They are a part of the wider Indo-Caribbean community, which itself is a part of the global Indian diaspora. Historically, Indians in Trinidad and Tobago can trace their ancestors back to the Hindi belt region of northern India, which is located in the Indus-Ganga Plain. This plain is located between the Ganga, Yamuna, and Indus rivers and faces the mountain ranges of the Himalayas and the Vindhyas in northern India.
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 1874–1917, 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, Bengal and Tamil Nadu [primarily Madras (Chennai)] (as cited in Vertovec, 1992). Out of 134,118 indentured labourers from India, 5,000 distinguished themselves as "Madrasi" from the port of Madras and the immigrants from Bengal as "Kalkatiyas", from the city Kolkata.
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 1845–1917.
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 children with dark skinned Indian women of Madrasee 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 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. 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. Chinese in Trinidad became relatively open to having marital relations with other races and Indian women began having families with Chinese in the 1890s. The situation on Trinidad enabled unprecedented autonomy in the sexual activities of Indian women and freedom. 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 whereas the Tamil labourer families had more open mentalities. Some Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonians can trace their ancestry to indentured labourers who immigrated to Guyana, Jamaica, St. Vincent, Grenada, or other islands in the Caribbean. 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 -
The remaining 3.78% is made up of adherents of Jainism, Sikhism, Bahá'í, and the Anglican, Lutheranism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Methodist, Moravian, Seventh-day Adventist, Episcopal, 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 SWAHA International, Arya Samaj, Chinmaya Mission, Kabir Panth, and ISKCON.
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.) 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 Peoples 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 servants, but also function in a multi-racial milieu. The South Asian 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 and chutney soca rivals calypso and soca music during the Carnival season. Divali and Eid ul-Fitr are national holidays, and Hosay (Ashura) and Phagwah are widely celebrated.
The Indian-South Asian influence is very much noticeable in Trinidad and Tobago as they are one of 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, 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, Hindustan Village, Patna Village, Gandhi Village, Kandahar Village, Cawnpore (Kanpur) Village, Nepal Village, Abdul Village, Samaroo Village, Basta Hall, Gopaul Lands, Mohammed Ville, Malabar, Matura (Mathura), Bangladesh, Chandanagore (Chandinagar), Divali Nagar, Golconda, Barrackpore, and Fyzabad. 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.
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