INDIAN HERITAGE DAY OCTOBER 7TH 2023
The President, members of the Executive, the Indian community of SVG and in the
Diaspora, will, on Saturday October 7th 2023, commemorate the 16th anniversary,
since the recognition of INDIAN HERITAGE DAY, by an Act of Parliament on
March 26th 2007.
After the abolition of slavery in 1838, there was a shortage of labour, as many of the
newly freed slaves refused to work on the estates. Between the years 1861 and 1880,
eight (8) ships arrived from India bringing a total of 2,474 Indians. They lived on
twenty three (23) estates in St Vincent. Of the 2,474 Indians who came to SVG,
1,141 returned to India, because they saw no more prospects for them in SVG.
Indian Heritage Day received its significance when on October 7 th 1882, fifty (50)
barefooted Indians from Argyle estate laid down their cutlasses and hoes, and
marched all the way to Kingstown in defiance of the estate manager, Mr Mc Kenzie,
and the laws of St Vincent, to take their several grievances directly to the Lieutenant
On their way to Kingstown, seven (7) miles away, they were joined by more Indians
from Calder, Mt. Pleasant, Stubbs, Diamond, Ratho Mill, Golden Vale, Harmony
Hall, Carapan, Happy Vale, Belair, and Arnos Vale.
When they got to Kingstown, seven of the Indians, called “ringleaders”, were
arrested and charged for vagabondry; that they had left the estate without permission,
and had gone beyond the two mile limit.
After two months, a petition was sent to the Colonial office on behalf of the seven
Indians, and the Secretary of State ruled that an injustice was done, and they were
given the right to return to India. However, the high cost of repatriation was
considered, and in lieu of the return passage to India, an offer was made to give them
lands. This was turned down by the planters.
The Indians who remained in SVG continued to live on the estates, while buying
pieces of land in other areas, to move their families.
The religion of the Indians who arrived in SVG was mainly Hinduism. As they were
a relatively small group, they were encouraged to adapt to Christianity. Infants were
baptized in Christian churches and given Anglo-Saxon names. There was
competition among the Christian churches to baptize the Indians.
The Indian names were changed, so that they could be educated in the Christian
schools. Later, there was inter-marriage with other races. There were also changes
in the style of dress and cuisine; females no longer wore saris, and curry dishes were
replaced by creole dishes, such as ground provision and fish.
The SVG Indian Heritage Foundation has endeavoured, over the past seventeen (17)
years of its existence, to preserve the identity of their fore-parents, to recognize and
understand their heritage and culture, to acknowledge their outstanding contribution
to the development of the areas in which they settled, and above all, thank those who
remained in SVG, so we can be here now.
We pay tribute to their suffering, fortitude and progress as we try, as far as is
humanly possible, to carry on their rich legacy, and hand down what we have learnt
to our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, with the hope that they will
build on what we so enthusiastically started.