Indo-Surinamese, Indian-Surinamese or Hindustani Surinamese are people of Indian origin who are nationals of Suriname with ancestry from India and the wider subcontinent. Their ancestors were Indian indentured workers brought by the Dutch and the British to the (then) Dutch colony of Suriname during the mid-19th to the early 20th century.[3] Per the 2012 Census of Suriname, 148,443 citizens of Suriname are of Indo-Surinamese origin, constituting 27.4% of the total population, making them the largest ethnic group in Suriname on an individual level.

Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Suriname      148,443[1]
Dutch, English, Sarnami Hindustani, Sranan Tongo
Majority: Hinduism
Minority: Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Others
Related ethnic groups
Indian people, Indian diaspora, Indo-Caribbeans, Indians in the Netherlands, Indo-Caribbean Americans, British Indo-Caribbean people, Indo-Guyanese, Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonian, Indo-Fijians, Indo-Mauritians, Indo-South Africans


Indo-Surinamese are also known locally by the Dutch term Hindoestanen (Dutch pronunciation: [ˌɦɪnduˈstaːnə(n)]), derived from the word Hindustani, lit., "someone from Hindustan".[4] Hence, when Indians migrated to Suriname they were referred to as Hindustanis, people of Indian origin. Since 1947 the official name for the ethnic group in Suriname has been Hindostanen (“Hindostanis”). As the term Hindoestanen was mostly associated with followers of Hinduism, Hindostanen also includes the Muslim and Christian followers among the Indian immigrants in Suriname.[5][6] Nowadays the term Hindoestanen and Hindostanen are interchangeably used in common Dutch language, and with that the meaning of Hindoestanen came to be more inclusive. They were also known as girmityas, a term referring to the Agreements that the labourers had to sign regarding the work and the period of stay, and meaning "Someone with an Agreement."[7][8]


Indian indentured labourers

During the British Raj, many Indians were sent to other British colonies for work. After the abolition of slavery in the Dutch colony of Suriname, the Dutch government signed a treaty with the United Kingdom on the recruitment of contract workers. Indians began migrating to Suriname in 1873 from what was then British India as indentured labourers, mostly 75% from the modern-day Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, and in smaller numbers Bihar, Haryana, Punjab and Tamil Nadu. However, among the immigrants there were also labourers from other parts of South Asia, such as Afghanistan and Nepal.

The first ship transporting Indian indentured labourers, the Lalla Rookh,[9] arrived in Paramaribo. Newly freed slaves in Suriname who witnessed Indian workers disembarking at the harbour, reportedly stated, "Jobo tanbasi", meaning "The white man is still the boss", suggesting that they viewed the development as a continuation of the slave trade. Initially, the transport and living conditions of Indian labourers in Suriname was worse than it had been prior to the abolition of the Dutch slave trade. The British Viceroy of India described it as "a new system of slavery". In 1870s, conditions were improved greatly following the passage of new legislation to protect the Indian workers. The Government of the United Kingdom and the colonial British Government in India feared comparisons to slavery would hurt their reputation, and enacted several legislations to make transportation of Indian workers safer and improve working conditions in plantations. The Dutch government, which had signed the agreement to recruit workers with the British after long and difficult negotiations, also feared jeopardizing the arrangement and meticulously followed the regulations imposed by the British. The Dutch were also concerned that they would be accused of reviving the slave trade.[10]

In order to reduce the mortality rate among workers being transported from India, the colonial British government required the presence of at least one doctor on every ship. As regulations required the doctor to be of European-origin, the regulations also required that one Indian indentured labourer be appointed as a translator and that he would be paid for his services at the end of the journey. Other regulations mandated that every ship have distilling apparatus with a capacity to produce at least 500 litres of drinking water from seawater daily, and also required ships to have a sickbay, male and female nursing staff, adequate food and medicine, and artificial ventilation in the passengers' quarters. Another regulation prohibited any ship transporting Indian indentured labourers from setting sail between the end of March and the beginning of August. Any shipping company that violated the regulations would be prohibited from transporting contact workers in the future. While the mortality rate among slaves working on plantations between 1680 and 1807 averaged 50.9 per thousand people, following the passage of the regulations post-1873, it dropped to 7.1 per thousand among Indian workers.[10]

Indo-Surinamese made up 37.6% of the population in the 1972 Census.[11] Following the independence of Suriname on 25 November 1975, a significant portion of the Indo-Surinamese population migrated to the Netherlands, thereby retaining their Dutch passport.


The majority religion among the Indo-Surinamese is Hinduism, practiced by 78% of the people, followed by Islam (13%), Christianity (7%), and Jainism. Among the Hindus about 63% follow orthodox, traditional Hinduism that they call Sanātanī to differentiate themselves from the 15% who belong to the reform movement Arya Samaj, started by Dayananda Saraswati.[12] Among the Indo-Surinamese Muslims, 75% follow Sunni Islam while 25% identify as Ahmadiyya, of either the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement for the Propagation of Islam or the Ahmadiyya community.

Notable Indo-Surinamese people

See also


  1. "Census" (PDF). Algemeen Bureau voor de Statistiek in Suriname (General Statistics Bureau of Suriname). p. 76. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  2. "Suriname Indians in the Netherlands – the Indian in Them Lives on".
  3. "Hindostanen in Suriname (in Dutch)". Outlook. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  4. van der Zeijden, Albert (1990). De cultuurgeschiedenis van de dood. Rodopi. p. 154. ISBN 9789051832167.
  5. "Waarom Hindostaan en niet Hindoestaan? (in Dutch)". Outlook. 31 May 2019. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  6. Choenni, Chan E.S. (2003). Adhin, Kanta Sh. (ed.). Hindostanen, van Brits-Indische emigranten via Suriname tot burgers van Nederland. Communicatiebureau Sampreshan. ISBN 90-805092-4-8.
  7. "Suriname Seeks Stronger Relations with India". Outlook. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  8. "Suriname forstronger ties with India". The Hindu Business Line. Press Trust of India. 20 March 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  9. Murphy, Janet (30 April 2016). "Lalla Rookh- Marking the Indian Arrival in Suriname". NewsGram. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  10. Emmer, P. C. (30 January 2006). The Dutch Slave Trade, 1500-1850. Berghahn Books. pp. 138–140. ISBN 9781845450311. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  11. "National Census Report: Suriname" (PDF). Caricom. 2009. p. 32. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-06-27. Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  12. "Censusstatistieken 2012" (PDF). Algemeen Bureau voor de Statistiek in Suriname (General Statistics Bureau of Suriname). p. 50. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2017-01-07.

Further reading

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