|Regions with significant populations|
|French, Réunion Creole, Tamil.|
|Christianity (principally Catholicism), Hinduism, syncretic religion|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Indo-Réunionnais, Non-resident Indian and Person of Indian Origin, Tamils, Sri Lankan Tamils|
Madras are an ethnic group of South Indian origin in Réunion, a French island in the Southwest Indian Ocean, estimated to number 180,000. There are no official figures because the French government does not collect census data on ethnic groups.
There have been people of South Indian origin on the island since the 17th century, and those were mostly from Pondicherry. Most were originally brought in as indentured labourers in the second half of the 19th century and were mostly South Indian Tamils . Since then, Madras have developed some patterns of behaviour that are not quite those of their ancestors from Tamil Nadu nor those of the other inhabitants of Réunion.
Madras is derived from madrasi, a word used by the French and the Dutch in the colonial era that was eventually used by Westerners to refer to all the people of South India (Tamils, Telugus, Malayalees and Kannadigas included). The term is based on the Madras region of the present state of Tamil Nadu in India. This term, applied by the French to Tamil labourers coming to Réunion, has been kept by the latter and others on the island to label their own identity.
Indian workers came to Réunion from South India, mostly from French settlements in Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, and Karaikal. Most of these immigrants were ritually low in the caste system. Hard living conditions at home were the main reason behind their departure to La Réunion. The immigration of indentured workers from South India started in 1827 but it was only after 1848 that indentured immigration began on a big scale.
The Madras desire to learn their ancestors' culture, and started studying their language and religions especially from Tamil Nadu. Recently many Madras, particularly those of upper and middle classes, have started to become completely Hindu rather than nominally Christian.
They also now wanted to translate their newly acquired civic and political rights into a gradual and increasing participation in local and other elections. A sit-in protest was organised to support Sri Lanka Tamils by the Réunionnais organisation TAMIL SANGAM presided by Dr Shanmugam. Hundreds of Tamils and non Tamils protested against the genocide of Sri Lanka Tamils.
A genetic study has shown that the majority of the Indian origins of Madras lie in the South-east of India. Contrary to expectations, however, a significantly larger proportion comes from Andhra Pradesh than Tamil Nadu. The study also showed that 15-20% of the origins of Madras come from India . Less than 1% comes from Europe.
- Jean-Paul Virapoullé is currently Mayor of Saint Andre and first Vice President of the General Council of Réunion.
- Chinmaya Mission temple, Quartier Francais, Sainte-Suzanne
- Siva Soupramanien temple, Saint-Paul
- Siva-Vishnou-Karli temple, Saint-Paul
- Siva Soupramanien temple, Petit-Bazar on Avenue Ile-of-France, Saint-Andre
- Sri Bala Subramanya temple, Saint Paul
- Thiru Kalimata Temple, Sainte-Marie
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- N. Nandhivarman (2009), "The Tamils of Réunion and their hybrid culture", New Indian Express: "Réunion is a typical example of outsourcing by the French East India Company, and its history reveals how an hybrid culture emanated amidst Tamil settlers there, who are Tamils but could not speak Tamil, their mother tongue lost in the interregnum of 5 generations of separation from their homeland ..."
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