Indian Arrival Day

Indian Arrival Day is a holiday observed in several different countries to commemorate the arrival of people from the Indian Subcontinent. These Indian individuals arrived as indentured laborers brought by European colonial powers and their agents.

The countries where this holiday is observed include several Caribbean nations, South Africa, Fiji, and Mauritius. It is celebrated in various countries, as we will explore in further detail below.

The History of Indian Arrival Day

This holiday can be traced back to the end of WWII when it was first observed in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago, at Skinner Park on May 30, 1945. This marked the 100th anniversary of Indians being brought to Trinidad.

At the time, it was a significant event attended by a large crowd, including George F. Fitzpatrick, barrister and member of Trinidad and Tobago’s legislative council, and Mahatma Gandhi. After the initial celebration of Indian Arrival Day, the holiday’s popularity began to wane.

Its name was briefly changed to Indian Emigration Day, and it was observed intermittently by various groups but not on a widespread basis. This changed during the 1980s, and by 1991, Parliament members Raymond Pallackdarrysingh and Trevor Sudama introduced the concept that Indian Arrival Day should be made into a public holiday.

It took some time before it became a holiday, however. In 1995, Prime Minister Patrick Manning declared that the 150th anniversary of this event would be named Indian Arrival Day, but all subsequent celebrations would only be known as Arrival Day.

This was amended the following year when Prime Minister Basdeo Panday declared the day to be Indian Arrival Day. After being observed in Trinidad and Tobago, the holiday began to be recognized in other parts of the Caribbean and then in countries around the world.

Currently, there are celebrations in Fiji, Grenada, South Africa, Saint Lucia, Mauritius, Jamaica, the UK, the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. However, there are no celebrations in Singapore, Malaysia, Uganda, Kenya, or Tanzania, despite these countries having large Indian populations.

A Brief History of Trinidad’s Indian Indentureship

In 1838, the Emancipation Proclamation liberated African slaves in the British colonies, leaving many plantation owners without the necessary labor to maintain their production. Consequently, they decided to bring immigrant labor from around the world, particularly from Asia.

On May 10, 1845, approximately 217 immigrants were brought to Trinidad on the Fatel Razack after almost four months at sea. Many were deceived by Crown agents into coming to Trinidad, and the indentureship system was restrictive, oppressive, and sometimes dangerous.

Despite promises by the British, it was not easy for these indentured immigrants to return to their homes. As a result, most remained in Trinidad and the Caribbean.

Observing Indian Arrival Day

As mentioned earlier, this holiday is observed on different days in different countries. In Trinidad and Tobago, it is observed on May 30th. In Grenada, it is observed on May 1st, and in Guyana, on May 5th. In Jamaica, it is observed on May 10th, and in Saint Lucia, on May 6th.

The dates for other countries that observe this holiday include June 1st for Saint Vincent, June 5th for Suriname, November 16th for South Africa, and November 2nd for Mauritius. In Trinidad and Tobago, this holiday is observed with reenactments of the first group of indentured Indians arriving on the beaches, awards ceremonies, and cultural performances.

Where is it celebrated?
Trinidad and Tobago (Public holiday)Guyana (Public holiday)Mauritius (Public holiday) Show all
When is it?
This year (2024)
Next year (2025)
Last year (2023)