Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonian

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Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonian
East Indian Coolies in Trinidad - Project Gutenberg eText 16035.jpg
Early Indian laborers in Trinidad and Tobago.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Trinidad and Tobago · United States · United Kingdom · Canada
English  · Trinidadian Hindustani
Related ethnic groups
Indo-Caribbean Americans
British Indo-Caribbean people
Indo-Caribbean Canadians
Indo-Caribbeans in the Netherlands

Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonian (shortened as Indo-Trinbagonian) are nationals of Trinidad and Tobago of South Asian heritage or descent.


Early Indian immigrants in Trinidad and Tobago.

In his book Perspectives on the Caribbean: A Reader In Culture, History, and Representation, Philip W. Scher cites figures by Steven Vertovec, Professor of Anthropology: of 94,135 Indian immigrants to Trinidad, between 1874 and 1917, 50.7 percent were from the NW/United Provinces (an area, which today, is largely encompassed by Uttar Pradesh), 24.4 percent hailed from the historic region of Oudh (Awadh), 13.5 percent were from Bihar, and lesser numbers from various other states and regions of the Indian Subcontinent, such as Punjab, West Bengal, and South India primarily Madras (Chennai) (as cited in Vertovec, 1992). Out of 134,118 indentured laborers from India, 5,000 distinguished themselves as "Madrasi" from the port of Madras and the immigrants from Calcutta as "Kalkatiyas".

Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonians has now become interchangeable with Indians, and East Indians. These were people who were escaping poverty in India and seeking employment offered by the British for jobs either as indentured labourers, workers or educated servicemen, primarily, between 1845 and 1917.[2][3]

The demand for Indian indentured labourers increased dramatically after the abolition of slavery in 1834. They were sent, sometimes in large numbers, to plantation colonies producing high value crops such as sugar in Africa, Fiji, and the Caribbean. In his book Finding a Place, author, journalist, editor, and academic Kris Rampersad challenges and rejects the notion of East Indians to describe people in Indian heritage in the Caribbean and traces their migration and adaptation from hyphenated isolation inherent in the description Indo-Trinidadian or Indo-Caribbean for the unhyphenated integration into their societies as Indo-Trinidadian and Indo-Caribbean that embraces both their ancestral and their national identities.

In Trinidad some Chinese men had sexual relations with Indian women of Madrasee origin, siring children with them, and it was reported that "A few children are to be met with born of Madras and Creole parents and some also of Madras and Chinese parents — the Madrasee being the mother", by the missionary John Morton in 1876, Morton noted that it seemed strange since there were more Indian coolie men than Indian coolie women that Indian coolie women would marry Chinese men, but claimed it was most likely because the Chinese could provide amenities to the women since the Chinese owned shops and they were enticed by these.[4][5][6] Few Chinese women migrated to Trinidad while the majority of Chinese migrants were men. The migration of Chinese to Trinidad resulted in intermarriage between them and others.[7][8] Chinese in Trinidad became relatively open to having marital relations with other races and Indian women began having families with Chinese in the 1890s.[9] The situation on Trinidad enabled unprecedented autonomy in the sexual activities of Indian women and freedom.[10] Approval of interracial marriage has slowly increased in Trinidad and Tobago and one Chinese man reported that his Indian wife did not encounter any rejection from his parents when asked in a survey. According to the Douglas' consciousness, there were twice as many Indian men with black women than black men with Indian women, the statistics for Chinese men are not clear since the majority of Indians were from states where the benighted practice of honor killing is hackneyed whereas the Tamil labourer families were more permissive.[11][12]

Some Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonians can trace their ancestry to the Indian indentured labourers who immigrated to Guyana, Suriname, Jamaica, St. Vincent, Grenada, Fiji, Mauritius, Africa, Malay Peninsula, or other islands in the Caribbean. Many are descendants of later immigrants from South Asia.


According to the most recent census (2011) conducted in Trinidad and Tobago, Hinduism is the religion followed by a plurality of Indo Trinidadians, however this plurality is not a majority. The breakdown of religious affiliation for Indo-Trinidadians is as follows[13] -

  1. Hinduism - 49.54%
  2. Islam - 11.64%
  3. Pentecostal/Evangelical/Full Gospel - 9.67%
  4. Roman Catholic - 6.48%
  5. Other - 5.87%
  6. Presbyterians - 5.68%
  7. None and Not Stated - 7.34%

The remaining 3.78% is made up of adherents of Jainism and Sikhism and the Anglican, Jehovah's Witnesses, Methodist, Moravian, Seventh-day Adventist, Episcopal, Methodist, and Baptist denominations of Protestant Christianity.

Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago are represented by several organizations and entities the largest of which is the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha led by Satnarayan Maharaj. Other Hindu organizations include Arya Samaj, SWAHA, Chinmaya Mission, Dattatreya Yoga Centre and Hare Rama Hare Krishna movement.

The major Muslim organisation representing Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago is the Anjuman Sunnat-ul-Jamaat Association (ASJA) led by Yacoob Ali. Other Islamic organizations include Darul Uloom and Tackveeyatul Islamic Association of Trinidad and Tobago Inc. (T.I.A.[14]) Although the Maha Sabha and ASJA were once seen to speak for the vast majority of Hindus and Muslims in Trinidad, their membership has gradually eroded but they still remain the largest organized voice for the respective Indian communities.


Indo-Trinidadians have traditionally given their political support to parties opposed to the People's National Movement (PNM) which has historically been perceived as an Afro Trinidadian party. Voting patterns amongst Indo Trinidadians have also been dictated by Religion where, for periods of time Muslim Indo-Trinidadians and Presbyterian Indo-Trinidadians supported the PNM, as the prevailing parties for Indo Trinidadians — the DLP and ULF were felt to be Hindu dominated parties. With the advent of the UNC this polarization by religion has been on the decline however its existence is still felt with the UNC fielding a Muslim candidate in every election for the San Juan/Barataria seat since 1995 owing to the presence of a large Muslim population within this district. Notable Indo-Trinidadian politicians include -


Trinidadian and Tobagonians that consider themselves Indo-Trinidadians have retained their distinctive culture, unlike the original South Asian people that arrived earlier as indentured labourers, but also function in a multi-racial milieu. The Hindi, Urdu, and Bhojpuri languages of their ancestors have largely been lost, although a number of these words have entered the Trinidadian vernacular. Indian movies, Indian music and Indian cooking have entered the mainstream culture of Trinidad and Tobago. Chutney music rivals calypso and soca music during the Carnival season. Divali and Eid ul-Fitr are national holidays, and Hosay (Ashura), Eid-ul-Adha, Navaratri, and Phagwah are widely celebrated.

Influence and Language[edit]

The Indian-South Asian influence is very much noticeable in Trinidad and Tobago as they are the largest ethnic group in the country. Mandirs, masijids, jhandis (Hindu prayer flags), Hindu schools, Muslim schools, roti shops and stalls, Indian clothing and grocery stores, puja stores, and Indian expos dot the landscape of the country. Many businesses also bare names of Indian-South Asian origin. Many towns, settlements, villages, avenues, traces, and streets in Trinidad and Tobago are named after Indian cities and people, such as Calcutta Settlement, Madras Settlement, Delhi Settlement, Hindustan Village, Patna Village, Gandhi Village, Kandahar Village, Cawnpore (Kanpur) Village, Nepal Village, Abdul Village, Samaroo Village, Basta Hall, Malabar, Matura (Mathura), Bangladesh, Chandanagore (Chandinagar), Divali Nagar, Golconda, Barrackpore, and Fyzabad.[15] The holidays of Diwali, Eid al-Fitr, and Indian Arrival Day are national holidays in Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidadian Hindustani, Tamil, and other South Asian languages has had a great influence on the Trinidadian Creole-Trinidadian English lingua franca. Most people of South Asian descent in Trinidad and Tobago also speak a unique Hinglish macaronic dialect of Trinidadian Creole-Trinidadian English and Trinidadian Hindustani and they incorporate more Hindustani vocabulary into their Trinidadian English dialect.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO 2011 POPULATION AND HOUSING CENSUS DEMOGRAPHIC REPORT" (PDF). pp. 2 and 15. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-10-19. Retrieved 2017-08-29. 
  2. ^ Under colonial rule, India's population provided the British Empire with a ready source of cheap and mobile labourers. Many Indians agreed to become indentured labourers to escape the widespread poverty and famine in the 19th century. Some travelled alone; others brought their families to settle in the colonies they worked in.
  3. ^ Indian indentured labourers Archived 2011-12-12 at the Wayback Machine., National Archives-UK.
  4. ^ Julitta Rydlewska, Barbara Braid, eds. (2014). Unity in Diversity, Volume 1: Cultural Paradigm and Personal Identity, Volume 1. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 14. ISBN 1443867292. Archived from the original on 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  5. ^ Dennison Moore (1995). Origins and Development of Racial Ideology in Trinidad. Nycan. p. 238. ISBN 0968006000. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  6. ^ Rebecca Chiyoko King-O'Riain, Stephen Small, Minelle Mahtani, eds. (2014). Global Mixed Race. NYU Press. pp. 65–66. ISBN 0814770479. Archived from the original on 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  7. ^ Rebecca Chiyoko King-O'Riain, Stephen Small, Minelle Mahtani, eds. (2014). Global Mixed Race. NYU Press. p. 54. ISBN 0814770479. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  8. ^ Adrian Curtis Bird (1992). Trinidad sweet: the people, their culture, their island (2 ed.). Inprint Caribbean. p. 26. ISBN 0814770479. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  9. ^ Teresita Ang See, ed. (2000). Intercultural Relations, Cultural Transformation, and Identity: The Ethnic Chinese : Selected Papers Presented at the 1998 ISSCO Conference. International Society for the Studies of Chinese Overseas, Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran (2 ed.). Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran, Incorporated. p. 95. ISBN 9718857214. Archived from the original on 15 September 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  10. ^ Reddock, Rhoda (26 October 1985). "Freedom Denied: Indian Women and Indentureship in Trinidad and Tobago, 1845-1917". Economic and Political Weekly. 20 (43): WS-84. JSTOR 4374974. 
  11. ^ Raeann R Hamon; Bron B Ingoldsby, eds. (2003). Mate Selection Across Cultures. David Dabydeen (illustrated ed.). SAGE Publications. p. 65. ISBN 1452237697. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  12. ^ Colin Clarke; Gillian Clarke (2010). Post-Colonial Trinidad: An Ethnographic Journal. Studies of the Americas (illustrated ed.). Palgrave Macmillan. p. 107. ISBN 0230106854. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  13. ^ "TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO 2011 Demographic Report" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 November 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2017. 
  14. ^ "Mosques (Masjid) and Muslim Organizations" Archived 2015-07-21 at the Wayback Machine., Discover TT.
  15. ^ "Legacy of our East Indian Ancestors, Names of Places in Trinidad of East Indian Origin - The Indian Caribbean Museum of Trinidad and Tobago". Archived from the original on 27 August 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2017. 

External links[edit]

  • Kris Rampersad: Naipaul was no fluke: