kingdom 1,500,000
 South Africa 1,218,000
 Canada 1,000,000
 Mauritius 882,220
 Oman 718,642
 Singapore 670,000
 Kuwait 579,390
 Trinidad and Tobago 551,500
 Qatar 500,000
 France (Réunion, French West Indies and Guiana Island) 450,000
 Australia 448,430
 Bahrain 350,000
 Guyana 320,200
 Fiji 313,798
 Netherlands 215,000
 Thailand 150,000
 Suriname 140,300
 Italy 120,000
 Yemen 111,000
 New Zealand 110,000
 Kenya 100,000
 Tanzania 92,000
 Portugal 80,000
 Israel 78,000
Indian languages · Local languages · English (for NRIs)
Hinduism · Christianity · Sikhism · Jainism · Buddhism · Zoroastrianism · Atheism · Agnosticism · Islam
Related ethnic groups
Indian people



South Africa[edit]


Main article: Indians in Tanzania



Main article: Indians in China


Main article: Indians in Indonesia


Main article: Indians in Japan


Main article: Malaysian Indian


Main article: Burmese Indians


Saudi Arabia[edit]


Main article: Indians in Singapore


Main article: Indians in Thailand

United Arab Emirates[edit]

Indians constitute over 30% of the population of the UAE. Here are some areas with a comparatively larger concentration of Indians.




Main article: Indians in Germany
  • Frankfurt, on the corner of Münchner and Weser street.


The Netherlands[edit]

  • The Hague, Paul Krügerlaan, Transvaal (shopping street)

United Kingdom[edit]

Main article: British Indian
Little India in Southall, London

North America[edit]


Main article: Indo-Canadians
British Columbia[edit]

Trinidad and Tobago[94][95][96][edit]

United States[edit]

Chicago's Little India on Devon Avenue
New Hampshire[edit]
New Jersey[edit]
New York[edit]
Little India in Jackson Heights, New York
North Carolina[edit]



Main article: Indians in Australia
New South Wales[edit]
South Australia[edit]


Main article: Indians in Fiji
An Indo-Fijian district in Fiji

New Zealand[edit]

Main article: Indian New Zealander

South America[edit]


Main article: Indians in Guyana


Main article: Indians in Suriname



  1. ^ Hinduism is variously defined as a "religion", "set of religious beliefs and practices", "religious tradition" etc. For a discussion on the topic, see: "Establishing the boundaries" in Gavin Flood 2008 (2003), pp. 1-17.[19]
  2. ^ See:
    • "Oldest religion":
      • Fowler: "probably the oldest religion in the world"[22]
      • Gellman & Hartman: "Hinduism, the world's oldest religion"[23]
      • Stevens: "Hinduism, the oldest religion in the world",[24]
    • The "oldest living religion"[25]
    • The "oldest living major religion" in the world.[26][27]
      • Laderman: "world's oldest living civilisation and religion"[28]
      • Turner: "It is also recognized as the oldest major religion in the world"[29]
    Smart, on the other hand, calls it also one of the youngest religions: "Hinduism could be seen to be much more recent, though with various ancient roots: in a sense it was formed in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century."[30] See also:
  3. ^ a b Lockard: "The encounters that resulted from Aryan migration brought together several very different peoples and cultures, reconfiguring Indian society. Over many centuries a fusion of Aryan and Dravidian occurred, a complex process that historians have labeled the Indo-Aryan synthesis."[32] Lockard: "Hinduism can be seen historically as a synthesis of Aryan beliefs with Harappan and other Dravidian traditions that developed over many centuries."[33]
  4. ^ a b Hiltebeitel: "A period of consolidation, sometimes identified as one of "Hindu synthesis," Brahmanic synthesis," or "orthodox synthesis," takes place between the time of the late Vedic Upanishads (c. 500 BCE) and the period of Gupta imperial ascendency" (c. 320-467 CE)."[34]
  5. ^ Ghurye: He [Hutton] considers modern Hinduism to be the result of an amalgam between pre-Aryan Indian beliefs of mediterranean inspiration and the religion of the Rigveda. "The Tribal religions present, as it were, surplus material not yet buit into the temple of Hinduism".[38]
  6. ^ Tyler, in India: An Anthropological Perspective(1973), page 68, as quoted by Sjoberg, calls Hinduism a "synthesis" in which the Dravidian elements prevail: "The Hindu synthesis was less the dialectical reduction of orthodoxy and heterodoxy than the resurgence of the ancient, aboriginal Indus civilization. In this process the rude, barbaric Aryan tribes were gradually civilised and eventually merged with the autochthonous Dravidians. Although elements of their domestic cult and ritualism were jealously preserved by Brahman priests, the body of their culture survived only in fragmentary tales and allegories embedded in vast, syncretistic compendia. On the whole, the Aryan contribution to Indian culture is insignificant. The essential pattern of Indian culture was already established in the third millennium B.C., and ... the form of Indian civilization perdured and eventually reasserted itself.[40]
  7. ^ Hopfe & Woodward: "The religion that the Aryans brought with them mingled with the religion of the native people, and the culture that developed between them became classical Hinduism."[45]
  8. ^ See also:
  9. ^ After the Vedic period, around the beginning of the Common Era
  10. ^ Between 500[34]-200[53] BCE and c. 300 CE,[34] at the beginning of the "Epic and Puranic" c.q. "Preclassical" period.
  11. ^ The date of the production of the written texts does not define the date of origin of the Puranas;[58] they may have existed in some oral form before being written down.[58]
  12. ^ Michaels: "The legacy of the Vedic religion in Hinduism is generally overestimated. The influence of the mythology is indeed great, but the religious terminology changed considerably: all the key terms of Hinduism either do not exist in Vedic or have a completely different meaning. The religion of the Veda does not know the ethicised migration of the soul with retribution for acts (karma), the cyclical destruction of the world, or the idea of salvation during one's lifetime (jivanmukti; moksa; nirvana); the idea of the world as illusion (maya) must have gone against the grain of ancient India, and an omnipotent creator god emerges only in the late hymns of the rgveda. Nor did the Vedic religion know a caste system, the burning of widows, the ban on remarriage, images of gods and temples, Puja worship, Yoga, pilgrimages, vegetarianism, the holiness of cows, the doctrine of stages of life (asrama), or knew them only at their inception. Thus, it is justified to see a turning point between the Vedic religion and Hindu religions."[59] See also Halbfass (1991) p.1-2.[60]
  13. ^ Inden: "before the eighth century, the Buddha was accorded the position of universal deity and ceremonies by which a king attained to imperial status were elaborate donative ceremonies entailing gifts to Buddhist monks and the installation of a symbolic Buddha in a stupa....This pattern changed in the eighth century. The Buddha was replaced as the supreme, imperial deity by one of the Hindu gods (except under the Palas of eastern India, the Buddha's homeland)...Previously the Buddha had been accorded imperial-style worship (puja). Now as one of the Hindu gods replaced the Buddha at the imperial centre and pinnacle of the cosmo-political system, the image or symbol of the Hindu god comes to be housed in a monumental temple and given increasingly elaborate imperial-style puja worship."[63]
  14. ^ University of Oslo: "During the period following Ashoka, until the end of the 7th century AD, the great gift ceremonies honoring the Buddha remained the central cult of Indian imperial kingdoms".[web 2]
  15. ^ Geoffrey Samuel, p.76: "Certainly, there is substantial textual evidence for the outward expansion of Vedic-Brahmanical culture."[65]
    Geoffrey Samuel, p.77: "[T]he Buddhist sutras describe what was in later periods a standard mechanism for the expansion of Vedic-Brahmanical culture: the settlement of Brahmins on land granted by local rulers."[66] See also Nath 2001.[42]

    Geoffrey Samuel, p.199: "By the first and second centuries CE, the Dravidian-speaking regions of the south were also increasingly being incorporated into the general North and Central Indian cultural pattern, as were parts at least of Southeast Asia. The Pallava kingdom in South India was largely Brahmanical in orientation although it included a substantial Jain and Buddhist population, while Indic states were also beginning to develop in Southeast Asia."[67]

  16. ^ Gerald Larson: "Also, the spread of the culture of North India to the South was accomplished in many instances by the spread of Buddhist and Jain institutions (monasteries, lay communities, and so forth). The Pallavas of Kanci appear to have been one of the main vehicles for the spread of specifically Indo-Brahmanical or Hindu institutions in the South, a process that was largely completed after the Gupta Age. As Basham has noted, "the contact of Aryan and Dravidian produced a vigorous cultural synthesis, which in turn had an immense influence on Indian civilization as a whole.""[68]
  17. ^ Gavin Flood: "The process of Sanskritization only began to significantly influence the south after the first two centuries CE and Tamil deities and forms of worship became adapted to northern Sanskrit forms."[69]
  18. ^ Wendy Doniger: "If Sanskritization has been the main means of connecting the various local traditions throughout the subcontinent, the converse process, which has no convenient label, has been one of the means whereby Hinduism has changed and developed over the centuries. Many features of Hindu mythology and several popular gods—such as Ganesha, an elephant-headed god, and Hanuman, the monkey god—were incorporated into Hinduism and assimilated into the appropriate Vedic gods by this means. Similarly, the worship of many goddesses who are now regarded as the consorts of the great male Hindu gods, as well as the worship of individual unmarried goddesses, may have arisen from the worship of non-Vedic local goddesses. Thus, the history of Hinduism can be interpreted as the interplay between orthoprax custom and the practices of wider ranges of people and, complementarily, as the survival of features of local traditions that gained strength steadily until they were adapted by the Brahmans."[71]
    Vijay Nath: "Visnu and Siva, on the other hand, as integral components of the Triad while continuing to be a subject of theological speculation, however, in their subesequent "avataras" began to absorb countless local cults and deities within their folds. The latter were either taken to represent the multiple facets of the same god or else were supposed to denote different forms and appellations by which the god came to be known and worshipped. Thus whereas Visnu came to subsume the cults of Narayana, Jagannatha, Venkateswara and many others, Siva became identified with countless local cults by the sheer suffixing of Isa or Isvarato the name of the local deity, e.g., Bhutesvara, Hatakesvara, Chandesvara."[20]
  19. ^ Wendy Doniger: "The process, sometimes called "Sanskritization," began in Vedic times and was probably the principal method by which the Hinduism of the Sanskrit texts spread through the subcontinent and into Southeast Asia. Sanskritization still continues in the form of the conversion of tribal groups, and it is reflected in the persistence of the tendency among some Hindus to identify rural and local deities with the gods of the Sanskrit texts."[71]


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