Indians celebrate 158 years in SA

2018-11-29 06:02
PHOTO: Areshni perumalProud of their Indian history, members of the Maha Vishnu Temple in Albersville celebrated Arrival Day earlier this week.

PHOTO: Areshni perumalProud of their Indian history, members of the Maha Vishnu Temple in Albersville celebrated Arrival Day earlier this week.

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NOVEMBER 16 marked 158 years since the arrival of the first Indian people in South Africa.

Historically, Indians were brought to South Africa by ship and were promised a better life but they were, in reality, put into sugarcane plantations as agricultural slaves in what was then a newly British colonised country.

South African history highlights the need for political rule over its people, and at the time, those who ruled were searching for ways to transform the country.

Indian people were brought to South Africa as agricultural labourers and were responsible for the plush sugarcane fields.

Sugarcane was harvested and sent to refineries where it was turned into “white gold”, which was one of the most profitable products in the export industry.

When the Indians arrived, they brought with them their own methods of preparing meals, which have become famous in the present day.

The need for constant energy was important for the farmers working strenuously throughout the day.

Food could not be refrigerated, so fresh vegetables were used to make curries and “handmade bread”, commonly known as roti’s. Left-over curries were mixed together and served with rice. This was called “Chundal curry” and it was made as a source of high energy.

The weekend was known as market days, where the labourers were allowed to purchase fresh chicken and fish. These delicacies were prepared with sour porridge (mealie meal porridge) and a series of vegetable pickles.

Until today, this tradition is still carried out whereby Indian people prepare the Saturday specialty referred to as “live chicken curry”.

Indian women were responsible for harvesting herbs and spices, which were dried and ground by hand with a grinding stone and turned into spices. Men were responsible for planting and ploughing acres of fields.

The famous South African bunny chow was introduced by field workers when they improvised and found a way to carry their lunches into the field by cutting hollows into bread and filling it with curry.

The labourers eventually began their own cultural organisations, after South African laws changed to accommodate such groups.

They performed cultural rituals and nurtured their traditions at these institutions, some of which still stand today.

On Monday November 19, the now 42-year-old Maha Vishnu temple on the South Coast celebrated the arrivals of Indians to South Africa with a brief history discussion and celebration of South Africa’s cultural diversity.

“If it were not for the indentured labourers 158 years ago, we would not be a part of this beautiful country.

“On this day we must remember their hard work and sacrifices which led us to where we are now,” said Reggie Chetty a member of the Maha Vishnu Temple.

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