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Symbols of Suriname: Commemorating Indian Arrival Day

Written by: Pari Akloe

June 5th marked the 147th commemoration of Indian Arrival Day in Suriname. This day is a celebrated national holiday. If it wasn't for COVID-19, this special day, would be celebrated by seminars and social gatherings with dance and music put together by cultural organizations. As many Indo-Surinamese, including myself also live in The Netherlands this special day is also remembered here.

On the 140th commemoration of Indian Arrival day graphic designer Ranjan Akloe, who is my father, designed an emblem on the initiative of the National Commission of Indian Immigration.

Since then, the emblem has been creatively adjusted by my dad annually.

Last year, on the 146th commemoration the 6 was symbolized by a peacock. The quote read: “Let’s do more, let’s show mor(e)!”

This year Ranjan Akloe also adjusted the emblem to fit the 147th commemoration of Indian Arrival Day.

Below he explains why the emblem is what it is:

The numbers 1 and 4 and the Surinamese and the Indian flag are strategically positioned in a way that they form the sailing ship Lalla Rookh. Lalla Rookh is the first sailing ship to transport Indians to the Dutch Colony, Suriname in 1873. The number 7 symbolises the Kubri.

A Kubri is made from a branch. The branch is cut in such a way that a short angle is created with a long stem. The farmers use(d) this as an aid to get rid of weeds. It is a tool that makes working easier and it shows the creative innovation of our ancestor farmers.

The yellow triangular flags represent unity and hoop: áshá.

1873 is a characteristic year for the Indian Immigration to Suriname, hence it’s also placed in the ship’s wake. The immigrants brought their Indian traditions and treasures like art, culture and spices with them to Suriname. This is represented by a quarter of the Ashoka Chakra in the front of the boat. The Ashoka Chakra symbol is a part of the flag of India; thus, the flag is proudly depicted on the figurehead of the sailing ship. We have been anchored on Surinamese soil since 1873 and helped build the country. Apart from all the abuse and exploitation by the colonizers, our ancestors have still tried to make Suriname a country of Ram.

The two wavy stripes symbolize the wave wake of the ship and the red and blue colours are elements of the Dutch flag. Many descendants of the immigrants now live in the Netherlands. The diaspora country that has a special (colonial) bond with Suriname.

One thing that slightly bothers me, is that now more than 150 years later despite the colonial-indentured servants diaspora being spread around the globe every single Indian that I’ve spoken to doesn’t know about this part of history. Hence I think platforms like this are a great asset to educate others and to get in touch with similar Indo-Caribbean diaspora people.

This article is written by Pari Akloe with major contributions by Ranjan Akloe. You can find Pari on IG @pariksha10

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