The East Indians are the largest ethnic minority in Jamaica. They arrived as indentured labourers between 1845 and 1917. The Indians came to Jamaica to earn a "fortune" for starting a better life back in India.
It has been noted that the religious sentiments of the Indians were not considered by the recruiting authorites, because, the majority of these immigrants were Hindus, followed by Muslims, yet priests were never recruited to satisfy the religious needs of the Indians. The priests who arrived came as indentured labourers and practised their preisthood as a part-time profession.
At the end of the indentureship contract, many Indians reverted to their ancestral occupations, some became farmers or fishermen, while others returned to the trades - barber, goldsmith and ironsmith. Some became money lenders.
The traditional Indian practice of naming the the boys after gods and heroes and the girls after godesses, rivers, flowers, seasons, moods, or words of great significance have now been completely abandoned. Almost every Indian regardless of his or her religion has anglicized first and second names; the surnames too have been changed except for names such as Maragh and Singh.
The Indians introduced several plants and trees in Jamaica, the most common being betel leaves, betel nut, coolie plum, mango, jackfruit, and tamarind. The food habits of Indians have a distinctly Indian flavour and taste. A typical Indian dinner consists of curried goat, roti, pulses usually cooked with mangoes, curried potato, eggplant, bitter gourd and okra.
They held regular weekend prayer meetings and special ceremonies to commemorate weddings, Hindu festivals such as Diwali (the festival of lights) and Islamic festivals of Hosay and Eid. Others left the plantations for Kingston and took jobs that used skills they brought with them and others they acquired. They began to learn English and became jewellers, fishermen, barbers, shopkeepers. Regardless of whether they lived in the city or the country, many worked hard to maintain their cultural traditions as best as they could even though out of a need for economic survival and social acceptance many became Christians.