NEW: List of Girmitiyas with Names beginning with A thorugh to M is now available in a searchable/sortable format

“Girmitiyas” or Indentured Labourers, is the name given the Indians who left Indian in the middle and late 19th Century to serve as labourers in the British colonies, where the majority eventually settled. GIRMIT is a corrupt form of the English word “Agreement”.  A labour emigrating under the Agreement or Girmit was a “Girmitiya”.

This website focuses on over 60,500 labourers who were transported to the Fiji Islands over a period of 37 years (1875 – 1916) to work on the plantations of Fiji.

This site serves as a knowledge base, a research tool, and its available especially for the descendants of the original labourers (Girmitiyas) who are passionate to find out more about their history and wish to verify their heritage.

The British and other European colonial powers started the Indian indenture system in 1838, as a cheap source of labour to their colonies after African slavery was abolished in 1833. Under this system, some 1.2 million Indians were displaced from India to the colonies between 1838 and 1916.

Indian indentured emigration to Fiji began in 1879. It was started by Sir Arthur Gordon, the first substantive governor of the colony (1875-80), to meet the shortage of labour caused by the prohibition of commercial employment of the Fijians and by the increasing uncertainty and cost of the Polynesian labour trade.   

Some 60,500 Indians were transported to Fiji between 1879 and 1916 when the transportation of indentured Indian labourers was finally stopped.  The indenture system itself was abolished in 1921. 

In North India, there was great popular resistance to emigration and it was difficult to obtain recruits, especially women. The emigration system was unsuited to Indian conditions, the regulation did not always work in the way intended, and abuses were widespread. Most of the emigrants were young and fit, and were recruited as individuals in the towns. They were a fair cross-section of village castes, had been driven by economic pressure or alienation from kin, and enlisted to secure high wages, with the intention of returning to India. The areas of recruitment were determined by economic, and, secondarily, by cultural factors. Most of the 60,965 emigrants came from the Gangetic plain, but 25% were recruited in Madras, where there was less resistance to emigration.

On the plantations, impersonality and drudgery were the rules.  Inspection safeguards were inadequate and immigrants found it difficult to secure redress in the courts.  Assaults and excessive number of prosecutions were serious problems.  The food and medical attention were inadequate over most of the period.  Vice was rampant because of the disproportion of the sexes, unsatisfactory living conditions and the breakdown of social controls.  Because of the nature of Indian society, the breakdown was much greater than most migrations.

The contracts of the indentured labourers required them to work in Fiji for a certain period of time as specified in their agreements. After 5 years of Girmit, they were free to return to India at their own expense.  The colonial government was compelled to provide free passage back to India to every Girmitiya and their children, after 10 years of Girmit.

It is argued that they were prevented from returning to India by the colonial government of Fiji and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR) of Australia. This was done to ensure continued supply of Indian labour to Fiji’s sugar industry, on which Fiji’s economy depended at that time.

Few of the immigrants kept up ties with India, but about 40% returned – many of them suffered great hardship. Those who stayed did so because of new kinship ties or enhanced economic and social opportunity; the Government encouraged them to stay.  Most of them settled on the lands as farmers, prospered and progressed.

The majority of the Indo-Fijians are direct descendants of these exiled Girmitiyas of Fiji. This website is a homage to these Girmitiyas and their children.

This website has been created to pay tribute to these Girmitiyas and to provide information to anyone who shares similar interests and sentiments towards this very sensitive and important part of our history.

My sincere appreciation and thanks to the following people for their support, guidance and assistance.  Their research is the foundation of this website.

contrbutors2

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Footnotes

Lal, Brij V. Chalo Jahaji. Acton, A.C.T.: ANU E Press, 2012. Print.

Gillion, Kenneth Lowell Oliver.  1962,  Fiji’s Indian migrants : a history to the end of indenture in 1920 / by K.L.Gillion  O.U.P Melb 

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Alphabetical List of Girmitiyas

This is the same list from the National Archives but re-formatted so that Users are able to:

  • Search and Filter – Visitors are able to Search and Filter the list.   Type the word that you wish to search in the “Search” Field.  Only rows with the search word in them are displayed.
  • Sort – Select the relevant Header and you can sort by Name/Fathers Name/Ship/Pass Number.

Select from the List below for Girmitiyas Names beginning with:

A = 2717 Records

B = 5851 Records

C = 2033 Records

D = 2381 Records

E & F = 299 Records

G = 3285 Records

H = 1079 Records

I =  411 Records 

J = 2643 Records 

K =3895 Records

L  =  1702 Records

M  =  6045 Records

After obtaining the Immigrant details from the above lists,  email the National Archives at archives@govnet.gov.fj with the:

– Girmitiya Name

– Fathers Name,

– Ship Name

– Emigration Pass Number

and request them to send you the copy of the Emigration Pass.

(Please note that the National Archives of Fiji will charge you a small fee for the above service)

One you obtain the Emigration Pass number – you are able to match that number with the “Registered Number” Field in the following Table.  Note that the Registered Number is in a range.  So you have to select the Correct Range – which will tell you the date of the Arrival of the Ship.

List of Ships in a Searchable/Sortable Format.

List of Indenture Ships to Fiji

Name of ShipDate of ArrivalRegistered NumbersNumber of Arrivals
LeonidasMay 15, 18791–463463
BerarJune 29, 1882464–887424
PoonahSeptember 17, 1882888–1364477
PoonahJune 19, 18831365–1860496
BayardAugust 20, 18831861–2354494
SyriaMay 14, 18842355–2792438
HowrahJune 26, 18842793–3287495
PericlesJuly 3, 18843288–3748461
SS NewnhamJuly 23, 18843749–4323575
MainApril 30, 18854324–5048725
GangesJune 27, 18855049–5571523
BoyneApril 26, 18865572–6108537
BruceMay 21, 18866109–6566458
HerefordApril 24, 18886567–7105539
MoyMay 3, 18897106–7782677
RhoneMay 15, 18907783–8367585
Allan ShawJune 17, 18908368–8940573
DanubeJune 15, 18918941–9531591
JumnaJune 27, 18919532–9978447
British PeerApril 23, 18929979–10505527
AvonMay 5, 189210506–11025520
HerefordJune 15, 189211026–11504479
MoyApril 14, 189311505–11971467
JumnaMay 23, 189311972–12281310
EmsApril 20, 189412282–12851570
HerefordJune 28, 189412852–13362511
SS VadalaMarch 26, 189513363–14109747
SS VirawaApril 26, 189514110–14786677
ErneApril 24, 189614787–15343557
ElbeJune 13, 189615344–15958615
RhoneMay 11, 189715959–16611653
ClydeJune 1, 189716612–17281670
MoyJune 1, 189817282–17849568
AvonJuly 25, 189917850–18316467
GangesSeptember 3, 189918317–18780464
GangesJune 21, 190018781–19334554
ElbeJuly 26, 1900
19335–19938604
ArnoJuly 23, 1900
19939–20565627
RhineAugust 30, 190020566–21056491
SS FazilkaMarch 28, 190121057–21860804
SS FultalaMay 12, 190121861–22669809
SS FazilkaJune 18, 1901

22670–23445776
SS VirawaApril 26, 1902
23446–24163718
SS FazilkaJune 20, 1902
24164–25003840
MerseyJune 13, 1903
25004–25588585
ElbeAugust 5, 1903
25589–26178590
ArnoSeptember 4, 1903
26179–26812634
ArnoMay 3, 190426813–27443631
EmsJuly 30, 1904
27444–27969526
SS FultalaApril 10, 190527970–28796827
SS VirawaJuly 17, 1905
28797–29411615
SS WardhaJuly 28, 1905
29412–30303892
SS FultalaAugust 17, 1905
30304–31093790
SS FazilkaApril 17, 1906
31094–31974881
SS FultalaApril 28, 190631975–32775801
SS WardhaJune 28, 1906
32776–33609834
SS FazilkaJanuary 28, 190733610–34484875
SS VirawaMarch 23, 190734485–35243759
SS FazilkaApril 25, 1907
35244–36039796
SS SangolaMarch 18, 1908
36040–371711132
SS SangolaJune 6, 1908
37172–382571086
SS SangolaFebruary 1, 1909
38258–394091152
SS SangolaApril 21, 1909
39410–40076667
SS SangolaMarch 7, 1910
40077–41002926
SS SanthiaApril 22, 1910
41003–420231021
SS SangolaJune 5, 1910
42024–42892869
SS SanthiaJuly 8, 1910
42893–439221030
SS MutlahMay 22, 1911
43923–44756834
SS SutlejJune 25, 1911
44757–45606850
SS GangesJuly 22, 1911
45607–46466860
SS MutlahAugust 18, 1911
46467–47329863
SS SutlejOctober 4, 1911
47330–48140811
SS SutlejApril 27, 191248141–48997857
SS IndusJune 8, 1912
48998–49801804
SS GangesJuly 18, 1912
49802–50644843
SS GangesNovember 8, 191250645–51490846
SS GangesFebruary 21, 191351491–52261771
SS SutlejApril 11, 191352262–53069808
SS GangesMay 29, 191353070–53917848
SS GangesSeptember 9, 1913
53918–54701784
SS ChenabMarch 24, 191454702–55556855
SS ChenabJune 16, 1914
55557–56273717
SS MutlahMay 7, 1915
56274–57125852
SS GangesJune 21, 1915
57126–57971846
SS MutlahAugust 1, 1915
57972–58783812
SS ChenabSeptember 1, 1916
58784–59665882
SS SutlejNovember 11, 1916
59666–60553888

 

Source/References

Records obtained from  the National Archives of Fiji.  Database created by: Girmit.org

 

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The Indenture Agreement

The following is the indenture agreement of 1912:

  1. Period of Service-Five Years from the Date of Arrival in the Colony.
  2. Nature of labour-Work in connection with the Cultivation of the soil or the manufacture of the produce on any plantation.
  3. Number of days on which the Emigrant is required to labour in each Week-Everyday, excepting Sundays and authorized holidays.
  4. Number of hours in every day during which he is required to labour without extra remuneration-Nine hours on each of five consecutive days in every week commencing with the Monday of each week, and five hours on the Saturday of each week.
  5. Monthly or Daily Wages and Task-Work Rates-When employed at time-work every adult male Emigrant above the age of fifteen years will be paid not less than one shilling, which is at present equivalent to twelve annas and every adult female Emigrant above that age not less than nine pence, which is at present equivalent to nine annas, for every working day of nine hours; children below that age will receive wages proportionate to the amount of work done.
  6. When employed at task or ticca-work every adult male Emigrant above the age of fifteen years will be paid not less than one shilling, and every adult female Emigrant above that age not less than nine pence for every task which shall be performed.
  7. The law is that a man’s task shall be as much as ordinary able-bodied adult male Emigrant can do in six hours’ steady work, and that a woman’s task shall be three-fourths of a man’s task. An employer is not bound to allot, nor is an Emigrant bound to perform more than one task in each day, but by mutual agreement such extra work may be allotted, performed and paid for.
  8. Wages are paid weekly on the Saturday of each week.
  9. Conditions as to return passage-Emigrants may return to India at their own expense after completing five years’ industrial residence in the Colony.
  10. After ten years’ continuous residence every Emigrant who was above the age of twelve on introduction to the Colony and who during that period has completed an industrial residence of five years, shall be entitled to a free-return passage if he claims it within two years after the completion of the ten years’ continuous residence. If the Emigrant was under twelve years of age when he was introduced into the colony, he will be entitled to a free return passage if he claims it before he reaches 24 years of age and fulfills the other conditions as to residence. A child of an Emigrant born within the colony will be entitled to a free return passage until he reaches the age of twelve, and must be accompanied on the voyage by his parents or guardian.
  11. Other Conditions-Emigrants will receive rations from their employers during the first six months after their arrival on the plantation according to the scale prescribed by the government of Fiji at a daily cost of four pence, which is at present equivalent to four annas, for each person of twelve years of age and upwards.
  12. Every child between five and twelve years of age will receive approximately half rations free of cost, and every child, five years of age and under, nine chattacks of milk daily free of cost, during the first year after their arrival.
  13. Suitable dwelling will be assigned to Emigrants under indenture free of rent and will be kept in good repair by the employers. When Emigrants under indenture are ill they will be provided with Hospital accommodation, Medical attendance, Medicines, Medical comforts and Food free of charge.
  14. An Emigrant who has a wife still living is not allowed to marry another wife in the Colony unless his marriage with his first wife shall have been legally dissolved; but if he is married to more than one wife in his country he can take them all with him to the Colony and they will then be legally registered and acknowledged as his wives.

 

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GIRMIT.org has been established to primarily focus on providing information for anyone who is interested in the history of the Indentured Labourers, the "Girmitiyas" who were transported to Fiji by the British under the System of Indenture or GIRMIT which was the term used by the Indian Indenture's for the word AGREEMENT.

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