Suriname celebrates

By Christelle Gourdine Mandjiny

The Republic of Suriname,situated in the northern part of South America, between British Guyana and French Guyana was a Dutch colony since 1663. 

The Dutch brought African slaves to work on the plantations but they were so badly treated that many escaped in the jungle.

Slavery was abolished in 1863 but it’s only after 10 years that the slaves got freedom and of course, they just left the plantations to the main city Paramaribo. In 1872, an agreement was signed with the British Empire to bring Indian workers in Suriname with a 5-years contract.

Hindu temple, Suriname

From 1873 to 1916, 64 ships brought 34300 workers, mainly from North India, only 100 came from South India. The large majority was recruited in the actual Uttar Pradesh and Bihar States. Apart from India, workers also came from Java, and later from China and the Middle-East.

At the time of independence in 1975, the Hindustanis represented around 50% of the population but many migrated to the Netherlands due to economical issues. Now, they represent 27 % of the Surinamese and unlike others territories in the Caribbean, they have been able to keep their traditions, religion and language. 

The Indian Cultural Centre in Paramaribo wasestablished in 1978. It is the most active cultural establishment in Suriname and impartsteaching in Hindustani music, Hindi, Yoga, and Kathakdances. The Surinamese are planning to celebrate the 140th anniversary of Indian Arrival with grand style in May and June.

Within this context the government established a national commission, consisting of different cultural, social and other organizations. This commission has composed an international program starting the 3rd of May till 25th of June, with memorable events in which the spectator will relive history and make a connection with the present.

In between these days the Hindustani culture will be brought alive by a variety of activities like Baithakgana, Taaza, SangeetkiRaat, an Art exposition, a Mela (Fair), performing music and dance groups, an international conference about slavery and contract labour, etc. 

The foregoing events are all precursors of the highest point of the celebration on the 5th of June, when the arrival of the first immigrants will be simulated and the “Onafhankelijkheidsplein (Independence Square) will be turned into a village with scenes of the past.

Suriname expects to receive many guests from the Indian Diaspora and takes this opportunity to promote local tourism. Hi-eX Suriname, a local company, proposes packaged tour for those who want to enjoy both the celebrations and visits of the country.

For more details: hiexsur@gmail.com

Christelle Gourdine Mandjiny, born in France, is from the 4th generation born outside India. Her family left Kolkata and Pondicherry 150 years ago to work as indentured labours in Guadeloupe, French West Indies. She graduated in corporate finance and worked with the French bank BNP Paribas. After 14 years in the financial world and many trips all over India, she left Paris for Pondicherry. She created her company Zen Development Services Pvt Ltd and the concept of Meet Your Roots to help the NRI/PIO to recreate a link with India. In France, she worked as a volunteer for various organisations to help marginalised population and she is doing the same in India at NGO Ader India. 
www.meetyourroots.fr and www.aderindia.org.in

May 2013

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