Home > Calcutta (Kolkata), Calcutta Heritage, General > Suriname Memorial, Balu Ghat Metiabruz, Kolkata

Suriname Memorial, Balu Ghat Metiabruz, Kolkata

Suriname Memorial

Balu Ghat, Metiabruz, Kolkata

Suriname Memorial, a small non – descriptive memorial, on the banks of Hooghly River in Metiabruz and Garden Reach area was unveiled by the Union External Minister Sushma Swaraj on 7 Oct. 2015.

Suriname Memorial, Balu Ghat, Metiabruz, Kolkata

Suriname Memorial, Balu Ghat, Metiabruz, Kolkata

The Suriname Memorial may be new but India’s relationship with Suriname dates back to over almost 150 years. A joint initiative of India and Suriname government the memorial is built in honour of those Indian contract workers who migrated to Suriname, the small country located on the northeast Atlantic coast of South America, from 1873 to 1916.

Mai Baap Statue, Suriname Memorial, Metiabruz

Mai Baap Statue, Suriname Memorial, Metiabruz

The small and simple memorial represents the statue of Babba and Mai or Mai Baap (Father & Mother).

It depicts a plainly dressed couple, carrying a potli, who had left the Indian coasts to work as labourers in sugarcane plantations in Suriname.

The statue is a replica of the Baba and Mai monument in Paramaribo, Suriname’s capital, which symbolizes the first Indian man and woman to set foot on Suriname.

The statue at Parimaribo, marks the spot where the first Indian laborers entered Suriname on June 5th, 1873, in the ship Lalla Rookh. Today June 5 is celebrated as he Indian Arrival Day in Suriname. 

Lalla Rookh, which sailed from Calcutta on 26 Feb 1873 carried 399 workers on board, consisting of 279 men, 70 women, 32 boys and 18 girls under 10. During the period of 1873 – 1916 a total of 64 ships made it to Suriname from from Kolkata carrying a total of 34.304 contract workers from India.

English Plaque at Suriname Memorial, Kolkata (Click to enlarge)

English Plaque at Suriname Memorial, Kolkata (Click to enlarge)

Over a million Indians migrated as indentured workers to the Caribbean, South Africa, Mauritius and Fiji Islands to work on sugarcane plantations during the colonial period.

The indentured workers were recruited from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and the former Madras Presidency area.

Each colony, whether it was Mauritius, Guyana or Suriname had its depot in Calcutta where the indentured recruits were lodged while they waited for their sailing ship to arrive. From their depots they were taken to jetties or ghats to embark on the ships or the small boats that took them to the large ocean-going ships.

The jetties came to be known by the name of the destination to which the migrants were travelling.  Most of the jetties fell into disuse and were forgotten after the indentured sailings ended in the early 20th century. But the area around Suriname’s jetty is still known as Suriname Ghat but local residents prefer it by the name Balu Ghat.

Suriname Memorial Plaques, Metibruz, Kolkata. L: Hindi, C: Bhojpuri (English Script) and R: Bengali (Click to enlarge)

Suriname Memorial Plaques, Metibruz, Kolkata. L: Hindi, C: Bhojpuri (English Script) and R: Bengali (Click to enlarge)

In 1863 slavery was officially abolished in Suriname but the plantations, of the former Dutch colony, was in need of labour. The Dutch came up with a plan to get other people to replace the African slaves. On September 8, 1870, the Dutch colony on the coast of Guinea was ceded to Great Britain in return for granting Suriname the rights to recruit workers from British India.

The main recruiting happened in the United Provinces, now known as Uttar Pradesh en West-Bihar in the valley of the Ganges in Northern India. The sub-agent received 25 rupees for a male and 35 rupees for a female recruit.

Suriname Memorial, Balu Ghat or Suriname Ghat, Metiabruz, Kolkata

Suriname Memorial, Balu Ghat or Suriname Ghat, Metiabruz, Kolkata

The labourers were first collected in sub-depots of Benares, Allahabad, Basti en Muzzafarpur. From these sub-depots the recruits were transferred by train to the main depot in Calcutta. Upon their arrival, they were given a thali, a lota, a couple of kurtas or saris and dhoti.When there were enough workers assembled they were shipped to Suriname. With a sailing ship the voyage took three months, with a steamboat about 6 to  8 weeks.

Today, unknown to most Calcuttans, the Baba Mai Suriname Memorial stands as a mute tribute to the thousands of Indian labours, who braved the high seas for a life on the other side of the planet.


  1. Yogi Saraswat
    August 13, 2016 at 11:11 AM

    Historical place . I would love to be there whenever get a chance to be there at Kolkata .

    • August 13, 2016 at 2:59 PM

      Thanks Yogi for the comment. When you are in Kolkata, do visit the place.

  2. February 17, 2017 at 6:38 PM

    The pics look very scenic. This is the first time i came across any acknowledgement by Govt on large scale bonded labourers migration during British rule.
    I’ve been visiting your blog often & enjoy reading the travelogues ! suhas katti

    • February 17, 2017 at 8:43 PM

      Dear Suhas, thanks for the comment. Yes you are right but the Govt is plaanning a few more memorials on other countries like Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, etc.

      Do keep reading my blog and do share your comments.

  3. December 29, 2017 at 7:02 AM

    Dear mere Bhai Rangam Datta Ji
    I am very happy to learn about the Surinam Memorial Mai Baap (Balu Ghat) Metiabruz Kolkata.
    My adja R. Harnandan Sing left Kolkata on 14 sept. 1896 alone with the sailing ship Hereford IV to Paramaribo Surinam as contract labour. Probably he was from Saharanpur UP. He never visit Brarat after he left. He had have 3 children and a lots of grandchildren and parnatis/parpotas.
    I am his grand son, now living in Portugal as pensionado (reformed 74 year). Was born in Suriname. Now I am writing about the past time of my adja and adjie in a full chapter of my memoires. I hope to learn more about the kantraki’s who left from the Suriname Gath Kolkata. Can you advised me how to come there for a research on the emigration?

    Please contact me at Email: singhs@hetnet.nl or bucos1@hotmail.com.
    Or send me your email adress so I can contact you please.
    I want to visit the Suriname ghat in april 2018 with an excursiongroup.
    With the compliments for the subh Naya Saal. Happy new year 2018

    Dr. S Harinandan Singh
    December 30 2017 Bucos Portugal

    • December 29, 2017 at 10:42 PM

      Dear Harinder Sigh ji it is a great honour receiving your comment. Recentely both the Suriname and Dutch government has shown interest in issue of IndianIndenture Labour to Suriname. A Dutch plaque has been unveiled at the Suriname Memorial. Please see Unveiling of Ditch Plaque at Suriname Memorial

      May I ask you a question. How did you get the name of your grand father’s ship?? So did you get it personally from your grand father or are the records maintained??

      I have been with touch with both the Netherlands and Suriname Embassy in India and also has contact with the Ministery of External Affairs.

      So please drop me a mail at rangan@rangan-datta.info I will try my best to help you out.

  4. December 30, 2017 at 4:56 AM

    Dear Shri Rangan Datta Ji.
    I am very greatfull to receive today at december 29.2017.
    The name of Herold IV was noticed in the document ‘Database hindostani immigrants in Suriname”. http://www.gahetna.nl/collectie/index/nt00345
    also English: http://www.gahetna.nl/en/about-us/society-for-the-nationaal-archief

    For more informatian see my email of please.

    Greatfuly Dr. S. Harinandan Singh

  5. Wiraisha Sobha
    February 21, 2018 at 9:39 AM

    I’m so proud to read and see that there is a memorial Suriname. I’m a surinamese from indian origin and just wanted to correct the name of the capital of Suriname. The capital of Suriname is Paramaribo and not Parimaribo.

  6. Prem
    July 15, 2019 at 8:32 PM


    are there any old photographs available of the depot in Calcutta?
    About the period 1873 – 1921?


    • Shardhanand Harinandansngh
      July 19, 2019 at 6:20 PM

      Dear Brother Rangan Datta. I am very happy to receive your email again. How are you? There is a great interest for the history of the emigrations during the time of endentured labour from Kolkata to the formal kolonies in the Caraibean regions. I think it would be better to think about a way to help the decendants of the Girmitiyas (the Indian contract labours) in case they want to visit the Kolkata ports of embarcations. For example the Surinam Ghat. Hopelijk we do something. Yours sinecerly Dr. S. Harinandan Singh Portugal/Holland/Surinam

    • August 6, 2019 at 8:19 PM

      Dear Sir, I will try my best to help the Girmitiyas retrace their roots.

    January 14, 2020 at 1:39 PM

    Wonderul information

    • January 14, 2020 at 8:22 PM


      • S.Harinandan Singh dr.
        January 15, 2020 at 12:14 AM

        Dear Rangan Datta bhai ji. Realy the history about girmithyas or kantraki from Kolkatta in shortway is evident. I’ve allready finished my memoires and the first chapter is handeling about the indentured labourship in Surinam. It is very curious to learn that only 30 % of the 35 000 kantrakies repatriated after there 5 iear contract in Surinam. I did researched why. The answers are very intresting. By the way. You know Surinam is the only land wherein hindi/bhodjpuri speakers have conserved there language, culture and religion in the Caraibeb area. Bacause it was a dutch speaking colony. The others ware practically englisch, Portugese or France colonies. So there was a must to comunatie among the hindostanis in hindi and the mothertong bhodjpuru.

        Thanks for mailing and Shub naya saal.

  8. biplab kumar chakravarty
    February 28, 2022 at 9:18 PM

    I found to my dismay that, a visit to the site of the memorial requires a lot of effort on the part of an ordinary visitor. The memorial is located deep inside a private property (an old plant of CESC). One has to be prepared for a scrutiny by the security staff at the gate of CESC premises before gaining entry. Is not the memorial open to the public in general? If it is so, then the access to the memorial should be made hindrance free.
    The canopy sheltering the Mai-Baap statue is poorly maintained. It seems, the authorities have completely given up on the monument after its inauguration in the year 2017.
    The then Chairman, KPT has clearly failed to keep his promise of developing the monument and upgrade its surroundings!

    • singhs@hetnet.nl
      March 1, 2022 at 3:50 AM

      Dear mere bhai Rangan Datta Ji.

      Your message is been forwarded to de Suriname minister of Foreign affaire Dr. Albert Ramdin. I just promised to me to to contact his college in New Delhi.

      Van: Rangan Datta Verzonden: maandag 28 februari 2022 17:23 Aan: singhs@hetnet.nl Onderwerp: [New comment] Suriname Memorial, Balu Ghat Metiabruz, Kolkata

      biplab kumar chakravarty commented: “I found to my dismay that, a visit to the site of the memorial requires a lot of effort on the part of an ordinary visitor. The memorial is located deep inside a private property (an old plant of CESC). One has to be prepared for a scrutiny by the securit”

  1. December 3, 2017 at 6:03 AM
  2. December 3, 2017 at 7:56 AM
  3. April 6, 2018 at 11:14 AM

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