Every nation has the tendency of adapting foreign culture in itself. The most popular laymen example, are the two western nations of USA and UK. We call them as cosmopolitan nations. India, on the other hand, is not exhaustively cosmopolitan. But we do have foreigners living here, in various corners of the horizon. But this post, is not about individuals, but about foreign communities, who have adapted Indian culture since ages. Let’s briefly know about that part of inter-cultural India, which is not widely known.
We start with Africa. The reason, it is extravagantly neglected when comes to cultural amalgamation in a nation like India. We have made them stereotypes in Bollywood, where they play roles of drug mafias and goons getting bashed by our Indian ‘heroes’. Honestly, we have no idea about how beautiful that continent is. Watch ‘500 Years Later’ documentary, and you will get a totally different perspective of Africa. Coming back to the point, India has a considerable population of a tribe, known as ‘Siddi’ (Sheedi, Siddhi, Habshi and Makrani are the other names), who are descendants of Bantu tribe, in southeast Africa. Ethnically, Bantu people are those who reside in major landmasses, stretching from central to southern Africa, or in layman terms, half of Africa is inhabited by Bantu people. Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Uganda, South Africa etc. are major habitats of Bantu people. In India, they reside in Karnataka, Gujarat and Hyderabad region. Siddi people are minority groups in Pakistan, who live across Makran region. They are mostly Muslims, with few practicing Christianity and Hinduism. Historically, Siddis were an important vassal state in the court of Mughal Empire, in 16th century. Originally, Siddis were first shipped to Indian subcontinent from Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia), and have been mentioned even in Chinese literary works. They were mostly slaves, but still had founded small civilisations in the regions around present day Aurangabad, in Maharashtra. In fact, Malik Ambar, a Siddi figure, established the town of Khirki, which eventually took shape of Aurangabad, and played a key role in expanding Maratha Empire in the Deccan, and here we are talking around 16th century.
Onge tribe, of Andaman Islands, trace a minute descendant of African race as well. These people are one of the many scheduled tribes, isolated and disconnected from mainland India, and are mostly defined as ‘primitives’ or ‘pygmies’, according to constitutional context.
I am not talking about Australians here, but about a special race in Australasia, known as Australoids. To be more specific, the Australoid-Melanesians. Melanesia, a collective subregion in the continent of Oceania (or Australia), which consists of countries like Papua New Guinea, New Guinea region of Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and French collectivity of New Caledonia. The term Australoid refers to the entire continent of Oceania, along-with New Guinea region of Indonesia. This particular tribe, existing in southeast Asia, is known as Negrito. In India, they are found mainly on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In fact, the ethnography of Andaman Islands (in particular) is so culturally amalgamating, that it includes race from the three continents of Asia, Africa and Australia. A former study had established a previous fact, that Negritos are closer to Australia than Africa, but a more recent study confirmed the cause of African descendant due to Great Coastal Migration, happened to take place around 60,000 years ago. The migration took place, wherein peopling leaped from African coast in the east, to Asian regions of India, Indo-China peninsula, and coasts of China and Japan.
There is a small locality, in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata. Its called, Chinatown. The town, inhabiting around 2000 Chinese at the moment, traces its history back to 18th century. During this time, Chinese workers were shipped to ports of Madras (now, Chennai) and Calcutta (now, Kolkata) by Britishers. Proper, traditional Chinese cuisine, is served in its original form. Immigration took place during war times, in the 19th-20th centuries when the entire world was bombarding here and there, including the two world wars. The other Chinatown, is in Mazagaon area of Mumbai, where around 400 Chinese families live. In fact, there is a Chinese temple, dedicated to an army nobel Kwan Tai Kwon, enshrined in that area. In both the Chinatowns, Chinese New Year is celebrated, with the same authenticity and originality.
A common stereotype rings a bell, when ‘Russians in India’ are mentioned, that they booze and are involved in sexual activities in Goa. Unfortunately, it is a half-true statement. Although yes, Russians are mostly conglomerated in the state of Goa, particularly in Morjim town, wherein it is labeled as Little Russia, the Russian population is also found in other places such as Mumbai and parts of south India. In fact, a cultural institution dedicated for the service and promotion of Russian culture has been established in Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram, headquartered at Moscow. The south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, has a small Russian community working as scientists and medical students, in Dr. MGR Educational and Research Institute, Chennai. Apart from ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation, Bengaluru) and VSSC (Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram), Russian scientists are also placed in Koodankulam Nuclear Plant, Tirunelveli (in Tamil Nadu).
I agree, the image of Russians in India is distorted, often corrupted under labels of escort service and drug mafia, but we also have on the other side, a shiny, progressive and constructive image of the same. Historical pages have recorded footprints of Russian painter Nikolai Konstantinovich Rerikh (1874 – 1947) and philosopher Helena Ivanovna Roerich (1879 – 1955) in India, where the former died in Naggar district of Himachal Pradesh, and the later, in Kalimpong (in West Bengal).
Anglo-Indians, as widely known, are British origin Indians living in Indian subcontinent. It goes without saying, that Englishmen had the most of European influence in India, due to their three century continuous regime. The rise of Anglo-Indians stooped mostly between 18th to 20th centuries, where English soldiers bred with Indian women, either purposefully, or immorally. The heavy influence of British cult was absorbed in India, with popping up of towns and cities, architectural hybrids, language, dialect, accent and lifestyle with respect to clothing. English influence on performing arts, gave rise to various branches in theatres. But all these are a result of colonialism, which existed in every colony of the world. English cult soaked in Catholicism, are mostly dispersed in almost entire country, thus heaping the Christian population in India. During Indian independence struggle, there were handful of Anglo-Indians supporting the event, obviously facing criticism and fury from mother England. They were collectively involved in making people aware through press media, and missionaries went to the extent of establishing new settlements.
At present, Anglo-Indians serve military services, in land, air and in sea, along-with the other Christians rooting from France and Portugal. Prestigious names in literary and art works have been embedded, under the canopy of Anglo-Indians, whose births and deaths are linked to India. Ruskin Bond (writer), Rudyard Kipling (writer), Pete Best (member of Beatles), George Orwell (writer), Tom Alter (actor), Joanna Lumley (actress), etc. birthed in India, during various centuries.
We already are familiar with Portuguese history in India, and I am not going to repeat it much here. The entire state of Goa is honeyed in Portuguese culture, so much so that a traceable population there speaks Portuguese. Buildings are constructed in Portuguese style, streets and lanes in the typical Portuguese lingua franca. Almost every town is named in typical Portuguese flavour, making it sound like Little Portugal in India. Apart from Goa, there are considerable Portuguese foundations in Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, as all these were formerly clubbed under Portuguese India. These territories are grouped under Union Territories, and have more of a Gujarati taste, as the demography sprinkled these lands in the western state of Gujarat. Nevertheless, Portuguese diaspora in India is well known to everyone, and it needs no furthermore introduction.
Again, another popularly told tale about French communities in India, going back to as old as late 17th century. There was a time when the entire Deccan was heavily under French influence, and a massive battle was fought (Anglo-Mysore Wars, 18th century) between English East India Company and Kingdom of Mysore (Mysore, is a town in south India), allied with the French, whose alternate aftermath could have been a French domination over entire India. But the French got restricted to fragmented areas on the western and eastern coasts, collectively under the territory of Pondicherry. At present, efforts are taken to promote French culture promptly in India, apart from just restricting to Puducherry .The conglomeration of territories under Pondicherry, was renamed as Puducherry, headquartered at Pondicherry. Its quite confusing with the name, so just keep in mind, that both the words, ‘Pondicherry’ and ‘Puducherry’ exists in India. In Mumbai, French Club of Bombay or Alliance Française de Bombay Theosophy Hall, Marine Lines (established in 1938), expats are pushing to create a little France in the business heartland of the country, opening an entire profile of Indo-French culture to the world.
Two former kingdoms of Arabian peninsula, Hejaz and Hadhramaut (Hejaz is now a part of Saudi Arabia, while Hadhramaut is spread across Saudi Arabia and Yemen), homes various Arab tribes, who migrated into Indian region of Gujarat (particularly in the former princely states of Jamnagar and Bhavnagar) in the 18th century. These Arabs were mostly used for military warfare, under various army legions of Rajahs and Maharajas. Known as Chavuse, these are basically Sunni Muslims, with few belonging to the Wahabi sect. They amalgamated so welcomely, that the community abandoned Arabic and adopted Urdu as their language. Apart from Gujarat, Arab descendants are also found in regions of Hyderabad.
During the Arab invasion of Sindh (present day, a province in Pakistan) in 712 AD, which expedited from present day Iraq, a sizeable number of Sunni Muslims migrated as well, residing first to Sindh, later to the Gangetic plains. They are known as Iraqi Biradari, and are presently scattered in various towns of India, particularly in eastern Uttar Pradesh (or better known as Purvanchal). Their major habitat circle around Kanpur, Kolkata, Gorakhpur, and minutely in Delhi, Lucknow, Mumbai, Chennai, Vishakhapatnam, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia. Sparsely, they also populate villages and towns of Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. Apart from Indian towns, they also inhabit regions in Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan.
Better known as Zoroastrianism, the major religion of Greater Iran (geographically, this land now encompass present day Iran, Afghanistan, half of Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, half of Iraq, Azerbaijan, Armenia, half of Georgia, and small parts of Turkey, Russia, Kyrgyzstan and China), comparable to ancient monotheistic Roman religion, flourished in Indian subcontinent in 9th century AD. This was due to crushing of Sassanid Empire (224 – 651 AD, which comprised the entire western Asia, except Arabia, Caucasian nations and parts of Egypt), and rise of Arab Muslims, ending the former religion and birthing to Islam in Persia. These descendants, are now called as Parsis. Though a minority, during British times, Parsi community were the wealthiest of all Indian communities, and were friendly allies to the Britishers. Considerable population settle in Mumbai and parts of Gujarat.
The Pathans ! Millions of Muslims living in India, trace back to their Pashtun origins in Afghanistan. Obvious reason of such a huge diaspora, as the entire chronology of Muslim empires established during middle ages, originated from Afghanistan. Although majority of them have adopted the Indian Muslim culture, a considerable number still adhere to the traditional Afghan customs. Pashto (one of the languages of Afghanistan) speaking communities reside in Kashmir valley, Assam and West Bengal. Post Soviet War of 1979, migrated Hindu and Sikh communities from Afghanistan, thus summing up more of Afghans in India. The term ‘Pathan’ refers to Pashtun people, in Hindi language. Most of the Bollywood ‘Khans’ originate from Afghan family tree.
Another community, known as Rohilla Pathans, reside in Rohilkhand (north-west Uttar Pradesh, in northern India). The entire Muslim population of Uttar Pradesh populate as Rohilla Pathans, making it the largest region of the community in India. Apart from these communities, another set of people known as Kabuliwallah Pashtuns, mostly living in Kolkata, trace their roots to Afghanistan.
This list includes foreigners, who are residing in India due to some or various obvious/unavoidable reasons. Negatively, India is the home of a large number of Nigerians, due to heavy usage of drug trafficking and illegal criminal activities exchanged between two nations. Not talking about any political legitimacy here, but Tibetans have shelved themselves in quarters of India, making it their safe haven. They cluster around Dharamshala (in Himachal Pradesh), where a Tibetan settlement has been established, and a local street McLeod Ganj is referred to as Little Lhasa (Lhasa is the capital of Tibet) or Dhasa (Dharamshala plus Lhasa). Spanish influence could have worked, as for one year between 1493 and 1494, territorial rights of India were given to Spain, but was later removed in a treaty signed between Spain and Portugal, aftermath of which Portuguese claims over Indian lands were decided finally. During World War 2, Japanese invasion in Andaman and Nicobar islands had created a negative spur, but none of these conquests lead to any cultural exchange. There are Japanese communities mushrooming in Indian cities of Bengaluru, Chennai and Haldia, all because of agile business exchange protocols between the two nations. Americans in India, migrated post independence in 1947, are now a part of Indian community. German community has existed in India since 18th century, when literary works were translated between German and Indian languages. Colonial era saw the advent of German missionaries, one of them even bond a Malayalam-German dictionary (Malayalam, a language in south India). At present, these Germans are involved in various industrial development programs, established in respective sectors of mining, automobiles and IT. Nepali Indians, are an ethnicity minority in India, sprouted majorly in north east Indian states. In fact, Nepali is one of the official languages in some Indian states. A considerable size of Italians, mostly missionaries, reside in southern Indian states.
There might be more of such examples, wherein cross-cultural hybridisation took place due to various reasons. Since India being open to foreign culture, albeit hostile to some communities, a thick bark of cultural amalgamation has made India culturally advanced.
Wikipedia for text
Various sites through Google Images for pictures.