History of Tamils in South Africa

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Tamil South Africans are decendent from the Indian immigrants who came from India to Natal, South Africa, from 1860 onwards. After the expiry of their indentures most of these Indians moved to the cities, becoming established as a thoroughly urban population.

Apartheid alienated all Indians as disenfranchised non-whites, and Hinduism in particular was perceived by many whites as antithetical to Christianity. The imposition of apartheid system also curtailed the opportunities for improvement including forced removals program which caused great disruption and social hardship

However, numerous Tamil cultural organizations 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. The present UNHCR chief, Navanethem Pillay is a south African Tamil.

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 festivals seems to reflect a variety of religious, social and political concerns

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