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Siddis

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Siddis

This article is about the South Asian ethnic group of Southeast African origin. For other uses, see Siddi (disambiguation).

Similar name Sindhi people

Siddis
(ಸಿದ್ಧಿಗಳು सिद्दी شيدي شیدی સીદી)
Karnataka, India.
Total population
20,000 – 55,000 (estimated)
Regions with significant populations
Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, states of India, Sindh and Balochistan provinces of Pakistan and southern coastal Iran (where they are considered Arabs).
Languages
Gujarati, Marathi, Kannada, Konkani, Sindhi, Makrani dialect of Balochi
Religion
Mainly Sufi Sunni Islam, with Hindu and Catholic Christian minorities

The Siddi (Urdu: شیدی ‎; Kannada: ಸಿದ್ಧಿಗಳು; Hindi, Marathi, Konkani: सिद्दी or शीदि/ಸಿದ್ಧಿ; Sindhi: شيدي; Gujarati: સીદી), also known as Siddhi, Sheedi or Habshi, are an ethnic group inhabiting India and Pakistan. Members are descended from Bantu peoples from Southeast Africa that were brought to the Indian subcontinent as slaves by Arab and Portuguese merchants.[1] The Siddi community is currently estimated at around 20,000–55,000 individuals, with Karnataka, Gujarat and Hyderabad in India and Makran and Karachi in Pakistan as the main population centres.[2] Siddis are primarily Sufi Muslims, although some are Hindus and others Roman Catholic Christians.[3]

Etymology of name

There are conflicting hypotheses on the origin of the name Siddi. One theory is that the word was a term of respect in North Africa, similar to the word sahib in modern India and Pakistan. A second theory is that the term Siddi is derived from the title borne by the captains of the Arab vessels that first brought Siddi settlers to India. These captains were known as Sayyid.[4]

Similarly, another term for Siddis, habshi (from Al-Habsh, the Arabic term for Abyssinia), is held to be derived from the common name for the captains of the Ethiopian/Abyssinian ships that also first delivered Siddi slaves to the subcontinent.[5] The term eventually came to be applied to other Africans and not only to emancipated Siddis. In time, it came to be used to refer to their descendants as well. It is sometimes pronounced "Hafsi" and is considered an insult.[6]

Siddis are also sometimes referred to as African-Indians.[7][8][9] Siddis were referred to as Zanji by Arabs; in China, various transcriptions of this Arabic word were used, including Xinji (辛吉) and Jinzhi (津芝).[10][11][12][13]

History

The first Siddis are thought to have arrived in India in 628 AD at the Bharuch port. Several others followed with the first Arab Islamic invasions of the subcontinent in 712 AD.[15] The latter group are believed to have been soldiers with Muhammad bin Qasim's Arab army, and were called Zanjis.

Most Siddis are descended from Bantu peoples from Southeast Africa that were brought to the Indian subcontinent as slaves by the Portuguese.[1] While most of these migrants became Muslim and a small minority became Christian, very few became Hindu since they could not find themselves a position in the traditional Hindu caste hierarchy.[16]


In Western India (the modern Indian states of Gujarat and Maharashtra), the Siddi gained a reputation for physical strength and loyalty, and were sought out as mercenaries by local rulers, and as domestic servants and farm labour. Some Siddis escaped slavery to establish communities in forested areas, and some even established small Siddi principalities on Janjira Island and at Jaffrabad as early as the twelfth century. A former alternative name of Janjira was Habshan (i.e., land of the Habshis). In the Delhi Sultanate period prior to the rise of the Mughals in India, Jamal-ud-Din Yaqut was a prominent Siddi slave-turned-nobleman who was a close confidant of Razia Sultana (1205–1240 CE). Although this is disputed, he may also have been her lover.[17]

As a power centre, Siddis were sometimes allied with the Mughal Empire in its power-struggle with the Maratha Confederacy. However, Malik Ambar, a prominent Siddi figure in Indian history at large, is sometimes regarded as the "military guru of the Marathas", and was deeply allied with them.[18] He established the town of Khirki which later became the modern city of Aurangabad, and helped establish the Marathas as a major force in the Deccan. Later, the Marathas adapted Siddi guerrilla warfare tactics to grow their power and ultimately demolish the Mughal empire.[18] Some accounts describe the Mughal emperor Jahangir as obsessed by Ambar due to the Mughal empire's consistent failures in crushing him and his Maratha cavalry, describing him derogatorily as "the black faced" and "the ill-starred" in the royal chronicles and even having a painting commissioned that showed Jahangir killing Ambar, a fantasy which was never realised in reality.[19]

Siddis of India

Siddis of Gujarat

Supposedly presented as slaves by the Portuguese to the local Prince, Nawab of Junagadh, the Siddis also live around Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, the last refuge in the world of the almost extinct Asiatic Lions, in Junagadh a district of the state of Gujarat, India.[20]

On the way to Deva-dungar is the quaint village of Sirvan, inhabited entirely by Siddis, a tribe of African people. They were brought 300 years ago from Africa, by the Portuguese for the Nawab of Junagadh. Today, they follow very few of their original customs, with a few exceptions like the traditional Dhamal dance.[21]

Although Gujarati Siddis have adopted the language and many customs of their surrounding populations, some African traditions have been preserved. These include the Goma music and dance form, which is sometimes called Dhamaal (Gujarati: ધમાલ, fun).[22] The term is believed to be derived from the Ngoma drumming and dance forms of Bantu East Africa.[22] The Goma also has a spiritual significance and, at the climax of the dance, some dancers are believed to be vehicles for the presence of Siddi saints of the past.[23]

Siddis of Karnataka

Main article: Siddis of Karnataka

The Siddis of Karnataka (Kannada: ಕರ್ನಾಟಕದ ಸಿದ್ಧಿಗಳು) (also spelled Siddhis) are an ethnic group of mainly Bantu descent that has made Karnataka their home for the last 400 years.[1] There is a 50,000 strong Siddhi population across India, of which more than a third live in Karnataka. In Karnataka, they are concentrated around Yellapur, Haliyal, Ankola, Joida, Mundgod and Sirsi taluks of Uttara Kannada and in Khanapur of Belgaum and Kalghatgi of Dharwad district. Many members of the Siddis community of Karnataka had migrated to Pakistan after independence and have settled in Karachi, Sindh. The majority of the Siddhis in Karnataka are descendants of Siddhi slaves who were brought from East Africa (mostly Mozambique) and Ethiopia to Goa by the Portuguese, British and the Arabs between the 16th and 19th centuries. During the Goan Inquisition, some of these slaves were freed and some escaped into the forests of the neighbouring Karnataka state. It has been reported that these Siddis believe that Barack Obama shares their genepool and that they wanted to gift a bottle of honey to him on his visit to India in 2010.[24]

Siddis of Hyderabad, India

In the 18th century, a Siddi community was established in Hyderabad State by the Arab Siddi diaspora, who would frequently serve as cavalry guards of the Asif Jahi Nizam's irregular army. The Asif Jahi Nizams patronised them with rewards and the traditional Marfa music gained popularity and would be performed during official celebrations and ceremonies.[25][26][27] The Siddis of Hyderabad have traditionally resided in the A.C. Guards (African Cavalry Guards) area near Masjid Rahmania, known locally as Siddi Risala.

Sheedis of Pakistan

Further information: Makrani

In Pakistan, locals of Black African descent are called "Makrani", or "Sheedi". They live primarily along the Makran Coast in Balochistan (see also Makrani), and lower Sindh. In the city of Karachi, the main Sheedi centre is the area of Lyari and other nearby coastal areas.[28] Technically, the Sheedi are a brotherhood or community distinct from the other Afro-Pakistanis. The Sheedis are divided into four clans, or houses: Kharadar Makan, Hyderabad Makan, Lassi Makan and Belaro Makan.[29] The sufi saint Pir Mangho is regarded by many as the patron saint of the Sheedis, and the annual Sheedi Mela festival, is the key event in the Sheedi community's cultural calendar.[29] Some glimpses of the rituals at Sidi/Sheedi Festival 2010 include visit to sacred alligators at Mangho pir, playing music and dance.[30] Clearly, the instrument, songs and dance appear to be derived from Africa.[31][32]

Linguistically, Makranis are Balochi and Sindhi and speak a dialect of Urdu referred to as Makrani. In Sindh, the Sheedis have traditionally intermarried only with people such as the Mallahs (fisherpeople), Khaskeli (laborers), Khatri (dyeing caste) and Kori (clothmakers).

Famous Sheedis include the historic Sindhi army leader Hoshu Sheedi[33] and Urdu poet Noon Meem Danish.[34][35] Sheedis are also well known for their excellence in sports, especially in football and boxing. The musical anthem of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, "Bija Teer", is a Balochi song in the musical style of the Sheedis with Black African style rhythm and drums.[36] Younis Jani is a popular Sheedi singer famous for singing an Urdu version of the reggaeton song "Papi chulo... (te traigo el mmmm...)."[37]

Most Makranis in Pakistan have Black Africans links from the female side. Many Sindhi feudals imported African female slaves; so did the Omani Arabs of Gwadar, a coastal city of Balochistan which was in control of Oman in the 17th century.

Siddis or Sheedis in lower Sindh

Sheedis are largely populated in different towns and villages in lower Sindh. They are very active in cultural activities and organise annual festivals, like, Habash Festival, with the support of several community organisations. In the local culture, when there is a dance it is not performed by some selected few and watched idly by others but it is participated by all the people present there, ending difference between the performers and the audience.

Sheedis in Sindh also proudly call themselves the Qambranis, Urdu: قمبرانی ‎; Sindhi: قمبراڻي.[38]

Genetics

Recent advances in genetic analyses have helped shed some light on the ethnogenesis of the Siddi. Genetic genealogy, although a novel tool that uses the genes of modern populations to trace their ethnic and geographic origins, has also helped clarify the possible background of the modern Siddi.

Y DNA

A Y-chromosome study by Shah et al. (2011) tested Siddi individuals in India for paternal lineages. The authors observed the E1b1a haplogroup, which is frequent amongst Bantu peoples, in about 42% and 34% of Siddis from Karnataka and Gujarat, respectively. Around 14% of Siddis from Karnataka and 35% of Siddis from Gujarat also belonged to the Sub-Saharan B haplogroup. The remaining 30% of Siddi had Indian or Near Eastern-associated clades, including haplogroups H, L, J and P.[1]

Thangaraj (2009) observed similar, mainly Bantu-linked paternal affinities amongst the Siddi.[39]

mtDNA

According to an mtDNA study by Shah et al. (2011), the maternal ancestry of the Siddi consists of a mixture of Sub-Saharan and Indian haplogroups, reflecting substantial female gene flow from neighbouring Indian populations. About 53% of the Siddis from Gujarat and 24% of the Siddis from Karnataka belonged to various Sub-Saharan macro-haplogroup L sub-clades. The latter mainly consisted of L0 and L2a sublineages associated with Bantu women. The remainder possessed Indian-specific subclades of the Eurasian haplogroups M and N, which points to recent admixture with autochthonous Indian groups.[1]

Autosomal DNA

Narang et al. (2011) examined the autosomal DNA of Siddis in India. According to the researchers, about 58% of the Siddis' ancestry is derived from Bantu peoples. The remainder is associated with local Indo-European-speaking North and Northwest Indian populations, due to recent admixture events.[40]

Similarly, Shah et al. (2011) observed that Siddis in Gujarat derive 66.90%–70.50% of their ancestry from Bantu forebears, while the Siddis in Karnataka possess 64.80%–74.40% such Southeast African ancestry. The remaining autosomal DNA components in the studied Siddi were mainly associated with local South Asian populations. According to the authors, gene flow between the Siddis' Bantu ancestors and local Indian populations was also largely unidirectional. They estimate this admixture episode's time of occurrence at within the past 200 years or eight generations.[1]

Famous Siddis or Sheedis

Films and books

  • From Africa...To Indian Subcontinent: Sidi Music in the Indian Ocean Diaspora (2003) by Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy, in close collaboration with Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy and the Sidi community.
  • Mon petit diable (My Little Devil) (1999) was directed by Gopi Desai. Om Puri, Pooja Batra, Rushabh Patni, Satyajit Sharma.

See also

References

External links

  • Karnataka's Indian-African Tribe
  • Alice Albinia, Empires of the Indus, W. W. Norton & Company, 2010, 52–78.
  • Shanti Sadiq Ali, Orient Blackswan, 1996
  • Ababu Minda Yimene, An African Indian Community in Hyderabad: Siddi Identity, Its Maintenance and Change, Cuvillier Verlag, 2004, pg 201
  • Omar H. Ali, The African Diaspora in India, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library
  • Bantu origins of the Sidis of India; By Abdulaziz Y. Lodhi (2008-10-29) in PAMBAZUKA NEWS
  • Siddi Jana Vikas Sanga
  • Indians of African Origin
  • Black, Indian, & Hindu
  • Habshis and Siddis – Africans and African descendants in South Asia
  • The Global African Community/Great Habshis in Ethiopian/Indian History
  • History of the Ethiopian Diaspora
  • Historical overview of South Asian communities with African roots by Dr Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya
  • Pakistan's Sidi keep heritage alive
  • BBC: The lost Africans of India
  • BBC In pictures: India's African communities
  • http://travel.expressindia.com/story/20499.html
  • http://www.cybernoon.com/DisplayArticle.asp?section=xtras&subsection=womensextra&xfile=January2007_extraspecial_standard805&child=extraspecial
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