1860 Settlers : From India to Africa, Here to stay

Three years ago, I had this to say…

Today, I have this to say.  We are here to stay.
It has been a horrendous year in terms of the downslide morals and the upswing of politics, gluttony and corruption. The violence and hatred of July 2021 will never be forgotten.  Our hearts may have been crushed, but our spirits remain strong
We came,  we saw, we lived and yes, we conquered. Throughout adversity, we remained humble.

An interesting read here on the Heritage Portal.

Until again,


158 years ago, Indian history began in a new way when the first (notarised) Indian people arrived in South Africa on board the “Truro” from Madras (Chennai). Indentured labourers, 197 men, 89 women and 59 children arrived to work in the sugar cane plantations in what was then Port Natal.


The second ship, the “S.S. Belvedere” brought labourers from Calcutta (Kolkata). Thereafter other ships followed as the British were forced to import workers from India as the South Africans refused to work on fields and as the Indians were from British India and required no passports, recruitment was easier.


The journey was by no means easy.  Circumstances were tough on land, some treatment almost inhuman but their will was strong and they found a way to co-exist.  The working contract lasted five years, inclusive of wages and a return passage home.  The demand for labourers increased into the railways, coalmines and sugar sectors.  At the end of their tenure, most returned to India. Those that remained behind industriously built their own homes and places of worship.  Their Kavady festival was dubbed the “marigold festival” and the Mohurrum Moslem festival, the “Indian Xmas” by the white settlers.

“Special servants” arrived to work in tourism and entertainment.  Seeing the opportunity for growth and improvement, “passenger” Indians arrived for business ventures.

158 years later, our city of Durban of has the highest population of Indian people outside of India and is known as Little India.  South African Indians honour their “African Indian Odyssey” with festivals and pride.  Today especially, in honour of our stalwarts and pioneers, many have made efforts to dress traditionally as a mark of respect and celebration.


Picture sources : sahistory.org.za



33 thoughts on “1860 Settlers : From India to Africa, Here to stay

  1. Wow – thanks for sharing that. I had no idea of this bit of history. I knew that there was a large Indian population in South Africa but didn’t know the how or why that came to be. Really interesting!

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  2. There is a large Indian diaspora in many erstwhile British colonies. People are aware of South African connection (thanks to Gandhiji) but countries like British Guyana, Mauritius, and Fiji are not that well known. Also, we need to remember that in many such places, Indians have adapted very well to the local culture and have little or no connections in India because of a long period of time. thanks for dedicating a post to Indians in SA. Are you connected with any of these settlers closely?

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    • Hi Arv.
      I agree indians made the best of a bad situation… And continue to do so.
      Lots of people still connect with their family there in India. Sadly, my elders have passed but i have been making enquiries.
      Please note this link fo more info on our pioneers

      Liked by 1 person

      • I guess it is not easy to connect with lost links when many generations have passed. I hope you are able to connect with your relatives back home, Kavita. Thanks for the information.

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