The timeline of the Girmit era:
Girmit At A Glance
1833 - Britain abolishes slavery
1834 - Indenture system, an alternate source of
labour for British Empire, first started with the labourers being
sent to work in Mauritius, Uganda and Nigeria for an initial 5 year
period. This system became widely known as "Girmit" - a
mispronunciation of the word "agreement" by the non
English speaking Indian labourers.
1874 - Fiji's Deed of Cession to Britain
1875 - Fiji first Governor Arthur Gordon arrives.
He has already served as Governor in Mauritius and Trinindad and has
encountered indentured labourers. His preference for indentured
labour as opposed to native labour stems from his unwillingness to
employ native labour on the grounds that it will disrupt village
1879 - First indentured labourers arrive in Fiji
aboard the Leonidas. The ship set sail in Calcutta on March 03 and
arrived in Fiji on May 14, with 373 male and 149 female labourers.
Cholera, dysentery and smallpox were also onboard - 17 labourers had
already succumbed to these diseases.
1882 - Colonial Sugar Refining (CSR) company of
Australia sets up its first sugar mill in Nausori.
Second emigrant ship arrives in Fiji
Fiji's capital moved from Levuka to Suva
1884 - The fifth emigrant ship to Fiji, Syria was
wrecked on the Nasilai reef, off Nausori on May 11 killing fifty six
immigrants and three lascars (Indian sailors).
First lot of labourers complete their five year
contract. Sixty percent choose to remain in Fiji.
1908 - Sizes of "Lines" in which the
labourers are housed is changed from 10 feet by 7 feet to 10 feet by
1912 - Legislation passed requiring employers of
indentured labourers to provide school buildings.
1917 - Government grant assistance extended to
1916 - Indenture system is officially abolished by
The last shipload of labourers arrive in November
aboard the Sutlej V. This is the 87th ship that brought labourers to
Fiji. Some 60, 553 labourers came to Fiji between 1879 and 1916
1920 - All indenture in Fiji is cancelled
1921 - Census show 84,475 Fijians and 60,634
Indians and a balance of 12,117 made up of Europeans, Chinese,
Rotumans and others.
Girmit - A centenary Anthology 1879 - 1979,
Suva, Fiji: Girmit Centenary Celebrations National Committee, 1979.
Girmit: Its Significance in Fiji
Ali, Ahmed, Kumar Printers PVT Limited New Delhi, India, 1979.
Crossing the Kala Pani: A Documentary History of
Indian Indenture in Fiji
Lal, Brij V, Australian National University and Fiji Museum, Suva,
Fiji Times, Special Girmit liftout,
Suva, Fiji, May 12, 1979 pp 05 -36