South African Indian culture
Did you know?
South Africa has the largest Indian population in the world outside of India.
South African Indian culture began in 1860 when the first immigrants arrived on board the Truro as indentured labourers to work on sugar-cane farms in present day KwaZulu-Natal. In 2010, more than 1,2 million people of Indian descent in South Africa celebrated the 150th birthday of their community's existence in this country.
Indian culture in South Africa faced struggles in the face of discrimination until 1994. It is these struggles that have seen Indians take a leading role in the Freedom Struggle. It all started with the arrival of Mohandas Gandhi in 1893.
Gandhi was born in India and arrived in the British colony of Natal to take up a position as an advisor to a Durban law firm. He had only intended to spend a year in South Africa, but the racial sleights he experienced were so formative that he stayed for 20.
In 1894 he founded the Natal Indian Congress, which later would be at the forefront of the Freedom Struggle in South Africa. At first it utilised passive resistance, but when this proved inadequate he reformulated it into Satyagraha, Sanskrit for ‘truth and firmness'.
But the influence of the Indian community is not limited to Ghandi with many members of this population group being represented in our government and ruling party in positions of influence and importance.
In addition, cultural ideas and influences are strongly felt here. India is home to 15 official languages and over 1500 dialects. Traditions have been handed down generation after generation and many of these have arrived in tact in South Africa.
The national dress of India, the saree (six yards of unstitched cloth draped to impart grace and elegance) is to be found on South African street. Indian cuisine is hugely popular with Indian restaurants all over the country. And the fever for cricket that grips India is very much in evidence in Kwa Zulu Natal, where the first Indians were introduced.
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