Fiji Indian descendants of Girmitiyas receive forgiveness and blessings in emotional ceremony

After 145 years of the date of arrival of their ancestors, the descendants expressed their heartfelt remorse and petitioned for blessings.

In a poignant ceremony in the Western Division of Fiji, descendants of the Girmitiyas – the Fiji Indians or Fijian Indians as they are ethnically identified – sought forgiveness and received blessings from prominent chiefs of Ba.

The emotional event saw the presentation of a tabua (whale’s tooth) to Taukei Navo Ratu Meli Saukuru, Tui Nawaka Ratu Joeli Bulu, Taukei Vidilo Ratu Wiliame Bouwalu, and Matanivanu nodra na Turaga na Tui Naviti, Sikeli Mulase.

Shalend Singh, an Organizing Committee member, expressed gratitude for the forgiveness and blessings bestowed upon them. He noted that while many had ventured to other lands seeking greener pastures, they now felt honored to be recognized as the Vasu of the Province of Ba.

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The descendents of Girmityas thanked the traditional chiefs for their protection for the past 145 years and hopes that future generations will be protected and blessed as well.

Fiji's PM Rabuka apologizes for 1987 coup, seeks forgiveness from Indian-Fijians: Image Source: Supplied
Image: Fiji’s PM Rabuka apologizes for 1987 coup, seeks forgiveness from Indian-Fijians (Source: Supplied)

Last year, an apology was extended by both the Methodist Church of Fiji and Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka. Such an apology ceremony symbolizes a reconciliation and a desire for unity among Fijians as was noted by the Deputy PM Prof. Biman Prasad in his full acceptance of the apology on behalf of himself, the NFP, and the descendants of the Girmitiya.

After 145 years of the date of arrival of their ancestors, the descendants expressed their heartfelt remorse and petitioned for blessings.

This year, accepting the plea of Girmitya’s descnedants, Matanivanua Sikeli Mulase invoked a biblical verse, underscoring the significance of their actions on earth being recognized in heaven. He expressed gratitude for the gesture, believing it to be a catalyst for fostering unity among all Fijians.

Tui Nawaka Ratu Joeli Bulu echoed Mulase’s sentiments, emphasizing the need for both races to embrace love and cooperation, thereby ushering prosperity into the nation. He highlighted the event’s theme of unity, reflecting on the journey of Girmit descendants in shaping a new Fiji.

Image: Minister for Multi Ethnic Affairs and Sugar Charan Jeath Singh (Source: Facebook)

The Ministry of Multi-Ethnic Affairs and Sugar Industry has announced the 145th Girmit Commemoration and Celebration, taking place from May 11th to 13th, 2024, at the Girmit Multicultural Centre in Lautoka, with an event scheduled for May 11th, 2024, at Subrail Park in Labasa.

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The Minister for Multi Ethnic Affairs and Sugar, Charan Jeath Singh said that the National event is a time to reflect on the legacy of the Girmitya that has been passed on over the generations.

“We invite the public to join us in celebrating the resilience, diversity, and unity of the Girmit descendants. This commemoration serves as a testament to the enduring legacy of Girmit and the collective journey towards building a stronger, more inclusive Fiji.”

Under the theme “Journey of Girmit Descendants in Building a New Fiji,” the event aligns with the Coalition Government’s objectives of promoting social cohesion and acknowledging the invaluable role of ethnic communities in Fiji’s development.

Image: Girmitya Day celebrations 2023 (Source: Shahrukh Ali Lawyers – Facebook)

The people attending the three-day celebration will be treated to attractive cultural entertainment programs that highlight the enduring legacy of Girmitiya culture.

“From folk songs and dances by the various women’s and youth groups to dramatic performances, enchanting Bharatanatyam and Bhojpuri performances by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations Centre are some of the lined up performances for the three day.”

Image: DPM Prof. Prasad speaking at the Lauwaki Ganaiammam Kovil for the Annual Gangaiamman Pooja and Thirunal (Source: Facebook)

On Saturday, in the innagural event in Lautoka, Prof. Prasad said that this day is a celebration of our forefathers’ determination to triumph over slavery or servitude and make Fiji their new home which they succeeded because of their unshakable principles of dignity, equality, justice and self-respect. He added that Fiji is the motherland of the Indo-Fijians or descendants of the Girmitiyas, just as it is for our indigenous people.

(Table source: Girmit.org)

Today, the descendants of these Indian indentured workers are living and working on the two of the main islands of Fiji – Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. May 14 is celebrated as Girmitya Day in Fiji as it was on May 14, 1879, that the first ship – Leonidas – arrived in Fiji with 463 Indian indentured labourers.

These Girmityas worked largely in the country’s sugar cane plantations as indentured labourers as Girmit (a loose modification of the word “agreement”). The indentured system lasted till 1920 and in this period, 60,495 Indian indentured workers were brought in.

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