Indian Community Commemorates Arrival in Guyana 180 Years Ago

Indians were free from indentureship in Guyana only in 1917.


Indian Arrival Day, which is celebrated on May 5 every year to commemorate the day 396 immigrants reached Guyana from Calcutta in 1838, was celebrated in the South American country with cultural events this year. The Indian immigrants, popularly known as the “Gladstone Coolies,” reached Guyana aboard the Whitby and Hesperus 180 years ago.

Indian Arrival Day is a holiday in Guyana, during which the Indian community comes together to share food and organize cultural programs. This year, the Indian Diaspora Council (IDC) International, which is based in New York, joined its global affiliates in paying tribute to their forefathers.

“We are always reminded of their pioneering spirit, determination, persistence and endurance under extremely harsh conditions. While survival must have been the primary concern, they strived, and persevered to maintain their sense of origin, traditions and culture,” IDC said in a statement. “Their children, grandchildren and following generations will always take pride in this unique accomplishment, recognizing and appreciating the sacrifices and achievements made on their behalf. We also recognize the invaluable contributions they have made to the diverse culture and economic development of Guyana.”

In Guyana, dancers from the Nadira and Indranie Shah dance group performed at the Indian Monument Gardens on May 5 this year.

The day is a celebration of the arrival of the indentured laborers, who were shipped from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu to Guyana. They were made to work at sugarcane fields in the South American country. The indentureship ended only in 1917, and by then the 240,000-strong Indian community had become the biggest ethnic group in Guyana.

In New York, where the diaspora also remembered the early immigrants to Guyana, IDC president Ashook Ramsaran, who was born in Guyana, said: “We pay homage and commemorate an historic event which took place 180 years ago, recognizing the journeys, hardships, travails and perseverance of a people.”

Many people also took to Twitter to commemorate the day.

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