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Heritage Sikhs In Mauritius


Jun 1, 2004
The Sikhs of Mauritius

I am no longer in awe of the worldly and wandering Sikh whom I find in the most obscure and obvious places. Sikhs are everywhere from Afghanistan to America - always contributing and sharing with others of the country. Sikhs embody the principle of Vund Chhukna - that means that there is a social responsibility to share with the needy, and individuals are encouraged to do this through charitable deeds.

I am not surprised that we flourish wherever we go, since we carry with us the central tenets of kindness and openness.

This week reminded me how fortunate I am to come across my brothers and sisters wherever in the world I find myself working or playing. In the past, I have already written abvout my encounters with fellow Sikhs in faraway lands.

Although it is not at all a surprise anymore for me, but this week, while working in Mauritius, I discovered that there are Sikhs here too. I was fascinated by this discovery and want to share it with you.

Mauritius is a former colony of both the British and the French, who brought in indentured workers from India to work in the sugar cane harvesting by the French and British. I learned from Mauritians that the source of most of the settlers was the Indian province of Bihar, and so they speak a language based on Bihari, mixed now with French and English. The resulting mixed is called "Creole."

It is a delightful and pleasant language spoken by most of the members of the local population amongst each other.

When a Mauritian is approached by a English speaker, they respond in perfect British-accented English and when spoken to by a French speaker, they reply in beautifully articulated French.

The Sikhs, who have settled here, and who, for the most part, have not lived in French speaking colonies ever, have
adapted to this trilingual culture with ease and most naturally. According to official number, 0.3 % of the population in Mauritius are Sikhis, the fourth most significant religious group in the country.

The Sikhs of Mauritius are for the most part professionals. They have come here to work in companies in the burgeoning IT and banking sector based in the capital, Port Louis. They coalesce around the Gurdwara and a community of several hundred.

Sikh-Mauritians are to be found in other parts of the island counyry as well. So when one looks up blogs, there are notes about Sikhs who come from places like Quatres Bornes, a midsized city located halfway between Port Louis and Curepipe in the central highlands of the country.

I had chai with a Sikh gentleman whom I met the other day on my travel from Mahebourg to Port Louis.

When I came across him, he was at a bus stop waiting with others for transport between towns. He looked rugged and worn like someone who is involved in the labour sector, much different than what I had heard about Sikhs in the banking and IT sector.

Sardar Attar Singh told me that he had come here to work on the sugar cane fields and stayed after he married a local woman. He tries to maintain ties with his Sikh culture, but given that the closest gurdwara is in Port Louis, the family only manages to get to meet
other Sikhs only on special occasions.

There is also a large exchange of professional skills among Mauritians and Sikhs, as part of the larger exchange between India and Mauritius. The finance, IT, commercial, military, tourism and cultural sectors all have regular trade and exchange of skills and goods between the two nations. It makes sense since the cultural connection for the Mauritians with India, the ancestral lands of the first indentured settlers is extremely precious.

An example of the cultural synergy was displayed when a group of beach musicians who were playing songs for us included a variety of Bhangra and Bollywood to ensure that we felt right at home. The chorus of us singing 'Balle, Balle!' was joyful and fun!

So I leave you with a strong recommendation to visit Mauritius and see how our brothers and sisters have established a strong and proud presence in the paradise island.

December 13, 2010


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