Adding Spice to Life through South African Indian Culture


Laborers from India started arriving in 1860 to work on the sugar cane farms of the KwaZulu Natal Province in South Africa. This marked the beginning of the South African Indian culture in the country. In 2010, the 150th birthday of the Indian community’s existence in South Africa was celebrated by 1.2 million Indian descendants. Indians are spread all across the world in some major communities but South Africa houses the largest Diaspora of Indians outside India. This mix of races, ideologies and thoughts along with the different lifestyles of people, gave birth to the South African Indian culture which is pretty evident throughout the country, especially in Durban which is home to the largest population of Indian immigrants as compared to other cities of the world. Various aspects of the lives of the people in the country have been influenced by this culture fusion in some of the most interesting ways. Here’s a look at some of those aspects and how they have been spiced up by this unique mix of culture.

Food - Food is one thing that binds the two cultures together and the effects of this bonding can be tasted all over the country. Durban, which houses the largest amount of South African Indian population, is famous for its ‘bunny chow’. It is a takeaway dish which is made by hollowing the center of a portion of bread and filling it with curry. It is believed that the dish was created by a Gujarati ‘Bania’ who owned a restaurant in Grey Street, Durban. Most workers used this style as it was easier for them to carry lunch.

Festivals - No matter what the religion or country is, festivals always add spice to the lives of the people who are part of the celebrations. People from Indian origin and South Africans celebrate many festivals together and the South African Indians never miss a chance to keep their culture alive in the country. The list of festivals includes Mohurram, Kavadi, Mariamman, Draupadi (Fire Walking) and Diwali. Diwali gives the residents of the community an opportunity to witness some amazing fireworks which are a symbol of the festival.

Clothing – It is understandable that we are bound to be effected by what we see around us, when it comes to clothing. This is evident when we look at the fashion followed by the South African Indian Community. The ‘saree’, which is the national dress of India, is seen in many South African regions, especially the KwaZulu Natal region. You may also notice many young South African Indians wearing a fusion of Indian clothes with South African accessories or vice versa.

Religion – South Africa is a mix of people from all types of ethnicities and religions. A majority of the South African Indians are Hindus, Muslims or Christians with fewer groups of Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists. The Western Cape consists of a multi-ethnicity community with most of the South African Muslims belonging to India.

Sports and Entertainment – Many South African Indians represent the country in a number of sports with Cricket being the most popular. There is a list of South African Indian cricketers who have represented the country on an international level. Although most young Indians find it difficult to understand Indian languages, Television programs and Indian films are very popular among them. Thanks to the internet era that they don’t have to look too much to find their favorite music, videos or films. Many South African Indian artists have also been churning out great pieces of fusion music which perfectly reflect the spirit of the South African Indian culture.

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