A very happy Deepavali to all our Hindu friends celebrating in Sarawak and around the world.
During this Festival of Lights, it is fitting to remember the pioneering efforts of those early Hindu settlers who brought tea and coffee to Sarawak in the 1860s.
In 2012, Trustees Jason Brooke and his father, the late James Bertram Lionel Brooke were invited to attend the opening of the newly restored Mount Matang Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.
The temple had been built in the 1860s by Tamil Hindu workers from India and Sri Lanka recruited by Rajah Charles to grow tea and coffee on the Government's experimental plantation. The workers were originally recruited under the Kangani system of indentured labour prevalent in the British Empire at the time, but in Sarawak, Rajah Charles went on to declare the practice 'abolished as not being suitable to the free labour of this country' and that workers 'shall be paid their wage in full for the number of days they turn out.'
During its peak there were more than 1,000 workers here, and although the estate was subsequently closed down and many of these workers returned home, at least 50 families remained. Their descendants, generations later, continue to care for this historic spiritual place.
It is wonderful to see this community cherishing its roots and keeping alive the traditions of its ancestors.