History of East Indians Presence in Guyana March 7, 2017
Brigadier David Granger
The Indian presence began with the arrival of indentured immigrants in British Guiana on May 5, 1838 primarily to work on the sugar plantations.
The ethnic origins, occupational diversity and large number of Indians were important determinants of their own destiny and the development of the country. Many were recruited from the heavily-populated, Bhojpuri-speaking area that came to be known as the United Provinces − roughly the present-day Uttar Pradesh − and embarked at emigration depot at Calcutta (now Kolkota).
…The majority of immigrants came from the lower agricultural caste (including chamar); artisan caste (kumhar); cultivator caste (kurmi); grazier caste (ahir); landholding caste (thakur), and priestly caste (brahmin). There were also significant numbers of Muslims and outcasts. Owing to the relative shortage of women immigrants in the early days, there was a degree of miscegenation; some men married or cohabited with African women producing children of mixed blood referred to as ‘douglas.’
Indian indentured labourers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries successfully transplanted their skills from their old homes onto their new. In so doing, they not only displayed a high occupational profile in a number of non-plantation economic activities but helped to diversify the economy of this country.
Others, through thrift, were able to buy freehold land on their own when they left the plantations. As most immigrants had come from agricultural castes, they were able to embark on rice and coconut cultivation and animal husbandry on small holdings as independent peasants. By the end of the 19th century, Indians dominated coconut and rice industries and cattle and dairy farming. The food shortage created by the First World War firmly established Indian-grown rice both as a domestic staple and a major export commodity. This was nothing less than the start of an agrarian revolution that transformed both the economy and society.
Religion has always been central to Indian society. According to Tota Mangar, approximately 83 per cent of the immigrants who came were Hindus, about 14 per cent were Muslims and 3 per cent were Christians. Plantation managers and the colonial administration encouraged Indian religion by permitting free time for the celebration of some festivals such as Holi, and by providing building materials for the construction of mandirs for the Hindus, and masjids for the Muslims.
Indians have left a rich legacy of art, dance, literature and music. Traditional cuisine – the perennially popular curry, puri, roti, bara, kheer – and other vegetable dishes, are widely consumed. Festivals, including the colourful Holi, Diwali, Youman Nabi and Eid-ul-Fitr are today national holidays. Traditional Indian wear – the shalwar, sari, kurta – though no longer everyday wear, have remained very popular especially at festivals, weddings and religious ceremonies. The contributions to sport, especially in the present day feats of Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan, have become national legends.
Leguan got its name from Iguana February 5, 2017
This Island had an abundance of iguanas, the edible reptile Leguanites like to call gren chicken. As child I loved eating iguana curry especially the eggs but I m a vegetarian now and even if I wasn’t I do not think my stomach could take this. Young boys used to hunt iguanas with their dogs. Iguanas like to bury their eggs in the sand and dogs could sniff it out easily. They’ve been over hunted and soon there may not be any iguanas on the island. It is one of our wild life and should be protected.
According to Hans, local reporter, the iguana will be vanish in few years time in history books. Only the name of the island will remembering then on the iguanas. The responsible authorities doing nothing so far to protect the iguana in Leguan.
The picture show a female iguana, which will be killed for a iguana curry with eggs; a savory meal
A LITTLE HISTORY ABOUT LEGUAN General Report of the Emigration Commissioner (1845) (Archival Record)
In Leguan 11 estates have received Coolies, from 20 to 30 each; on two, in isolated. parts of the island, there was not the discipline or attention paid to them that existed on the other; determined drunkenness seemed to reign there. I have directed the stipendiary magistrate to remove the people to other estates, if he finds that they still continue unruly and ill behaved.
The long-continued drought has so arrested the labour of the estates, that in general there is little employment for hands On estates whose means are not embarrassed, labour is created in various ways; but where means are limited, the object of the attorneys and managers is to save useless expenditure; labour is there reduced to its minimum; amongst other causes of complaint, that of not being allowed to earn a double task was expressed.
In general where the Coolies are sober, they are remarkably free from sores; when the Coolies were mustered for my inspection, there always appeared with them an old negress, who seemed as anxious about their appearance as the manager; the care of keeping the feet clear of the infesting chigo, is made by both of first necessity.
Of the 11 estates supplied with emigrants, 1O received them in February, one on the ‘25tl1 instant. The attorney of two or three estates of the earlier location has already been entrusted with money earned by these people, to transmit to their friends in India.
Leguan lost more of its labouring population after emancipation in 1838 than many other districts, and its productiveness has therefore diminished greatly; parties now lament their want of foresight in not selling from the beginning, what is now general, lots of land on the estates, which would have prevented the constant withdrawal of the labourers, who purchased land in common either on the river Demerara or on the east coast
The whole island, as well as Wakenhaam, is now covered with hamlets, villages, and free settlements, and many of its former population are now returning; the location of the Coolies, added to a supply of Africans formerly distributed amongst the estates, would have increased the crops this year considerably but for the drought.
(Credit for this article and picture goes to my friend Hans who lives on the Island)