In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Diaspora in the Caribbean

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Historical Background
  • Edited Volumes
  • Cultural Elements
  • Hinduism and Identity
  • Form, Structure, and Organization
  • Impact of Christianity on Hinduism
  • Marginal Traditions
  • Music and the Performing Arts
  • Hindu Female and LGBTQ+ Experiences
  • Indo-Caribbean Hindu Diasporic Experiences in North America

Hinduism Diaspora in the Caribbean
Sherry-Ann Singh, Danalee Jahgoo
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 February 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0267


Between 1838 and 1920, approximately 550,000 Indians (South Asians) came to the Caribbean as laborers under the system of Indian indenture. Of this number, close to 85 percent were classified as Hindus. When the system of Indian indenture came to a close by 1920, about 75 percent of the immigrants had opted to stay in the Caribbean. One hundred seventy-nine years later, the impressions of time, space, and circumstance, varyingly conditioned by the processes of truncation, dilution, intensification, reconstitution, telescoping, and excision, have yielded a strand of Hinduism in the Caribbean that is homogeneous enough to be often classified as “Caribbean Hinduism” or “Hinduism in the Caribbean,” yet imbibed with a sufficient degree of geographic divergence that often allows for country-specific orientations of the religion. In Trinidad and Tobago (18.2 percent), Guyana (28.4 percent), and Suriname (22.3 percent), Hinduism is very visible as a major religion. Although substantially smaller, Hinduism in Jamaica, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Belize is still practiced. However, in such locations as Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and St. Kitts, there has been an almost total absorption of Hinduism into the respective societies. The bulk of the indentured labor to the Caribbean was drawn from the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar regions of India, with significantly smaller numbers coming from South India and Bengal. This has generated Hindu religious transfigurations throughout the Caribbean that are firmly and predominantly rooted in the religious traditions of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the most prominent of which are Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and the teachings of the most popular Hindu religious text in the Caribbean, the Ramcharitmanas. Hinduism in the various Caribbean locations has also been highly characterized by localized schisms which have contributed to the perpetuation of divergences in belief, practice, and doctrine; yet, all locate themselves under the umbrella of its respective national configuration, such as “Trinidad Hinduism” or “Hinduism in Guyana.” As such, the literature on Hinduism in the Caribbean is reflective of the history, diversity, transformation, and diasporic assignation of the religion. This article seeks to outline some of the most prominent writings on Hinduism in the Caribbean, along with a variety of secondary academic and non-academic works that document the emergence, transformation, and application of the religion through a multitude of divergent yet congruent lenses.

General Overviews

Overviews of Hinduism in the various Caribbean locations are available in both edited volumes and encyclopedic volumes. Clarke 2013 examines the roles of religion and ethnicity in Caribbean societal structure through various social theories. Dabydeen and Samaroo 1987 provides a comprehensive overview of the experiences of Indians in various Caribbean locations through its collection of scholarly articles, literary narratives, and poetry. Haraksingh 1985 gives a concise overview of many of the main features of Hinduism as reconstituted in Trinidad. Lal 2006 provides a comprehensive collection of concise overviews of Indians in the diaspora, including the Caribbean. O’Callaghan 1998 gives a general insight into the history of the Indian presence in Trinidad. Samaroo and Bissessar 2004 provides a cross-disciplinary collection that examines key issues in the process of Indian community formation in the Caribbean. Taylor and Case 2013 provides a very comprehensive sweep of Hinduism in the Caribbean. Edmonds and Gonzalez 2010 explores the various religions that emerged in the Caribbean, with emphasis on transmutations and coexistence. Bisnauth 1989 provides adequate overviews of the various religions that emerged in the Caribbean, highlighting their connectivity and exploring their specifically Caribbean orientations.

  • Bisnauth, Dale. A History of Religions in the Caribbean. Kingston, Jamaica: Kingston Publishers, 1989.

    Explores the emergence and development of the major religions in the Caribbean: the indigenous peoples, Catholicism, Africanism, evangelism, Hinduism, Islam, and the Africanization of Christianity.

  • Clarke, Colin. Religion and Ethnicity as Differentiating Factors in the Social Structure of the Caribbean. Göttingen, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, 2013.

    Explores the ways in which followers of Hinduism (and Islam) created new social segments. Examines the role of Hinduism and other religions in the ethnic politics of Trinidad and Tobago, and the relationship between religion and other non-religious facets of culture in the social and spatial structure of Kingston, Jamaica.

  • Dabydeen, David, and Brinsley Samaroo. India in the Caribbean. London: Hansib, 1987.

    Provides a comprehensive overview of the experiences of Indians in various Caribbean locations, including Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and Jamaica. Spanning an extensive timeframe, this is a unique volume, which comprises scholarly articles, poetry, and literary narratives.

  • Edmonds, Ennis B., and Michelle A. Gonzalez. Caribbean Religious History: An Introduction. New York: New York University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814722343.001.0001

    Examines the diverse religious traditions that emerged in the Caribbean context. Argues that religion reflects the historical development of the Caribbean, its heritage and diverse peoples. Explores transformation and innovation as inherent facets of the Caribbean experience where various religions sought to carve out their own spaces.

  • Haraksingh, Kusha. “Aspects of the Indian Experience in the Caribbean.” In Calcutta to Caroni. Edited by John La Guerre, 155–169. St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago: University of the West Indies, Extra Mural Studies Unit, 1985.

    A concise overview of some of the main features of Hinduism in the Caribbean up to the 1970s. Identifies the Ramayana, bhakti, Sai Baba, Kali worship, the Arya Samaj, Ramleela, Krishnaleela, pundits, and caste as defining elements in the reconstitution of Hinduism in the Caribbean.

  • Lal, Brij V., ed. The Encyclopedia of the Indian Diaspora. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, 2006.

    This volume provides a comprehensive collection of the experiences of Indians in the diaspora. One section of the volume examines the dynamics of Hinduism in such Caribbean locations as Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and Jamaica. It identifies main trends and transformations in Hindu religious and cultural life in these countries.

  • O’Callaghan, Marion. “Hinduism in the Indian Diaspora in Trinidad.” Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies 11.5 (1998): 2–10.

    DOI: 10.7825/2164-62calloloo79.1178

    Provides general information on the history of the Indian presence in Trinidad from indentureship. Examines challenges concerning the practice of Hinduism along with discussions on some fundamental aspects of Hinduism that have been retained, and the impact of the Presbyterian missionary presence on Hindus in Trinidad.

  • Samaroo, Brinsley, and Ann Marie Bissessar, eds. The Construction of an Indo-Caribbean Diaspora. St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago: School of Continuing Studies, The University of the West Indies, 2004.

    A cross-disciplinary collection that examines the issues of identity, ethnicity, and mobility as fundamental elements in the process of Indian diasporic community formation in the Caribbean. Leadership and political formation are presented as other driving forces in the diaspora. Elements of Hinduism, including goddess worship and funerary rituals, are explored.

  • Taylor, Patrick, and Frank Case, eds. The Encyclopedia of Caribbean Religions. Vol. 1, A–L. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2013.

    Explores the major Hindu trends, beliefs, and practices in such locations as Trinidad, Guyana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Suriname. Temples, deities, scriptures, life-cycle rituals, gender relations, cross-fertilization, and Shaktism, among other issues, are all engaged in adequate detail.

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