Monday, May 22, 2006

SIKHS IN CARRIBEAN

A non sikh and non indian person researching is always confused with the large amount of suffix "SINGH" present in Guyana and Trinidad. The reason is as simple as the origin of east indians in carribean. A great majority of them were descendents of people from UP, BIHAR and Rajasthan . Hindus from these areas have names ending with SINGH while in Sikhs " SINGH" comes before their surname. Another difference is while hindu ladies also use SINGH, the initiated(baptised) sikh females use KAUR . This question was once raised by a gentleman in Stabroek News".
Let me quote it from the news paper
Dear Editor, There appears to be no shortage of religious historians in Guyana, and my colleagues and I are frequently regaled by their debating in your readers' letters pages. However, I am writing not to join any of these interesting polemics but to ask, as a genuine seeker of knowledge, whether any of these erudite persons could provide the solution to a matter which has long puzzled me. Throughout Asia, Africa, Europe and North America the surname 'Singh' (more correctly a title, meaning Lion) and for ladies 'Kaur' (Princess) indicates almost infallibly that its owner is of the Sikh faith. Why is it then that in Guyana and Trinidad (I can't speak for Suriname) Singh is usually regarded as a Hindu name and is in use by males and females alike - even when prefixed by other traditionally Sikh combinations of 'Lal', 'Brij', 'Mohan', 'Bahadur,' etc? It does not need such a scholar to explain how the name is now commonly in use with biblical forenames (Mike, for example!), but can someone please reveal why Guyana, a land of many Singhs, has so few Sikhs?
Yours faithfully, William Mann
Editor's note: 'Singh' is a name that is as much North Indian Hindu as it is Sikh. It is generally an upper-caste name (when in non-Sikh usage) and is common among people of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan. 'Kaur', on the other hand, is almost exclusively Sikh. The fact that many Guyanese have the name 'Singh' and are not Sikh is probably due to their origins in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where the surname can still be commonly encountered today. The confusion probably arises from the fact that while almost all Sikh men have 'Singh' in their name, not all North Indian Hindu men do.
There were sikhs among migrants to Guyana.However, with the time they were assimilated in to the mainstream Hindu Indians.M Seenarine writes in the accademic work titled "recasting indian women in colonial guyana: gender, labor and caste in the lives of indentured and free laborers"
"One group of upper class/caste hindu women, including Nalini Singh and Alice B. Singh, were active from 1929 to 1947 in the british guiana Dramatic Society (BGDS). This was an offshoot of the british guiana east indian association (BGEIA), which was "the only authorized body to make capable representation in the interest of Indians in the colony."The BGEIA was a major influence on the homogenization process and served to create an indian power structure or hierarchy through the promotion of ‘traditional’ north indian culture, performing artists, political leaders and business elite in its newsletter the Indian Opinion. BGEIA also had a cricket club and indian literary society.
101. The Singh family, and others, were former sikhs who became part of mainstream Hindu society in the absence of sikh cultural practices in guyana."

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