New Zealand’s Indians are people native to countries in the Indian sub-continent, notably India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and their descendants. After the Chinese, they are the country’s largest Asian ethnic group. New Zealand has many different Indian communities, distinguished by place of origin, language, religion and caste. Often these differences have not been well understood by other New Zealanders.
Countries of origin
Until the 1980s most Indians in New Zealand were born in Gujarat, in north-western India, or were descended from those born there. The next largest group traced their origins to the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. A smaller number came from other places including Fiji, Africa, Malaysia, the Caribbean, North America, the United Kingdom and Western Europe. In 1981, about 46% of Indians had been born in New Zealand, 31% in India, 13% in Fiji, and 10% in other countries.
By 2001, two major changes were apparent. The proportion of New Zealand-born Indians had dropped dramatically to 28.6%, and the proportion born in Fiji had risen to 31.3%.
While the majority of Indians in New Zealand are Hindu, there are also Sikhs, Muslims, Jains, Parsis and Christians, to name the main religious groups. Most Indians of Gujarati origin are Hindu, although some are Muslim. Those from Punjab are mainly Sikh. Indians who have recently come to New Zealand from Fiji are both Hindu and Muslim.
Identity – the best of both worlds
Some Indians not born in New Zealand still regard India or other places of origin as home. New Zealand-born generations, however, often think of themselves as ‘Indian New Zealanders’. A recent study suggests that many of these people maintain separate Indian and New Zealand identities. Within the home and with other Indians they follow traditional customs, such as observing religious and cultural rituals, speaking their language, wearing Indian clothes and eating Indian food. In public, they adopt the practices of the majority culture.