Indo-Fijians






PRONUNCIATION: in-do-FEE-jee-uhns

LOCATION: Fiji

POPULATION: 43 percent of Fijian total

LANGUAGE: Fiji Hindustani (Fiji Hindi); English

RELIGION: Hinduism; Islam; Christianity

1 • INTRODUCTION

Most Indo-Fijians are the descendants of indentured laborers brought to Fiji during the nineteenth century by the British. In the system of indentured labor, workers (who had been moved to a new country against their will) were forced to perform a job for little or no pay until they earned enough money to buy their freedom. The system was created to provide cheap workers for British colonies after the abolition of slavery in Britain and its colonies in 1833.

The first indentured laborers from India arrived in Fiji in 1879 and the indenture system lasted until 1916. Other immigrants from India arrived in Fiji in the early twentieth century, and they opened small shops in the coastal towns. The Indo-Fijians are part of the south Asian diaspora (a community of ethnically related displaced peoples) that includes the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, Trinidad in the Caribbean, Guyana in South America, South Africa, and North America.

2 • LOCATION

The Fijian archipelago (string of islands) is located in the western Pacific Ocean. The climate of Fiji is tropical with plenty of rainfall, sunshine, and high humidity. The largest islands within the 800-island group are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. The vast majority of Indo-Fijians reside on Viti Levu.

Today, Indo-Fijians make up around 43 percent of the total population. Before the military coup of 1987, Indo-Fijians made up close to 48 percent of the total population, but about 5 percent have moved to Australia, Canada, and the United States. In the 1960s, Indo-Fijians outnumbered the indigenous Fijians.

3 • LANGUAGE

The overwhelming majority of Indo-Fijians speak Fiji Hindustani, or Fiji Hindi. This language developed out of contact between speakers of different dialects of Hindi/Urdu (one of the native languages of India) and their bosses on the colonial-era sugar plantations. Although Indian laborers could communicate fairly well, they had some difficulty at times being understood. Over time, a unified dialect emerged. Since then, it has become the language of Indo-Fijian identity.

4 • FOLKLORE

The folklore of the Indo-Fijians derives from traditional Indian folklore. Important epic stories and myths such as the Rāmāyana and the Mahābhārata are read, chanted, and recounted by Indo-Fijians at ceremonies and celebrations. The epic drama of Rama and Sita is performed at most religious festivals.

5 • RELIGION

The Indian laborers brought their religions with them to Fiji. Hinduism and Islam both exist on Fiji today, alongside Christianity and traditional forms of Fijian religious practice. The majority of the indentured laborers moved to Fiji were Hindu. As a result, Hinduism is the major religion among Indo-Fijians.

Hinduism is a polytheistic religion, meaning Hindus believe in a variety of gods. Each god has specific characteristics, functions, and powers. There are sects that are devoted to the worship of a particular god and shrines are created to provide offerings. These practices continue among the Indo-Fijian communities in Fiji and abroad.

6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS

Major holidays for Indo-Fijians center on the religious calendars. Hindus celebrate Diwali (the festival of lights) in early November and Holi (a festival of singing and light-hearted play). Families also sponsor pujas, which are ceremonies that include prayers, offerings, and feasts. Pujas take place on birthdays and other special occasions when it is appropriate to give thanks for good fortune and blessings. Muslim Indo-Fijians observe the fasting and prayer practices during the month of Ramadan. Other secular holidays include the Queen's Birthday, Boxing Day, and Fiji Day.

7 • RITES OF PASSAGE

Indo-Fijians perform rituals at important transitional stages of the life cycle: birth, marriage, and death. The exact nature of these rituals is dictated by the religious faith of the families involved.

8 • RELATIONSHIPS

The standard greeting in Fiji Hindi is namaste. This greeting comes directly from Hindi as spoken in India.

Dating was unknown among unmarried Indo-Fijians until late in the twentieth century. In the past, marriages were always arranged; this practice continues, but dating has been accepted. Interracial dating among Indo-Fijians and Fijians is disapproved of by both groups. Indo-Fijians do have dating relationships with other groups on the island, however, such as Europeans.

9 • LIVING CONDITIONS

Fijian law dictated that non-Fijians could not live in Fijian villages. This law made for segregation between the Fijians and Indo-Fijians. Indo-Fijians had to create their own communities or move to the coastal towns. These would later become centers of commerce and trade that would provide for the economic prosperity of the Indo-Fijians.

Western-style housing made from concrete blocks or wood is the preferred style of housing for Indo-Fijians.

10 • FAMILY LIFE

Many jobs in Indo-Fijian society are traditionally done by males only. Musicians, religious leaders, and cooks for public functions like weddings and pujas (worship ceremonies) are almost always men. Male children are usually preferred over female children. Male children are also usually given much more freedom and independence than females.

In most traditional societies of India, marriages are arranged by parents. In some cases, the couple has no say in the matter. In recent years, this system has become less rigid and couples have more choice in their selection of mates. Male offspring generally inherit the majority of their parents' property and are expected to divide it among themselves.

11 • CLOTHING

Indo-Fijians men have worn Western-style clothes for some time now. Some women, however, still wear the traditional sari (a garment of draped cloth). Older women in particular only wear saris. Indo-Fijian women wear a lot of jewelry.

12 • FOOD

Indentured Indian workers brought their styles of cooking and some of their food crops with them to Fiji in the nineteenth century. Roti, a staple bread served with every meal, and rice and curry, a hot spice, are the basis of Indo-Fijian food. Roti is used like a spoon to scoop up pieces of food and rice. Tradition requires that only the right hand be used when eating. The left hand must remain in the lap.

13 • EDUCATION

Formal education for the children of indentured Indian laborers in Fiji did not begin until 1898. Schools were then opened by Catholic and Methodist missionaries who also opened mission schools for Fijian children much earlier. Indo-Fijians stress the importance of education with their children and many go on to complete advanced degrees at universities and colleges in other countries.

14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE

Traditional music and film are both important among Indo-Fijians. Almost all of the entertainment that Indo-Fijians enjoy is produced outside of Fiji. The Indian film and music industries provide the latest hits from the most popular film and music stars of India. Most shops carry a wide selection of cassettes and videos, along with imported Indian foods. Traditional music and dance are also performed.

15 • EMPLOYMENT

After the period of indenture, Indo-Fijians began to specialize in certain occupations. First, they took over the growing of sugar cane, a vey important cash crop. With the wealth from this they branched out into transportation, and also were in charge of most of the craft and retail trade.

Although they held little land, the Indo-Fijian population acquired control of the Fijian economy. This situation was a source of hostility between Indo-Fijians and Fijians. It ultimately led to the 1987 miliary coup. The majority of Indo-Fijians who left following the coup were shop owners and other retail merchants and bankers.

16 • SPORTS

Cricket is a popular spectator and participant sport among Indo-Fijians. Other sports that have large followings in Fiji, like rugby, are not as important to Indo-Fijians.

17 • RECREATION

Traditional south Asian forms of entertainment, including classical forms of music and dance, are enjoyed and practiced within the Indo-Fijian community. Music and dance academies have also been established by the Indo-Fijians that have left Fiji and moved to Sydney, Australia.

18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES

Rural folk arts accompanied the south Asians who came to Fiji as indentured laborers. On the plantations, however, there was little time for the production of painting and sculpture. Pottery production and the painting and sculpting of religious images for local consumption was minimal during the early stages of Indo-Fijian history. Nowadays, religious images and other Indian products are imported directly from India.

19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS

Indo-Fijians still face difficulties living in Fiji. Although relations between the Indo-Fijians and Fijians have improved since 1988, there is still resentment and anger on both sides. The coup adversely affected the tourist industry, which has not regained the ground it had prior to the coup. The flight of Indo-Fijians after the coup resulted in the loss of over one-third of the nation's doctors, one-half of its lawyers, and a great number of teachers and nurses.

20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY

Mayer, Adrian. Indians in Fiji. London: Oxford University Press, 1963.

Siegel, Jeff. Language Contact in a Plantation Environment: A Sociolinguistic History of Fiji. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

WEBSITES

Tourism Council of the South Pacific. Fiji. [Online] Available http://www.tcsp.com/fi/400.htm , 1998.

World Travel Guide. Fiji. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/fj/gen.html , 1998.

User Contributions:

narendra
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Feb 25, 2007 @ 8:20 pm
good summary!

The Fiji Indians have preserved their culture while in Fiji but its waning in new generation in a place like Australia.
AYESHA GANI
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Sep 3, 2007 @ 2:02 am
RESPECTED SIR
I'M MRS.AYESHA GANI,A RESEARCH SCHOLAR IN DEPT.OF TAMIL STUDIES IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES,TAMILUNIVERSITY ,TAMILNADU INDIA.MY THESIS ABOUT A SOCIO-CULTURAL TRANSMATION OF FIJIINDIANS.SIR I HAVE SEEN YOUR WEBSITE ITS VERY USEFUL FOR MY THESIS.IF YOU HAVE ANY METRIALS RELATED ABOUT ABOVE TOPIC PLEASE CONTACT ME.
YOUR'S FAITHFULLY
AYESHA GANI
raymond lal
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Sep 3, 2007 @ 5:05 am
hi iam a fiji indian living in aust now,.Its good to see my people the fiji indians getting some recognition in the world today ,we have been thru lots in our days in fiji the coup racism and other events unaccounted for. Iam happy now that cricket is being played in fiji like rugby and soccer those games may be a bit rough for us, .Cricket ia s gentlemans game and ,also we are farmers and gatherers , not warriors so cricket suits us better i think, cricket should be played every where in fiji. I fully support people groups and individuals who are in anyway helping to grow cricket in fiji and one day who knows we could be touring overseas with a good team . I hope one day i get a chance to play cricket with a team in fiji . Go Fiji Go CRICKET
anjala
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Nov 12, 2008 @ 5:05 am
hi I am also a Fiji Indian living in Hawaii. I am a graduate student here at the university. Your information helped me with the research that i am working on. Honestly I just couldn't remember a lot of stuff. My warmest regards to everyone in Fiji. Thank you.
Shalini
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Jan 3, 2010 @ 12:12 pm
Hi, my parents were born in Suva, Fiji and my brother and I were born in California, USA. This page really helped me find out the past of Fiji, very informing!! It helps me learn about the place were my parents were from and about the indo fijians, thank you.
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May 31, 2010 @ 1:13 pm
for school i was assigned to put myself in a teenagers place in Fiji.
i found this very useful.
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Jul 31, 2010 @ 11:11 am
I AM HAPPY WITH THE INFORMATION. And I am research scholar on Indo-Fijian Diaspora where i need lots of information and books of Satendra P Nandan's The Wounded Sea and others also other writers books, i hope u may respond at the earliest possible
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Sep 30, 2010 @ 9:21 pm
this was very useful to me because im doing a report on fiji.
hasina
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Apr 4, 2011 @ 1:01 am
I am very happy when I was able to get the necessary information regarding this topic which I have chosen to be my research in Social Science. all regarding the indenture laboureres who were forced to work in Fiji.
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May 4, 2011 @ 8:08 am
I wish to correct a stated comment on sports in the article regarding the issue of cricket being a popular sport that Indo-Fijians (Fiji Indians) follow. I beleive this to be inaccuarate as here a very small number of Indo-Fijians actually follow cricket. The numbers who do follow the sport had in fact been lower say ten years ago, increasing only with the introduction of Fiji's pay TV Sky Pacific (and others) as this allowed them access to the haps of the sport. Before that and even now it has been soccer and now rugby that Indo-Fijians engage in. Rugby, though not too popular with Indo-Fijians before, is fast becoming the game that all young Indian boys here want to play and take part in.

Lalini
Suva,Fiji
Ashneal Maharaj
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Aug 14, 2011 @ 1:01 am
Hey, I am a Indo-Fijian now living in Seattle, WA, USA. We Left Fiji for a better chance in 1992, but still miss Fiji. First Indian in Fiji was around 1813, and the British were already sending groups, all kinds of people from India in the early 1800s to Guyana and the Caribbean, before the Pacific. After studying some history of India, its really hard to tell which part of India we all came from, as not everyone's ancestors were from India as well. Northern India, Uttar Par-Desh, (UP) had a lot mixing of cultures as well during the 1800s and Since the early centuries AD. I have traveled the world as a American solider as well,but I only speak slang versions of both languages American English and Fijian Hindi. It was easy to understand proper Hindi, but hard to talk back in proper Hindi when I met Indians from India in Iraq, Kuwait, world wide, including the States. I am glad us Kaindiaz are finally getting put on the map. I was born and raised in Suva until I was 12 years old,and I will never forget the great memories and life style. I will also never forget the struggles that Indo-Fijians have had and still go thru to this day, it is 2011 and yet we are still not accepted in our land that our great forefathers helped shape. Soccer,Ruby along with volleyball is what I remember and there where Indo-Fijians on the school rugby teams as well. Soccer was played more thanks to more Indo-Fijian athletes. Even over seas we always think of our beloved home land. Indo-fijians overseas still carry on our culture and teach the world about Indo-Fijans and how over 130 plus years in Fiji has made us, quite different than Indians from India.
Rakesh Maharaj
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Dec 2, 2012 @ 3:15 pm
Great comments and input, elated that research scholars will be contributing towards the Indo-Fijian diaspora. Keep it up.
Katy
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Feb 26, 2013 @ 4:16 pm
All the websites don't talk about the Indo - Fijian music, but I need info now! Where do you suggest I go? This article did help me, though, on my final report exam, thanks. I need some pie, when I'm nervous I eat pie. The information is so good here. There are so many Details and there are so many things here I never knew about Fiji.

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