Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamils - a Nation without a State >  South Africa > Tamil Hindus in KawZulu-Natal (South Africa) - Alleyn Diesel, 2000

Tamils - a Nation without a State

South Africa - தென்னாபிரிக்கா
- an estimated 250,000 Tamils live in South Africa -
about 70% in Kwazulu-Natal

Tamil Hindus in KawZulu-Natal (South Africa):
History, Identity and  the Establishment of Their Place
in the New South Africa

Alleyn Diesel (University of Natal at Pietermaritzburg, South Africa)
Paper presented at 18th Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR), 5.-12. August 2000, Durban (South Africa)

"The language groups represented among the Hindu immigrants who came from India to Natal, South Africa, from 1860 onwards, are Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, and Gujarati, with Tamil people forming the majority. After the expiry of their indentures most of these Indians moved to the cities, becoming established as a thoroughly urban population. However, because of the apartheid system the majority tended to remain poor, with few opportunities for improvement. The forced removals programme caused great disruption, and social hardship for Indian people. The extended family system was largely destroyed, with negative consequences for many, resulting in various social problems.

Apartheid seriously alienated all Indians as disenfranchised "non-whites", and Hinduism in particular was perceived by many whites as antithetical to Christianity. However, numerous Tamil cultural organisations are presently helping people to recover knowledge of the vernacular, and to take pride in their ancient and rich tradition. For many individual Hindus, a new awareness of their Tamil heritage could be powerfully inspirational and healing. Within the new democratic SA many are also beginning to feel comfortable with their SA citizenship, although, for many, there are still strong feelings of uncertainty about not benefiting sufficiently from the recent democratic initiatives, and their knowledge that the Indian community will continue to be a minority.

Over the 140 years of residence in South Africa, participation in religion and its many festivals has brought devotees a valuable sense of identity and solidarity, especially in the light of their marginalization and the discrimination experienced under the apartheid system. A recent resurgence of interest in indigenous Tamil/Dravidian festivals seems to reflect a variety of religious, social and political concerns. It is possible that this Tamil "renaissance" could have both positive and negative effects on the integration of this community into the larger SA society."



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