By: Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. | International Trademark Attorney
The history of East Indians in Trinidad and Guyana can be an elusive concept for those in the diaspora. Lack of resources and time have made this history an endangered topic. However, history is important so that descendants in Trinidad and Guyana can fully understand their value and self worth. When you know your past, you can have a better future.
In a nutshell, here is that history.
The history of West Indians (a term commonly used to describe East Indians in the Caribbean, and also people of the Caribbean generally) begins in Africa, as that is the starting point for human life. As for the East Indians, their journey then embarks from the Indian continent.
The Indian continent was part of the ancient supercontinent, Pangea. The Indian and Australian geographic plates split off from Pangea and then divided. The Indian continental plate began moving northward, and eventually collided with the Eurasian plate about 50 million years ago. The collision of the Indian and Eurasian plate created the Himalayan mountain range.
India’s rich and treasured history dates back 30,000 thousand years, and can be divided into the ancient times, medieval times, early modern times, and modern times.
"India," "Bharat," and "Hindustan" have all been used to refer to what is now commonly known as India. "India" derives from Latin and Greek. "Bharat" was/is used by many native Indian languages for the region. And "Hindustan" is a Persian name that gained prominence during the Mughal Empire.
Around 7000 BCE, the Indus Valley emerged with the first urban culture in South Asia. It was one of the earliest cradles of civilization-- the others being Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Ancient China. Gautama Buddha, or simply Buddha, lived and died during Ancient Indian times. The exact cause of the Indus Valley civilization’s decline is uncertain, but scholars believe it could have been related to a water shortage caused by a lack of monsoons, invaders, climate change, drying of the Sarasvati river, overpopulation, and/or a decline in trade.
Next, Medieval India, like Ancient India, consisted of various regional kingdoms and cultural diversity. India was not one unified kingdom. Emperors or kings reigned over many different portions. With time, Indian culture began to share certain commonalities and a sense of belonging. For example, devotional hymns in the Tamil language were widely utilized and would later develop into the current Indian languages.
The third era, Early Modern India, began in the 16th century with the reign of the Mughal Empire. Despite being descendants of the infamous warlord Genghis Khan, the emperors supposedly did not impose their religion on the people. The locals were free to continue their native practices. The relatively peaceful empire allowed the arts to flourish with a mix of Persian and Indian aspects.
Finally, Modern India began when the British defeated the Mughal Empire and ended the golden age of art and co-existence. A positive aspect of colonization was that Britain provided India with a map. The map arguably altered the Indians’ perception of themselves from competing subgroups to a unified continent.
During British rule, India experienced a high poverty rate. The poverty rate in India contributed to Indians seeking employment under the indentured servitude system. Others were deceived and thought that they were only going to work in another part of India. These Indians accepted the job offer, or were forced, to work overseas for 5 years and then return. Return home to India, their families, and their culture. The majority never returned to India.
Indians traveled to Guyana and Trinidad, among other places, as indentured servants. The British’s indentured servitude system would forever change the course of generations involved in the Indian diaspora.
Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. is a trademark and contracts attorney. She primarily helps growing businesses with trademarks, contracts, and name clearance searches.
She writes articles on the importance of trademarks, trademark law updates, and also West Indian history (with an emphasis on India, Trinidad, Guyana, and the United States).
MDGR Law, P.A.
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