Big things come in small packages: The Jahaji Bandal/ Bundle
May 29, 2024

Author: Karishma Nanhu, Heritage Preservation and Research Officer

If you were preparing to travel to a foreign country that you had never heard of to live and work for five years but you could only carry a small bag with you, what would you take? You might instinctively think about your devices, medications, clothes, food or even skincare. What if I told you that you could only carry non-perishable essential items, and that you weren’t guaranteed to return home. How would you decide what to take with you? 179 years ago, Indians voluntarily and involuntarily left home, with a few belongings, to come to Trinidad to work on sugar and other plantations. Their cultural legacies are easily identifiable today, from food to architecture. Indeed, the impact of this influx of people is so pervasive that we tend to forget some of the items that were introduced to Trinidad and Tobago from India. This blog is a reminder about some of the items that the Indians brought with them in their small bundles, their jahaji bandals.

Jahaji means shipmate. The jahaji bandal, colloquially referred to as jahaji bundle, means ship’s belongings (Samaroo, 2021). The term jahaji bundle made its way into Caribbean dialect as Georgie bundle, as it refers to all of your worldly possessions (Bahadur, 2008-2024). Essentially it was the small parcel of belongings that the Indians were allowed to bring with them to Trinidad. While you may be thinking of a small suitcase or travel bag, these bandals were very simple. They were made by placing one’s items in a triangular piece of cloth and tying it to a lathi or stick/rod. This was carried over the shoulder (Samaroo, 2021).

Picture 1: Indian men sitting with Jahaji bandals in Trinidad


Picture 2: Men walking with Jahaji bandals

Source: Bahadur, 2008-2024.

In these bandals they chose to bring their most valued possessions. They brought with them their religious texts. Hindus brought with them the Tulsi Ramayana and Muslims brought the Holy Qu’ran.

Picture 3: Hindu religious texts, including a Tulsi Krit Ramayan, and a bookstand which were brought by indentured Indians to Trinidad. Located at Rambharose Shiv Mandir, Mafeking.

Source: Karishma Nanhu

Picture 4: Holy Qur’an brought from India to Trinidad by indentured labourer Jaffar Hosein in 1901 for his son-in-law Omar Mohammed or Khatwa Meah. Located at ASJA Archives & Museum.

Source: Mr. Kashma Khan, ASJA Archives & Museum

The small jahaji bundles brought big changes to Caribbean flora. The Indians brought a wide variety of seeds, cuttings and herbs, some of which might surprise you because they are a normal part of our landscape and diet today. The following is a list of flora that the Indians brought:

1.      mango (aam)2.      Guavas* (amrudh)
3.      pomegranate (anar)4.      string-bean (bodi)
5.      Indian drumsticks (saijan/ moringa)6.      pumpkins (khora, khadu)
7.      marijuana8.      datura (a flower)
9.      betel-nut (supari)10.  sapodilla (chicu)
11.  bitter gourd (caraillee)12.  turmeric (haldi)
13.  curry-plant (karapillay)14.  ginger (adhrak)
15.  mustard (sarson)16.  cinnamon (dalchini)
17.  onion (pyaj)18.  black pepper (kali mirch)
19.  fennel (sauf)20.  cumin (geera)
21.  long gourd (lowki)22.  fenugreek (maithi)
23.  Ashoka24.  cloves (laung)
25.  neem26.  bael
27.  varieties of spinach (bhaji) seeds28.  lotus (kumud)
29.  loofa (jinghi)30.  variety of Indian lentils (dhal)
31.  cucumber (khera)32.  tamarind (imli)
33.  peepal34.  tulsi
35.  seim36.  banyan
37.  chameli (jasmine flower)38.  paan
39.  citrus*40.  rice (chawal), varieties included balam & mooghyr

*These seeds had been brought to the region already, but the Indians brought new varieties.

Sources: Samaroo, 2021; Bahadur 2008-2024

Other plants were introduced to Trinidad from India directly or indirectly via official arrangements. These included jackfruit, black pepper, nutmeg, hibiscus, Poovan bananas and other rice varieties (Samaroo, 2021).

Pictures 5 & 6: Mangoes and Moringa came to Trinidad from India

Sources: Karishma Nanhu; Times of India

The variety of plants that they brought definitely changed Trinidad’s and the region’s landscape. With such limited options of what they could choose to bring with them, the Indians made a profound impact on the environment and on the foods we have available now. So the next time you bite into your favourite mango, remember that it came to Trinidad and Tobago in a small jahaji bundle.


Bahadur, Guarita. 2008-2024. ‘The things we carried.’ South Asian American Digital Archive.

Samaroo, Brinsley. 2021. ‘Changing Caribbean geographies: connections in flora, fauna and patterns of settlement from Indian inheritances’. Journal of Indentureship and its Legacies. 2021. Vol. 1(1):16-35. DOI: 10.13169/jofstudindentleg.1.1.0016

PAT BISSESSAR HERITAGE BLOG. Virtual Museum of Trinidad and Tobago. 2024. Facebook.

Moringa: Health Benefits you can’t ignore. 2024. Times of India.

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