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The term British Indian (also Indian British or Indian Britons) refers to citizens of the United Kingdommarker whose ancestral roots lie in Indiamarker. This includes people born in the UK, who are of Indian descent or Indian-born people who have immigrated to the UK. Today, Indians number around one and a half million in the UK (not including those of mixed Indian and Other ancestry), making them the single largest visible ethnic minority population in the country. They make up the largest subgroup of British Asians, and are one of the largest Indian communities in the Indian diaspora, largely due to the Indian-British relations (including historical links such as India once being part of the British Empire and still being part of the Commonwealth of Nations). The British Indian community is the fifth largest in the Indian diaspora, behind the Indian communities in Nepalmarker, the United Statesmarker, Malaysiamarker and Burmamarker.

British Indians are an extremely well established and succesful ethinc group. At present, Lakshmi Mittal is the 8th richest person in the world. He is also the richest person in the United Kingdommarker with personal wealth of £10.8 billion in 2009. Recently, a study by Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2007 found British Indians have among the lowest poverty rates among different ethnic groups in Britain second only to White British.


Middle Ages - 16th century

No one knows the earliest origins of settlement of Indians in Great Britainmarker for certain; if the Romani (Gypsies) are included, then the earliest arrivals may have been in the Middle Ages — although not normally included as South Asian, the Roma and Sinti (most in the UK have been Sinti) are both believed to have originated in parts of what is now North India and Pakistanmarker and to have begun travelling westward around 1000, though they have mixed with Southwest Asians and Europeans over the centuries. Romani began arriving in sizeable numbers in parts of Western Europe in the 16th century.

17th - 19th centuries

People from India have settled in Great Britain since the East India Company (EIC) recruited lascars to replace vacancies in their crews on East Indiamen whilst on voyages in India. Many were then refused passage back, and were marooned in Londonmarker. There were also some ayahs, domestic servants and nannies of wealthy British families, who accompanied their employers back to "Blighty" when their stay in Asia came to an end.

Year British Indian
~1850 (est) 40,000
~1900 (est) 70,000
1951 (census) 31,000
1961 (census) 81,000
1971 (census) 275,000
1981 (census) 676,000
1991 (census) 840,000
2001 (census) 1,053,411

The Navigation Act of 1660 restricted the employment of non-English sailors to a quarter of the crew on returning East India Company ships. Baptism records in East Greenwichmarker suggest that young Indians from the Malabar Coast were being recruited as servants at the end of the seventeenth century, and records of the EIC also suggest that Indo-Portuguese cooks from Goamarker were retained by captains from voyage to voyage. In 1797, 13 were buried in the parish of St Nicholas at Deptfordmarker.

During the 17th to 19th centuries, the East India Company brought over thousands of Indian lascars, scholars and workers (who were largely Bengali and/or Muslim) to Britain, most of whom settled down and took local British wives, due to a lack of Indian women in Britain at the time. Due to the majority of early Asian immigrants being lascar seamen, the earliest Indian communities were found in port towns. Naval cooks also came, many of them from the Sylhet Divisionmarker of what is now Bangladeshmarker. One of the most famous early Bengali immigrants to Britain was Sake Dean Mahomet, a captain of the British East India Company. In 1810, he founded London's first Indian restaurant, the Hindoostane Coffee House. He is also reputed for introducing shampoo and therapeutic massage to the United Kingdom. By the mid-19th century, there were more than 40,000 Indian seamen, diplomats, scholars, soldiers, officials, tourists, businessmen and students in Britain.

20th century

By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there were around 70,000 Indians in Britain, 51,616 of whom were lascar seamen (when World War I began).

A flag used to represent the Indian community in the United Kingdom

Following the Second World War and the break up of the British Empire, Indian migration to the UK increased through the 1950s and 1960s. The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 and Immigration Act 1971 largely restricted any further primary immigration, although family members of already-settled migrants were still allowed. In addition, much of the subsequent growth in the British Indian community has come from the births of second- and third-generation Indian Britons.

Although post-war immigration was continuous, several distinct phases can be identified:

  • Manual workers were recruited to fulfill the labour shortage that resulted from World War II. These included Anglo-Indians who were recruited to work on the railways as they had done in India.
  • Workers mainly from the Punjab region arrived in the late 1950s and 1960s. Many worked in the foundries of the English Midlandsmarker and a large number of Sikh people worked at Heathrow Airportmarker in West London. This created an environment to where the next generation of families do not lose their identity as easily.
  • During the same time, medical staff from India were recruited for the newly formed National Health Service. These people were targeted as the British had established medical schools in the Indian subcontinent which conformed to the British standards of medical training.
  • During the 1960s and 1970s, large numbers of East African Indians, who already held British passports, entered the UK after they were expelled from Kenyamarker, Uganda and Zanzibarmarker. Many of these people had been store-keepers in Africa and opened shops when they arrived in the UK.

21st century

By the early 21st century, the British Indian community had grown to number over one million. According to the 2001 UK Census, 1,053,411 Britons had full Indian ethnicity (representing 1.8% of the UK's population). An overwhelming majority of 99.3% resided in England (in 2008 the figure is thought to be around 97.0%).


The UK hosts one of the largest Indian diasporas on earth
Indians have existed in the UK for generations and have long been the country's largest visible ethnic minority group, in 2006 there were at least 1.3 million fully blooded Indians in the UK, while one estimate for 2008 suggests a total of 1.6 million British Indians, they can be found in all corners of the UK.


In the 2001 UK Census, Indians in the UK were most likely to have responded to code 41 - Indian or Indian British. Indian was one of only five sub categories in the UK census which represents a nation (along with Irish, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Chinese).

India is a diverse nation composed of many ethnic groups, this is reflected in the British Indian community although there are several ethnic groups that number considerably more than others.

Region of Birth Percentages
United Kingdommarker 45.9%
Englandmarker 44.8%
Scotlandmarker 0.7%
Walesmarker 0.3%
Northern Irelandmarker -
UK not specified 0.1%
Other Europe 0.2%
Africa 16.0%
Kenyamarker 7.9%
Uganda 2.9%
Tanzania 1.9%
Rest of Africa 3.3%
Asia 36.6%
Indiamarker 34.6%
Rest of Asia 2.1%
North America 0.3%
South America 0.2%
Oceania 0.2%
Other 0.6%

The largest subgroup of British Indians are those of Punjabi origin (representing approximately two thirds of direct migrants from South Asia to the UK), combined with Pakistani Punjabis they number over 2 million in the UK and are the largest Punjabi community outside of South Asia. British Gujaratis are also another large subgroup of the British Indian population and they form the largest overseas Gujarati population on earth. There are also approximately half a million Bengalis in the UK (although not all of these people originate from what is now considered India, but Bangladeshmarker). Alongside Punjabis, Gujarats and Bengalis there are also significant numbers of Tamils and Parsis.


According to the 2001 UK Census 1,053,411 people (1.8% of the country's population) was of Indian descent. Between 2001 and 2005, National Statistics has released estimates for the number of Indians in England only. They were as follows: 2001 - 1,045,600, 2002 - 1,074,700, 2003 - 1,109,100, 2004 - 1,156,000, 2005 - 1,215,400, 2006 - 1,264,200 and 2007 - 1,316,000. Today there are considerable numbers of Indian Britons who have ancestry via the Caribbeanmarker, South and East Africa as well as the Pacific Islands. See also: British Indo-Caribbean community, Ugandan British, Kenyan British, South African British and Tanzanian British.

Population spread

The table below shows the dispersity of Indian people in the United Kingdom. The figures for all of the English regions, cities and boroughs are based on 2005 estimates, whilst the figures for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are from the 2001 Census.

Indian population in the United Kingdom regions
Region Population of region Indian population Percentage of total population Significant communities
Harrowmarker - 22.0% Indian
Hounslowmarker - 18.3%
Brentmarker - 18.1%
Ealingmarker - 15.0%
Redbridgemarker - 14.3%
Newhammarker - 12.1%
Hillingdonmarker - 10.0%
Barnetmarker - 8.8%
Croydonmarker - 7.5%

West Midlands
Wolverhamptonmarker - 12.0% Indian
Coventrymarker - 8.1%
Birminghammarker - 6.0%
Walsallmarker - 5.5%
Sandwell - 9.4%

East Midlands
Leicestermarker - 24.9% Indian
Oadby and Wigstonmarker - 11.2%
Charnwood - 5.0%
Derbymarker - 4.0%
Blabymarker - 3.5%
Nottinghammarker - 3.0%
Northamptonmarker - 2.2%

South East
Sloughmarker - 14.7% Indian
North West
Blackburnmarker - 10.2% Indian
Prestonmarker - 8.3%
Boltonmarker - 5.9%
Traffordmarker - 2.4%
Manchestermarker - 2.3%

Cambridgemarker - 2.7% Indian
Bedfordmarker - 4.3%
Lutonmarker - 4.2%

Yorkshire and the Humber
Bradfordmarker - 2.9% Indian
Leedsmarker - 2.2%
Kirkleesmarker - 4.2%
Sheffieldmarker - 1.1%

South West
Bristolmarker - 3.9% Indian
Gloucestermarker - 2.0%
Swindonmarker - 3.0%

Glasgowmarker - 2.4% Indian
North East
Newcastle Upon Tynemarker - 1.7% Indian
Cardiffmarker - 1.3% Indian
Northern Irelandmarker



Indians number over half a million in London, which is the city's single largest non-white ethnic group. Indians have a significant impact on the culture of the British capital. Within London, Southallmarker, Hounslowmarker, Brent, Croydonmarker, Redbridgemarker, Ealingmarker, Barnetmarker, Tootingmarker, Harrowmarker and Wembleymarker, the latter of which is one of the few places outside of India where Indians make up the largest ethnic group (almost 4 times larger than the indigenous White British population). There are more Indians in the British capital than in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy and Portugal combined.


Leicester is set to soon become the UK's first ethnic minority-majority city and Indians make up by far the largest ethnic group besides the White British. At 24.9% of the local population in 2006, Leicester has one of the highest percentages of Indians per head of the population of any local authority in the UK. According to the 2001 Census, 14.74% of Leicester's population were Hindu and 4.21%. Also worth of note is that Gujarati is the primary language of 16% of the city’s residents, 3% speak Punjabi as a primary language and 2% Urdu. Other smaller but common language groups include Hindi and Bengali.


According to the 2001 Census, the religious breakdown of Indians in the UK can be seen in the table below. Although the majority of British Indians are Hindu, the UK is home to the largest Sikh community outside of India. Notable Gurdwaras in the country include: Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabhamarker, Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwickmarker, Guru Nanak NSJ, Soho Road, Birminghammarker, see also: Gurdwaras in the United Kingdom. Notable Hindu temples include BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Londonmarker (the largest Hindu temple outside of India), Bhaktivedanta Manormarker, Shree Jalaram Prarthana Mandalmarker, Skanda Valemarker, Sree Ganapathy Temple, Wimbledonmarker and Tividale Tirupathy Balaji Templemarker. There are also significant numbers of Muslim and Christian British Indians as well as Ravidassias with their main temple (Bhawan) in Handsworth, Birmingham.

Religion Percentage of Indian pop. Percentage of total British pop. Population (2001)
Hinduism 45.00% British Indian Hindus represent 83.56% of the British Hindu community
and 0.897% of the UK population
Sikhism 29.06% British Indian Sikhs represent 89.62% of the British Sikh community
and 0.579% of the UK population
Islam 12.70% British Indian Muslims represent 8.29% of the British Muslim community
and 0.253% of the UK population
Christianity 4.89% British Indian Christians represent represent 0.124% of the British Christian community
and 0.097% of the UK population
Not Stated 4.63% 1.08% of the total number of the Religion not stated Category and 0.092% of the UK population 48,004
Other Religion 1.75% 11.4% of the Any other religion category and 0.0349% of the UK population 18,144
Agnostic 1.73% 0.21% of the total number of Agnostics and 0.0345% of the UK population 17,937
Buddhism 0.18% British Indian Buddhists represent represent 1.25% of the British Buddhist community
and less than 0.0036% of the UK population
Judaism 0.06% British Indian Jews represent represent 0.23% of the British Jewish community
and less than 0.0012% of the UK population
Total 100% 1,036,807


Today the British Indian community is extremely well established and it even has its own diaspora, many Indian British people now live abroad including in Canadamarker (some 11,200), the United Statesmarker (around 17,000), Oceania (largely Anglo-Indians) amongst others.



Indian cuisine is extremely popular in the United Kingdom, and even above the British roast and Fish and Chips, the hybrid dish "Chicken tikka masala" always comes out on top as the UK's favourite meal. There are around 9,000 Indian restaurants located across the UK, which equates as approximately one per 7,000 people, this an extremely large number and suggests that any village or town with a population of over 2,000 is likely to be home to an Indian eatery. The popularity of the Indian curry in the UK was mainly made by Bangladeshi restaurateurs, where 85 percent of Indian restaurants in the UK are in fact owned by Sylheti Bengalis. Over 2 million Britons eat at Indian restaurants in the UK every week, with a further 3 million cooking at least one Indian based meal at home during the week. Veeraswamymarker, probably the world's most famous Indian restaurant is located on Regent Streetmarker in Londonmarker, and is the oldest surviving Indian restaurant in the UK, having opened in 1926 .


The British Indian film industry is a successful enterprise, and over recent years many British Indian actors have rose to prominence globally, particularly in Britain, India, and the USA. Notable films include Bend it like Beckham, one of the better known productions revolving around British Indian life, and Slumdog Millionaire, a British drama film set in Mumbaimarker starring British Indian actor Dev Patel in the lead role. The latter has won four Golden Globes, seven BAFTA Awards and eight Academy Awards. Besides British-produced Indian-based films, there are many Bollywood productions which have been filmed in the United Kingdom. These include Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Yaadein and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.
1970's 1980's 1990's 2000's


Indian music has a strong influence on global music as a whole. Today, British Indian musicians exist in almost every field and genre, however there is an extremely large number of Bhangra artists that cement the UK as the stronghold of traditional Indian music outside of India although this is a Punjabi music mainly performed by the Sikh community. Notable British Indian Bhangra acts include DCS, Juggy D, Mentor Kolektiv, Ms Scandalous and Sukshinder Shinda. World famous award winning singer-songwriter Freddie Mercury (a former member of the rock band Queen) was born on the island of Zanzibarmarker to Parsi parents, originally from the Gujaratmarker area of India. Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara) and his family fled when he was 17 years old due to the Zanzibar Revolution; he remains not only one of the most famous British Indian musicians of all time, but one of the most famous British musicians. Other world-famous British Indian musicians include Biddu, who produced a number of worldwide hits such as "Kung Fu Fighting", and Apache Indian, who also had worldwide hits such as "Boom Shack-A-Lak". Jay Sean, whose parents immigrated to the United Kingdom from the Punjab region, is the first British Asian to reach the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with his single "Down" selling over a million copies in the United States within a month, making him "the most successful male UK urban artist in US chart history." Some more contemporary British Indian singers Panjabi MC, Juggy D, S-Endz and BRIT Award-nominated Nerina Pallot.


Out of all of the countries in the Indian diaspora, the UK is most likely to be the best at portraying Indian culture and life in the UK through television. Long-running British soap operas such as Coronation Streetmarker, EastEnders, Emmerdalemarker and Hollyoaks have all had significant numbers of Indian characters, while shorter British series such as The Jewel in the Crown and Skins also feature British Indian characters. By far the most notable British Indian television shows are Goodness Gracious Me (no longer running) and The Kumars at No. 42, a talk show that stars many famous British Indian actors including Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal, Indira Joshi and Vincent Ebrahim. British Indian actors not only have a strong presence in the UK, but also in the United Statesmarker, where Parminder Nagra, Naveen Andrews and Nicollette Sheridan (who are all Britons of Indian origin) have found fame in ER, Lost and Desperate Housewives respectively, though Nagra is the only one to portray an actual British Indian citizen. There are dozens of channels aimed at the British Indian community available on Satellite and Cable, which include:
Indian owned Sky channel Virgin Media channel Other
Sony TV Asia 782 806 N/A
STAR One 783 N/A N/A
STAR Plus 784 803 N/A
Zee TV 788 809 Channel 808 (Tiscali TV)
Zee Music 789 N/A N/A
Zee Cinema 617 810 N/A
Alpha ETC Punjabi 798 812 N/A
SET Max 800 806 N/A
Aastha TV 807 N/A N/A
STAR News 808 802 N/A
STAR Gold 809 N/A N/A
Zee Gujarati 811 N/A N/A
SAB TV 816 N/A N/A
Sahara One 817 N/A N/A
Aaj Tak 818 N/A N/A
Peace TV 820 N/A N/A
Zee Jaagran 838 N/A N/A

Joint owned Sky channel Virgin Media channel Other
B4U Movies 780 815 N/A
B4U Music 781 816 Channel 504 (Freesat)
9X 828 N/A Channel 662 (Freesat)
9XM 829 N/A N/A
NDTV Imagine 831 N/A N/A

British owned Sky channel Virgin Media channel Other
MATV 793 823 N/A


The BBC Asian Network is a radio station available across the entire United Kingdom which is aimed predominantly at Britons of South Asian origin under 35 years of age, besides this popular station there are only a few other national radio stations for or run by the British Indian community - including Sunrise and Yarr Radios. Regional British Indian stations include Asian Sound of Manchestermarker, Hindu Sanskar and Sabras Radios of Leicestermarker, Kismat Radio of Londonmarker, Radio XL of Birminghammarker and Sunrise Radio Yorkshire based in Bradfordmarker (which itself has a much larger Pakistani than Indian community).

Social issues


Discrimination against persons of Indian origin in the United Kingdom is not completely widespread, but has been known to happen in certain instances. There are several areas across the country where hostility between the local Indian and Pakistani communities occur, although the names and racial slurs given to British Indians by some members the white community are evidence of lack of knowledge and ignorance, the term "Paki" is likely to be the most commonly used anti-Asian phrase in the UK and despite it being a shorted and derogatory term for a person of Pakistani origin it is all to often used to refer to anyone from the Indian subcontinent. However, some young British Pakistanis have attempted to reclaim the word and use it in a non-offensive way to refer to themselves. Verbal discrimination such as explained above has become somewhat more common after the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks, even though Islam extremists who committed these atrocities have little to do with the British Indian community. One of the best examples of anti-Indian sentiment in the UK is the 2007 Celebrity Big Brother racism controversy which received significant media coverage, white contestants Jade Goody (who is mixed race), Danielle Lloyd and Jo O'Meara were all seen to have been mocking Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty because of her accent. They also persisted on making fun on general parts of Indian culture, Channel 4 went ahead and screened the arguments which received over 50,000 complaints. The controversy generated over 300 newspaper articles in Britain, 1,200 in English language newspapers around the globe, 3,900 foreign language news articles, and 22,000 blog postings on the internet. Another example of discrimination is the Expulsion of Asians in Uganda in 1972 (a decision made by the President of Uganda to ethnically cleanse the country) which lead to tens of thousands of East African Indians coming to the UK to start a new life, the majority of these already had British passports, due to Uganda at that time being part of the British Empire. In 2007, the controversial documentary Undercover Mosque was aired on British television, it showed secret filming in mosques throughout the UK, in this many extremist comments were made including one by now deported Abdullah el-Faisal who said “You have to bomb the Indian businesses, and as for the Jews you kill them physically.” Again this is evidence that discrimination towards British Indians can come from any other race or ethnicity. Other examples of discrimination towards British Indians in the mainstream population include the case of 27 year old Chetankumar Meshram, a call centre trainer from Northamptonmarker who was compensated £5,000 after his boss told him he was to be replaced by a better English speaker. Also Meena Sagoo, 42 is demanding over £100,000 after herself and a fellow employee of the ING Bank of Sri Lankanmarker heritage were called The Kumars at No. 42 (after the popular TV comedy show of the same name). The same bank has been noted to have paid out £20,000 to a worker of Chinese origin who also claimed racial harassment in office. Another form of discrimination towards British Indians is stereotyping, one example is British Asians being stereotyped as being the majority of newsagent and convenience store shopkeepers, the stereotype Paki shop; and also making a majority of doctors, these are all again often associated as being hardworking. This stereotype was made fun in the television and radio sketches of Goodness Gracious Me by four British Indian comedy actors themselves. In the comedy sketch Little Britain, a British Indian character called Meera continuously receives racist comments from weight loss advisor Marjorie Dawes who always makes it know that she doesn't understand a word of what Meera says, although it is completely obvious to the surrounding people and the viewer.

Economic status

The richest person in Britain Lakshmi Mittal is a British Indian with an estimated fortune of £10.8 billion in 2009. A study by Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2007 found British Indians have among the lowest poverty rates among different ethnic groups in Britain second only to white British. Of different ethnic groups Bangladeshis (65%), Pakistanis (55%) and black Africans (45%) had the highest rates; black Caribbeans (30%), Indians (25%), white Other (25%) and white British (20%) had the lowest rates. According to BBC findings, the economic makeup in 2001 of Indian-born British Indians only is as follows. 65.98% of new immigrants were employed with 16.43% being 'low earners' (people earning less than £149.20 a week) and 18.13% being 'high earners' (people earning more than £750 a week). By comparison settled Indian immigrants to the UK are actually slightly less likely to be in employment, 62.85%; in fact, the percentage of low and high earners for settled immigrants stood at 15.9% and 7.88% respectively. Therefore on average, 64.42% of Indian-born immigrants to the UK are employed. This figure is approximately 10% lower than the rate of employment for British-born people (regardless of ethnicity) which stood at 73.49% in 2001. It is also fair to say that there are economic differences within the British Indian population, for example Hindu people are more likly to be wealthy than Sikh people.

Caste issues

Many British Hindus still adhere to the caste system and still seek marriage with individuals who are of similar caste categories. There have been several incidents involving abuse of low caste British Hindus, known as Dalits, by higher caste individuals in schools and workplaces.


Infanticide is selective sex abortion. Recent research has shown that the practice that is illegal, although still widespread, in Indiamarker, is now being carried out in Britainmarker by British Indians. According to research by Oxford Universitymarker, approximately 1,500 girls have gone missing since 1990, which is equal to one in ten girls of British Indian parents. Dr Sylvie Dubuc, head of the research team, concluded that this happened because men are considered superior in Indian culture.

Crime rates

In a list of the top 20 non-British communities engaged in crime in London this year, British Indians ranked 8th; committing 748 crimes, 235 of which were violent. This is, however, one rank lower than the previous year.

Between October 2006 and May 2008, UniVisa - a company run by three Indian illegal immigrants - submitted 980 fraudulent visa applications to the Home Office for would-be Indian immigrants. It has also been reported recently, that there are large numbers of illegal immigrants coming in from India. An MP in Englandmarker described it as a big problem.

Illegal immigration

Indians form one of the largest illegally settled minority in the UK and recently a massive Indian illegal immigration network was uncovered. Out of them, only 41 have been deported.

Notable individuals

See also



Related groups



  1. Sunday Times Rich List 2009 – Analysis, The Daily Telegraph, 2009-04-26
  3. Lascars in The East End
  5. National Statistics 2006
  9. ; it states that roughly 3% of the 550,000 South Africans in Britain are Indian
  13. Britain isvhome to the largest community of Sikhs outside India with about 750,000 devotees
  14. From Bangladesh to Brick Lane Guardian (Friday 21 June).
  15. Indian restaurants in the UK
  16. Indian cuisine and eating in the UK
  17. After the N-word, the P-word
  18. Undercover Mosque Transcript
  19. British-Indian call centre worker wins racial discrimination case
  20. British Indian woman slams racism case against ING bank
  21. Poverty rates among ethnic groups in Great Britain,Joseph Rowntree Foundation, April 2007

Further reading

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