Culture Name :1 Guyana , Guyanese
2 Indo Guyanese
Theme : The history of Indo Guyanese traditional
religious practices and their cuisine.
Guyana,a tropical country situated on the northeast of south America.
Before independence it was spelt Guiana and know as British Guiana due to European rulership and settlement.
Guyana is the only country in south
America where English is the official language. Guyanese creole is also
spoken throughout Guyana. Guyana is a
part of the caribbean region. It is a mainland that shares similar history with many caribbean islands. Guyana’s
continental neighbours are
Brazil,Venezuela and Suriname. The word “Guyana” is an Amerindian word
meaning “The Land of Many Waters”. Amerindians are the indigenous people of
Guyana who are from different tribal groups e.g
Arawaks , Wai-Wai, Warrau etc.
Guyana was settled by the Dutch before it came under British control in the late 18th century
.Guyana gained its independence on May
26, 1966,under the leadership of Linden Forbes
Sampson Burnham. Guyana is a land of six races due to its history of
slavery and indentureship. These races are descendants of Amerindians
,Africans ,East Indians, Portuguese,
Chinese and Europeans.The people of Guyana are called Guyanese. (“Guyana,”2017)
23rd February 1973 , Guyana became a Cooperative Republic. Hence, it is
referred to as’ The Cooperative Republic of Guyana ‘.The national motto of
Guyana is ONE PEOPLE ONE NATION ONE DESTINY. The capital city of Guyana is
Georgetown. According to the National Geographic Guyana was named as the best
tourist destination for 2014 especially for its intact rain forest and other
wilderness. It’s a paradise for nature lovers rich in fauna and flora ,it has a breathtaking beauty with its majestic waterfalls, a wide range of
wildlife ,a multicultural cuisine, rich indigenous culture and hospitable
people . (“Guyana makes
National Geographic’s 2014 ‘Best of the World’ travel list,”2013)
The East Indians of Guyana
The East Indian presence in Guyana began after slavery ended. When the
Africans were fully emancipated in 1838 they
left the plantations to establish their own settlements. Some became
peasants or town dwellers. Plantation owners turned to India to recruit their
workers after freed African slaves abandoned the sugar plantations. On May
5th,1938 thousands of Asian ,Indians were brought to Guyana to work as
indentured labourers (workers who were contracted for a specific period of
time) on the sugar plantations.
About 84% of the East Indian
immigrants were Hindu. The majority of Hindus came from the Gangetic plain,
which produce great religious hero’s of India, such as Rama , Krishna and
Area where a
large percentage of Indo Guyanese reside together, Mandirs of various sizes
were built ( A place where Hindus go to worship their God in the form of various
All main Hindu
occasions / festivals are observed throughout the year. At the end of october
is the religious festival of lights Diwali which celebrates the return Lord Rama after 14 years of
also Bhagwat’s, an activity centered on
the reading of sacred text by the Brahmins. These events span from 7,9 or 14
days and involve a variety of rites and massive communal meals with hundreds of
participants. Religious activities also include Pujas, which mark special
occasions like birthdays or anniversaries. A pundit / pandit is hired to
perform the necessary sanskrit rites over a weekend. Fish nor meat of any
kind is forbidden in the household or to be eaten before a religious
function takes place , the refrigerator is also emptied for the occasion.
At the end of
March phagwah is celebrated. It’s the Hindu New year , A joyous occasion which
marks the triumph of of good over evil
and is noted for the throwing of water or colored powder on each other.
Once a year most Hindus try to have a grand puja or
Ramayan. This is an event where the entire community is invited to participate.
Ramayana is an ancient epic tale consisting of more than 24,000 verses narrate
the adventure of Rama , whose wife sita was abducted by the demon . (“Religion in Guyana,” n.d.)
Islam / Muslim
Islam in Guyana is the third largest religion in the
country after Christianity and Hinduism. There were Muslims among African
slaves in Guyana namely the Fulani who were brought from West Africa. However,
the cruelty of slavery neutralized the Muslims and the practice of Islam
Islam was formally introduced in Guyana with the
arrival of the South Asian Muslim in 1938. The Hindus and Muslim were both
indentured labourers. The East Indian muslims are the Sunni , Shia and
According to the central Islamic organisation (CLOG)
there are about 125 masjids throughout Guyana. A masjid or mosque is the place
of worship in Islam , it is where the Islamic people pray to Allah. Masjid is
the Arabic word for mosque .
The Muslim use the quran to study all subjects related
to Islam. The Quran had to be explained and translated into Urdu. A few Muslims
immigrants had attended or graduated from Madrasas in India where they studied
Islamic sciences. All literate Guyanese immigrants were identified to fill
roles of teachers and Imams
Where the proficiency developed members were
introduced to cholary works written in
until the 1970’s Urdu was the dominant tool to access information transmit Islamic Knowledge
from one generation to the next. The “urdu Readers” Kept Islam alive in Guyana.
Ramadan is the most holy Islamic holiday. It is a holy
month of fasting , introspection , and prayers for Muslims , Fasting is one of
the five fundamental principles of
Islam. Each day during Ramadan , Muslims do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset.They are also suppose to avoid
impure thoughts and bad behaviour. They break their daily fasts by sharing
meals with family ,friends and at the end of Ramadan they celebrate Eid-al-Fitr
,one of Islam’s major holiday which last for three days.
Another Muslim observance is Youman – Nabi. This is
celebrated throughout the muslims world in observance of the birth and death
anniversary of the prophet Mohammed who is regarded by Muslims as the last and
final prophets of God. (“GUYANESE
MUSLIMS: History, Traditions Conflict and Change,” n.d.)
East Indian – Cuisine of Guyana
The East Indians brought with them their culinary arts
of preparing their various dishes,for everyday and religious functions/
occasions. Generally because Guyana is a multicultural society which is made up
of six races,the people of Guyana eat and cook the different dishes from each
other on a daily or special occasions.
Indo Guyanese prepare their dishes with many herbs and
spices according to taste. The main dishes of the East Indians are curry ,dhal and roti or rice. Curries are
prepared in all forms with or without meat. In Guyana there are many brands of
At Hindu weddings vegetarian curries are prepared.
This is known as “seven curry” as it is prepared with pumpkin
,potato , balanj/eggplant ,
eddoe, chickpeas /chana , mango ,dhal, chatahar(young bread nuts ),
spinach/eddoe leaf etc.
Seven curries are chosen / cooked to be served at religious
functions. These curries are served with rice or roti. Roti is a flat bread
made with flour. Seven curry is served on a water lily leaf. Person eat with
one hand while holding the leaf in the other.
At other events/ occasions or everyday preparation
different meats are prepared with curry.
Some of these are
Goat curry,Mutton curry,Shrimp curry,Fish
curry,Chicken curry,Beef curry(none hindu)
These different curries are eaten with rice ,roti or
dhal puri. Roti is a flattened bread made with flour, shortening baking powder
,oil and water .While for dhal puri the
same roti dough is used and grind seasoned yellow split peas is added.
Two types of flattened bread are made these are roti
and dhal puri. Roti is made with flour shortening , baking powder,oil and
Chicken curry is an East Indian dish.
-Wash chicken and drain , then massage with blended
seasoning mix, e.g onion , garlic, thyme
, pepper (optional). Let seasoned chicken sit for about 30 mins .
-Mix curry powder with seasoning masala, cumin/jeera
(powder) into a paste.
-Add a quarter cup of water to curry paste.Mix well
until it’s free of lumps .
-Place pan/pot on low heat.
-Add two tablespoons of oil.
-Add curry mixture and let cook until it gets a deep
colour. Then add chicken .
-Cover pot and allow to cook for about 20 mins . Turn
chicken and give a little stir cover and let chicken cook.
-Add salt, pepper or more seasoning if desired.
-Add a little water then cover pot .
-Leave to cook according to one’s desired thickness
for the sauce/gravy.
Thick curry is usually eaten with roti dhal puri .
More gravy is added to pot when curry is eaten with rice .
Potato is often added to most meat curry pots.
Some more East Indian foods are
Used especially at phagwah
Used at Eid celebrations
Used for Diwali
Cake batter fudge
Why choose Guyana ?
Guyana was my homeland and I spent most of my years
there. I learned more about the East Indian of Guyana .