"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."