Caribbean Hindustani

Caribbean Hindustani is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by Indo-Caribbeans and the Indo-Caribbean diaspora. It is mainly based on the Bhojpuri and Awadhi dialects.[1] These Hindustani dialects were the most spoken dialects by the Indians who came as immigrants to the Caribbean from India as indentured laborers. It is closely related to Fiji Hindi and the Bhojpuri-Hindustani spoken in Mauritius and South Africa.

Caribbean Hindustani
कैरेबियाई हिंदुस्तानी (Devanagari script)
𑂍𑂶𑂩𑂵𑂥𑂱𑂨𑂰𑂆⸱𑂯𑂱𑂁𑂠𑂳𑂮𑂹𑂞𑂰𑂢𑂲 (Kaithi script)
کَیریبئائی ہندوستانی (Perso-Arabic script)
Native speakers
150,000 in Suriname (2018)[1]
300,000 in all countries (2006–2019)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3hns

Because a majority of people came from the Bhojpur region in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand, and the Awadh region in Uttar Pradesh, Caribbean Hindustani is most influenced by Bhojpuri, Awadhi and other Eastern Hindi-Bihari dialects. Hindustani (Standard Hindi-Standard Urdu) has also influenced the language due to the arrival of Bollywood films, music, and other media from India. It also has a minor influence from Tamil and other Dravidian languages.[5] The language has also borrowed many words from Dutch and English in Suriname and Guyana, and English and French in Trinidad and Tobago. Many words unique to Caribbean Hindustani have been created to cater for the new environment that Indo-Caribbeans now live in. After the introduction of Standard Hindustani to the Caribbean, Caribbean Hindustani was seen by many Indo-Caribbeans as a broken version of Hindi, however due to later academic research it was seen as deriving from Bhojpuri, Awadhi, and other dialects and was in fact not a broken language, but its own unique language mainly deriving from the Bhojpuri and Awadhi dialects, and not the Khariboli dialect like Standard Hindi and Urdu did, thus the difference.[6]

Caribbean Hindustani is spoken as a vernacular by Indo-Caribbeans, independent of their religious background. When written, the Devanagari script is used by Hindus, while some Muslims tend to use the Perso-Arabic script in the Nastaliq calligraphic hand following the Urdu alphabet; historically, the Kaithi script was also used.[4] However, due to the decline in the language these scripts are not widely used and most often the Latin script is used due to familiarity and easiness.

Chutney music, chutney soca, chutney parang, baithak gana, folk music, classical music, some Hindu religious songs, some Muslim religious songs, and even some Indian Christian religious songs are sung in Caribbean Hindustani, sometimes being mixed with English in the Anglophone Caribbean or Dutch in Suriname and the Dutch Caribbean.

Guyanese Hindustani

The Caribbean Hindustani of Guyana is known as Guyanese Hindustani, Guyanese Bhojpuri or Aili Gaili. It is spoken by some members in a community of 300,000 Indo-Guyanese, mostly by the older generation.[7] The Nickerian-Berbician Hindustani dialect of Guyanese Hindustani and Sarnami is spoken in East Berbice-Corentyne in Guyana and the neighboring district of Nickerie in Suriname.[8]

Trinidadian Hindustani

The variant that is spoken in Trinidad and Tobago is known as Trinidadian Hindustani, Trinidadian Bhojpuri, Trinidadian Hindi, Indian, Plantation Hindustani, or Gaon ke Bolee (Village Speech).[9] A majority of the early Indian indentured immigrants spoke the Bhojpuri and Awadhi dialects, which later formed into Trinidadian Hindustani. In 1935, Indian movies began showing to audiences in Trinidad. Most of the Indian movies were in the Standard Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu) dialect and this modified Trinidadian Hindustani slightly by adding Standard Hindi and Urdu phrases and vocabulary to Trinidadian Hindustani. Indian movies also revitalized Hindustani among Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonians.[10] The British colonial government and estate owners had disdain and contempt for Hindustani and Indian languages in Trinidad. Due to this, many Indians saw it as a broken language keeping them in poverty and bound to the cane fields, and did not pass it on as a first language, but rather as a heritage language, as they favored English as a way out.[11] Around the mid to late 1960s the lingua franca of Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonians switched from Trinidadian Hindustani to a sort of Hindinized version of English. Today Hindustani survives on through Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonian musical forms such as, Bhajan, Indian classical music, Indian folk music, Filmi, Pichakaree, Chutney, Chutney soca, and Chutney parang. As of 2003, there are about 15,633 Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonians who speak Trinidadian Hindustani and as of 2011, there are about 10,000 who speak Standard Hindi. Many Indo-Trinidadians and Tobagonians today speak a type of Hinglish that consists of Trinidadian and Tobagonian English that is heavily laced with Trinidadian Hindustani vocabulary and phrases and many Indo-Trinidadians and Tobagonians can recite phrases or prayers in Hindustani today. There are many places in Trinidad and Tobago that have names of Hindustani origin. Some phrases and vocabulary have even made their way into the mainstream English and English Creole dialect of the country.[1][12][13][14][9][15] World Hindi Day is celebrated each year on 10 January with events organized by the National Council of Indian Culture, Hindi Nidhi Foundation, Indian High Commission, Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Cultural Co-operation, and the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha.[16]

Sarnami Hindustani

Sarnami Hindustani (Roman script) plaque at Suriname Memorial, Garden Reach, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Sarnami or Sarnami Hindoestani or Sarnami Hindustani meaning Surinamese Hindustani is the third-most spoken language in Suriname after Dutch and Sranan Tongo (the two lingua francas).[17] It developed as a fusion of Bihari and Eastern Hindi languages, specifically Bhojpuri, Awadhi, and – to a lesser degree – Magahi. Most scholars agree that Bhojpuri is the main contributor in the formation of Sarnami.[18] It is mainly spoken by and within Suriname's Indo-Surinamese (ca. 27% of the population) community and therefore it is not considered to be a third lingua franca. While Sarnami is mostly a language of informal daily communication, the traditional prestige language of the community is Standard Hindi–Urdu in either of its literary variants: Hindi (Modern Standard Hindi) for Hindus, and Urdu for Muslims. Similar to how Jamaican Patois is used informally and Jamaican Standard English or the Queen's English is seen as more prestigious.[18] Baithak Gana is the most famous genre of music sung in Sarnami Hindustani.

Nickerian-Berbician Hindustani

Nickerian-Berbician Hindustani, also called Nickerian Sarnami or Berbician Hindustani, is a unique dialect of Sarnami and Guyanese Bhojpuri-Hindustani that developed in the district of Nickerie in Suriname and the neighboring county of Berbice (present-day East Berbice-Corentyne) in Guyana during the colonial times in the late 19th century to the early 20th century. Even though Suriname's Nickerie and Guyana's Berbice are in different countries separated by the Courantyne River, the groups of descendants of Indian indentured laborers that settled in both areas existed as one Indian community and marriage between Indians from Nickerie to Indians in Berbice and vice versa often occurred. The difference in colonial and post-colonial independent history in the two districts led to the Indians in Nickerie in Suriname being able to preserve the dialect, while in Berbice in Guyana it largely died out, however many words and phrases from the dialect were incorporated into the Guyanese English Creole of Berbice.[19] Today the remaining speakers of Guyanese Hindustani are mostly speakers of the Nickerian-Berbician dialect due to the influx of Nickerians in Berbice. Nickerian-Berbician Hindustani is mostly mutually intelligible with the Sarnami spoken in the rest of Suriname, although there are many words from Guyanese English Creole, English, and Berbice Creole Dutch. Nickerian-Berbician Hindustani is also mutually intelligible with the Guyanese Hindustani spoken in the rest Guyana, however unlike Suriname, Indians in Guyana have mostly adopted Guyanese English Creole as their first language and it is spoken mostly by the elderly, Hindu priests, and immigrants from Suriname.[8][20]

Research and promotional efforts

Early research on the language has been conducted by Motilall Rajvanshi Marhe from Suriname, Peggy Mohan and Kumar Mahabir from Trinidad and Tobago, and Surendra Kumar Gambhir in Guyana.[21][22][23][24][6] Attempts to preserve the language are being made by Caribbean Hindustani Inc. led by Visham Bhimull, Sarnami Bol Inc. led by Rajsingh Ramanjulu in Suriname,[25] Karen Dass in Trinidad and Tobago, and Harry Hergash in Canada who is originally from Guyana.[26][27][28][29][30][31]

See also



  1. Caribbean Hindustani at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  2. "Script".
  3. "The Wesleyan Missionary Notices, Relating Principally to the Foreign Missions First Established by the Rev. John Wesley, M.A. The Rev. Dr. Coke and Others, and Now Carried on Under the Direction of the Methodist Conference". 1867.
  4. Pandey, Anshuman (2007). "Proposal to Encode the Kaithi Script in Plane 1 of ISO/IEC 10646" (PDF).
  5. "Language".
  6. Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Motilall Marhé meets Peggy Mohan for the first time to duscuss Bhojpuri". YouTube.
  7. "Bhojpuri and its links to Guyana and the Caribbean". 24 July 2016.
  8. "Djamoeni Dewdath tell her life story in the Nickerian Sarnami dialect". YouTube.
  9. Jayaram, N.; Atal, Yogesh (24 May 2004). The Indian Diaspora: Dynamics of Migration. ISBN 9780761932185.
  10. Gooptar, Primnath (2014). Bala Joban: The First Indian Movie in Trinidad (1935). ISBN 9789766483227.
  11. "The Hindustani language as an element of Caribbean identity". YouTube.
  12. "The Languages spoken in Trinidad and Tobago".
  13. "10,000 students graduate in Hindi".
  14. Mahabir, Kumar (December 1999). "The Impact of Hindi on Trinidadian English". Caribbean Quarterly. 45 (4): 13–34. doi:10.1080/00086495.1999.11671866.
  15. Frawley, William (May 2003). International Encyclopedia of Linguistics: 4-Volume Set. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 9780195139778. Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  16. "TT celebrates World Hindi Day". Trinidad and Tobago Newsday. 19 January 2020.
  17. "The Languages spoken in Suriname". SpainExchange Country Guide. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  18. Damsteegt, Theo (1988). "Sarnami: a Living Language". In Richard Keith Barz; Jeff Siegel (eds.). Language Transplanted: The Development of Overseas Hindi. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. pp. 95–120.
  19. "From Masjid to Mandir: Across the Corentyne, into Suriname".
  21. "Motilall Marhe". Chutney Music. 3 June 2020.
  22. "THE AWARENESS OF AN INDIAN DECENDANT [sic]". 4 July 2020.
  23. "Peggy Mohan". HarperCollins Publishers India.
  24. "Dr Kumar Mahabir donates copies of his audio-cassettes to UWI". Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  25. "Home". Caribbean Hindustani. Retrieved 6 June 2022.
  26. "Who We Are".
  27. "Sarnami Bol".
  28. "The Linguistic Legacy of Indian-Guyanese". 21 April 2014.
  29. "Hergash launches book on Indian-Guyanese Words, Phrases" (PDF). guyaneseonline. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  30. "Author releases book on words and phrases used by Indian immigrants, descendants". Guyana Chronicle.
  31. "Guyanese Hindi Dictionary" (PDF). Retrieved 7 April 2021.
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