Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonian

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Indo-Trinidadians and Tobagonians
India Trinidad and Tobago
East Indian Coolies in Trinidad - Project Gutenberg eText 16035.jpg
Painting of Indians in Trinidad during the late 19th century.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Trinidad and Tobago  470,376
(plurality of the population)[1]
 United States125,000[2]
 United Kingdom25,000[2]
Trinidadian and Tobagonian English · Trinidadian Hindustani · Hinglish
Majority: Om.svg Hinduism
Minority: Star and Crescent.svg Islam · AP Icon.svg Christianity · Others
Related ethnic groups
Indo-Caribbeans · Indo-Caribbean Americans · British Indo-Caribbean people · Indo-Guyanese · Indo-Surinamese · Indo-Jamaicans · Indo-Mauritians · Indo-Fijians · Indians in South Africa · Indian people · The Indian diaspora

Indo-Trinidadians and Tobagonians or Indian-Trinidadians and Tobagonians, are people of Indian origin who are nationals of Trinidad and Tobago whose ancestors came from India and the wider subcontinent beginning in 1845.

Indo-Trinidadians and Tobagonians are a subgroup of Indo-Caribbeans, which are a subgroups of the wider Indian diaspora. Generally, most Indians in Trinidad and Tobago can trace their ancestors back to northern India, especially the Bhojpur and Awadh region of the Hindi Belt, which lies in the Gangetic plains, a plain that is located between the Ganga and Yamuna rivers and faces the mountain ranges of the Himalayas and the Vindhyas in Northern India. However, some Indians may trace their ancestry to other parts of South Asia, notably southern India. Indians first arrived in Trinidad and Tobago as indentured laborers from 1845 till 1917 and some Indians later came as entrepreneurs beginning in the mid-20th century and continuing till present day.


Early Indian indentured laborers.

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 North-Western Provinces, 24.4 percent hailed from Oudh State, 13.5 percent were from Bihar Province and lesser numbers from various other parts of the British Raj, such as the Madras Presidency, Bengal Presidency, Central Provinces, Chota Nagpur Division, Bombay Presidency, and Punjab Province.[3] Out of 134,118 indentured labourers from India, 5,000 who left from the Port of Madras distinguished themselves as "Madrasi" and the immigrants who left from the Port of Calcutta distinguished themselves as "Kalakatiyas". However, this did not equate to their ethnolinguistic group. While, most Indians who left from the Port of Madras were Tamils (Madrasis), not all were ethnic-Madrasis, some were Telugu, Kannadiga, Malayali, or Tulu, and most Indians who left from the Port of Calcutta were not ethnic-Bengalis (Kalakatiyas), but Bhojpuri and Awadhi, however there were small numbers of Bengalis, as well as small numbers of Maithils, Magahis, Baghelis, Brajis, Bundelis, Kannaujis, Kauravis, Pashtuns, Nagpuris, Kurukhs, Haryanvis, Gujaratis, Marwari, Sadans, Chhattisgarhis, Kashmiris, Punjabis, Marathis, Odias, Garhwalis, and Kumaonis who came via the Port of Calcutta.

Indo–Trinidadian and Tobagonians has now become interchangeable with Indians or 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.[4][5]

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 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 IndoTrinidadian and Indocaribbean that embraces both their ancestral and their national identities.

In Trinidad some Chinese men had Chindian children with dark skinned Indian women of Madrasee (Tamil) origin 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 men than Indian women and that Indian 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.[6][7][8] 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.[9][10] Chinese in Trinidad became relatively open to having marital relations with other races and Indian women began having families with Chinese in the 1890s.[11] The situation on Trinidad enabled unprecedented autonomy in the sexual activities of Indian women and freedom.[12] 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. In Trinidad, Europeans and Chinese are seen as acceptable marriage partners by Indians, while marrying black men would lead to rejection of their daughters by Indian families. 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 honour killing prevalent states. Some Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonians can trace their ancestry to Indian indentured labourers who immigrated to Guyana, Jamaica, Barbados, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Grenada, Belize, or other islands in the Caribbean first, and then moved to Trinidad and Tobago. Many are descendants of later immigrants from India.


According to the most recent census (2011) conducted in Trinidad and Tobago, Hinduism is the religion followed by a plurality of Indo-Trinidadians. 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, Sikhism, the Baháʼí Faith and the Anglican, Lutheran, Jehovah's Witnesses, Methodist, Moravian, Seventh-day Adventist, Episcopal and Baptist denominations of Protestant Christianity.

Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago are represented by several sects, organizations and entities the largest of which is the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, a Sanātanī Hindu organization. Other Hindu organizations and sects include SWAHA International, Arya Samaj, Chinmaya Mission, Kabir panth, ISKCON, the Sathya Sai Baba movement, Shirdi Sai Baba movement, Ramanandi Sampradaya, Seunariani (Sieunarini/Siewnaraini/Shiv Narayani), Aughar (Aghor/Owghur), Kali Mai (Madrasi), Murugan (Kaumaram), Bharat Sevashram Sangha, Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat (Radha Madhav), Ganapathi Sachchidananda movement, Divine Life Society, Brahma Kumaris, Ravidas Panth, and Blue Star.

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 the Trinidad Muslim League, Darul Uloom, Ummah T&T, the Muslim Federation, and the Tackveeyatul Islamic Association.[14]


Most Indo-Trinidadians have traditionally given their political support to parties opposed to the People's National Movement (PNM) which has historically been perceived as a Christian African-Creole party.[15] Voting patterns amongst Indo-Trinidadians have also been dictated by religion where, for periods of time Muslim Indo-Trinidadians and non-Presbyterian Christian Indo-Trinidadians supported the PNM, as the prevailing parties for Indo-Trinidadians – the PDP, DLP, and ULF were felt to be Hindu and Presbyterian dominated parties.[16] With the advent of the NAR and then 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:

  • Basdeo Panday - 1st Prime Minister of Indo-Trinidadian descent
  • Kamla Persad-Bissesar - 1st Female Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago
  • Rudranath Capildeo - Leader of the Opposition at the time of independence
  • Bhadase Sagan Maraj - Leader of the Parliamentary wing (1958–1960)
  • Ashford Sinanan - Opposition Leader, federal Parliament (1958–1961)
  • Rudranath Capildeo - party leader (1960–1969)
  • Stephen Maharaj - Opposition leader (1963–1965)
  • Simbhoonath Capildeo - Opposition leader (1965)
  • Vernon Jamadar - Opposition leader (1965–1972); party leader (1969–1972)
  • Noor Hassanali - 1st Muslim Head of State in the Western Hemisphere and the 1st Muslim to hold the office of President of Trinidad and Tobago (1987-1997)


Indo–Trinidadian and Tobagonians have retained their distinctive heritage and culture, while also function in a multi-racial manner. The Indic 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 cuisine have entered the mainstream culture of Trinidad and Tobago. Chutney music and chutney soca rivals calypso and soca music during the Carnival season. Divali, Eid ul-Fitr, and Indian Arrival Day are national holidays, and Phagwah, Maha Shivratri, Hanuman Jayanti, Ram Naumi, Sita Naumi, Navratri, Vijayadashami, Krishna Janmashtami, Radhastami, Saraswati Jayanti, Raksha Bandhan, Vivaha Panchami, Guru Purnima, Ganesh Chaturthi, Kartik Snan, Kalbhairo Jayanti, Mesha Sankranti, Makar Sankranti, Chhath, Tulsi Vivah, Gita Jayanti, Ramadan, Hosay (Ashura), Eid al-Adha, Mawlid, Islamic New Year, and other Hindu and Muslim holidays are widely celebrated.

Influence on Trinidad and Tobago[edit]

The Indian–South Asian influence is very much noticeable in Trinidad and Tobago as they are the largest ethnic groups in the country. Mandirs , masijids, jhandis (Hindu prayer flags), Hindu schools, Muslim schools, roti shops and stalls, puja stores, Indian groceries/markets, clothing stores and expos dot the landscape of the country. Many businesses also bear 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, Jai Ramkissoon Housing Settlement, Raghoo Village, Jaraysingh, Hasnalli, Hindustan Village, Patna Village, Gandhi Village, Kandahar Village, Cawnpore (Kanpur) Village, Nepal Village, Abdul Village, Samaroo Village, Basta Hall, Gopaul Lands, Sumadh Gardens, Mohammed Ville, Malabar, Matura (Mathura), Bangladesh, Morang Village, Chandanagore (Chandinagar), Divali Nagar, Golconda, Barrackpore, and Fyzabad.[17] The holidays of Diwali, Eid al-Fitr, and Indian Arrival Day are national holidays in Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidadian Hindustani and other South Asian languages has had a great influence on the Trinidadian English lingua franca. Most people of South Asian descent in Trinidad and Tobago also speak a unique Hinglish macaronic dialect of Trinidadian English and Trinidadian Hindustani and they incorporate more Hindustani vocabulary into their Trinidadian English dialect than other ethnic groups in the country.

Notable persons[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-02-27. Retrieved 2008-01-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ a b c "Indo-Caribbean Times December 2007 - Kidnapping - Venezuela". Scribd. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  3. ^ Vertovec, 1992
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "Indian indentured labourers - The National Archives". Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  6. ^ Julitta Rydlewska; Barbara Braid, eds. (2014). Unity in Diversity. 1: Cultural Paradigm and Personal Identity. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 14. ISBN 978-1443867290. Retrieved June 1, 2015. Alt URL
  7. ^ Dennison Moore (1995). Origins and Development of Racial Ideology in Trinidad. Nycan. p. 238. ISBN 978-0968006009. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  8. ^ Rebecca Chiyoko King-O'Riain; Stephen Small; Minelle Mahtani, eds. (2014). Global Mixed Race. NYU Press. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-0814770474. Archived from the original on 2014. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  9. ^ Rebecca Chiyoko King-O'Riain; Stephen Small; Minelle Mahtani, eds. (2014). Global Mixed Race. NYU Press. p. 54. ISBN 978-0814770474. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  10. ^ Adrian Curtis Bird (1992). Trinidad sweet: the people, their culture, their island (2 ed.). Inprint Caribbean. p. 26. ISBN 978-0814770474. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  11. ^ 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 978-9718857212. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  12. ^ Reddock, Rhoda (Oct 26, 1985). "Freedom Denied: Indian Women and Indentureship in Trinidad and Tobago, 1845-1917". Economic and Political Weekly. 20 (43): WS79–WS87 nd. JSTOR 4374974.
  13. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-11-02. Retrieved 2015-07-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-07-21. Retrieved 2015-07-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Legacy of our East Indian Ancestors, Names of Places in Trinidad of East Indian Origin - The Indian Caribbean Museum of Trinidad and Tobago". Retrieved 29 August 2017.

External links[edit]