Aapravasi Ghat Mauritius

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Under the UNESCO, the Aapravasi Ghat in Mauritius is a world heritage marking an important point in the history of human settlement. When slavery was officially abolished worldwide in 1835, new labour was needed to work in the fields and aid in development. A new system was put forward, namely indentured labourers; these people were taken from their homeland (mostly India) and brought to different parts of the world to work the land and in other matters. As indentured labourers, they were taken from their countries to work abroad for a certain stipulated period of time and given food, clothing etc except that they were not paid workers.

Located at Trou Fanfaron in Port Louis, the Aapravasi Ghat is well known because it was the place where more than half a million indentured labourers descended to work either in Mauritius or to be shipped to other parts of the world such as Australia, Reunion Island, the Caribbean etc. The influx began in 1834 with the British using the island as main port for this business until 1920. In 1924, immigration ceased because of uproar against such practice but it was only in 1939 that total immigration was established as illegal. The indentured labourers adopted the island as their own while in Mauritius and moved away to form new homes once freed of their contract. Descendants of these people account for a large portion of the Mauritian population today.

The indentured labourers were housed in various sites following their arrival in the whereabouts of Port Louis, however as the number kept on increasing, a permanent site was built in 1849 for this purpose. The Aapravasi Ghat (landing platform or called the Coolie Ghat after the immigrants) became the site where the indentured labourers were temporarily kept prior to distribution to field owners. In order to cater for the arriving people, the building had resting areas with baths and toilets and later on a section was converted into a hospital due to malaria outbreak. Staff of the place included clerks, peons for administrative purposes; a doctor to offer vaccines and general health care, a magistrate to see to legal procedures and a photographer who would take pictures of incoming labour.

When this business stopped in 1920, the Aapravasi Ghat turned into quarters for the Ministry of Social Welfare; it was briefly used during the second world war by the war department and then taken over by the public assistance since all information pertaining to immigration was stored there. In 1960, one of the worst Mauritian cyclones, Carol, hit the island and caused a lot of damage to the site; all documents were then transferred to the Mahatma Gandhi Institute then leaving the building on its own. It slowly degraded with time and large portions of the site were wiped out for making way to roads and development.

The importance of the site as historical point was recognised in 1987 and it was then declared a national monument; in 1988 it became under the responsibility of the Ministry of Arts and Culture. In 1999, renovation works started and the site was extensively studied; in 2001 excavation started and the Aapravasi Ghat trust fund was established. Also called immigration depot in the past, the site became legally known as the Aapravasi Ghat in 2001 and in 2006 it was declared world heritage under the UNESCO. Entrance to the site is free and a brief visit can take someone down the memory lane to when a new way of life was beginning.

yonne
yonne Published 08 Aug 2011

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stevejulie 06 Dec 2013

I would like to know IF today in 2013,Mauritians mostly the 53% hindus of our population still have recognition to this world's heritage destined site? If not, i think it's real time now. Cause with evolution it may be wiped out again to make way to future development..I was surprised that Tourists have better recognition and pay visit to this monument... Thanks