The Arya Samaj and the Aftermath of Indenture in Natal and Trinidad

Paula Richman, Oberlin College


The Arya Samaj provided unique kinds of Hindu support to Indians who traveled overseas as indentured laborers between 1845 and 1916. The Arya Samaj, which Swami Dayananda Saraswati founded in 1875 to reform Hindu belief and practice in India, was the first Hindu organization to send reformers to indenture colonies. Many historians of South Asia have studied the Arya Samaj in India (Jones 1976, Jordens 1978, Vable 1983, Llewellyn 1993, Gupta 2002, Hardiman 2007). In this article, I assess Samaj activities outside India in the first half of the 20th century among Indian ex-indentured labourers in Natal (today, part of KwaZulu Natal province, South Africa) and Trinidad (today, part of Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean). In both places, the Samaj spearheaded efforts to unify Hindus, promote access to education, and establishing Samaj institutions.