Today, many Sarnami Hindustani’s are commemorating 150 years of Hindustani migration, an important chapter in Indian, Surinamese and Dutch history. 

First ship

Lalla Rookh, the ship that arrived from India on 5 June 1873, marked the beginning of migration to Suriname. It brought Indian contract workers to the plantations of Suriname. This historic journey marked a new era and laid the foundation for building a vibrant Hindustani community in Suriname and later in the Netherlands. 

Sharing knowledge by celebrating

In the Netherlands, Hindustani migration is being commemorated in a big way this year. At various locations, in big and small cities, migration meetings have been organised by the descendants of contract workers. Our collective effort to share our immigration story, from different perspectives, is a sign of commitment. Any initiative is fantastic. 

Honouring nani

In that 150th anniversary the founder of cultural platform DesiYUP, Mahesvari Autar wrote ‘Radha’s first concert’. The story is set in modern-day Rotterdam. Music pieces were recorded in India especially for the book so that children and parents know what traditional Indian musical instruments sound like.

“I owe the development of my cultural identity to my nani (grandmother), which is why I dedicate ‘Radha’s first concert’ to her. This children’s book is an accessible instrument to introduce young and old to the power of meaningful Indian music.”


Radha dreams of becoming a world-famous musician. From teacher Hari, she learns to play the most beautiful Ragas on her Indian flute, the bansuri. One day, Radha and her best friend Krishna go to Rotterdam’s poshest shopping street to buy flowers for grandma Sarasvati. To their amazement, they see all sorts of things going wrong at the vegetable shop, bakery and the florist. Stunned by this experience, Radha gets an idea. Together with Krishna and grandma, she comes up with a musical plan to put the neighbourhood residents in a better mood. 

Why 150 years is important to reflect on:

1. It is an important time to reflect on the courage and resilience of the ancestors (contract workers) who left their country in search of a better future.

2. It provides an opportunity to celebrate and cherish the rich Hindustani culture, traditions and values.

3. It brings communities together and strengthens bonds between them. It creates a sense of belonging, giving people a space to share memories and celebrate community achievements.

4. Commemorating this milestone provides an opportunity to promote awareness and education about history and culture. It serves as a platform to share knowledge, encourage dialogues and increase understanding between different communities. 

5. It is also important for future generations of Sarnami Hindustani’s in the Netherlands. It helps the younger generation gain a deeper understanding of their roots and cultural heritage.

“Our ancestors built their lives in Suriname under difficult circumstances. Life was not as was portrayed to them, but nevertheless they endured and progressed through hard work and they paved the road to freedom for us. That is why I find it so important to share a piece of my history with others,” said DesiYUP founder Mahesvari.

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