Re: The African Diaspora of the Indian Sub-Continent (Article)
On Behalf Of Danielle Sigwalt
Sent: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 11:10 PM
Subject: Re: The African Diaspora of the Indian Sub-Continent (Article)
Wow! When I was 13 -- about 7 years ago
-- I met a community of Sidis in India .
My parents study the african diaspora, and they took
me a long with them while they were doing research.
It's actually really interested because where as they have
been able to maintain a unique ethnic status seperate from
those who live among them, they are culturally very
Indian, from what I understand, and experienced.
It's unlikely that they traveled there thousands of years
ago, Lynne, simply because of the pre-existing migratory
patterns of the Africans from the areas that they
came from, in the case of the Sidis, at least.
Also, had they been there for that long, it's unlikely
that their communitis would still exist in a visible way.
On 1/31/07, tlbaker <tlbaker@...> wrote:
Is it also true that Africans migrated to India
in the same way they migrated to Europe and other
parts of the world several thousands of years ago?
On Behalf Of multiracialbookclub
Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 10:35 PM
Subject: The African Diaspora of the Indian Sub-Continent (Article)
The African Diaspora of
the Indian Sub-Continent
Zachariah Cherian Mampilly
The term Indo-Africans refers to Indians of African
origin and was coined by Professor Abdulaziz
Lodhi of Uppsala University , Sweden ...
A study of this Indo-African population offers a realistic
portrayal of Africans as traders, warriors, and sailors ...
More than 250,000 descendants of
Africans still live amongst the Indian people.
They are a vast and diverse population spread
throughout India with separate histories
and unique roles within the Indian strata.
Although Africans have been crossing the Indian Ocean into
India for over a millennium, most of those who make up the
Indo-African population came in the past five hundred years ...
Indo-Africans trace their ancestry primarily from the East African
coast from Sudan , Abyssinia (now Ethiopia ) to Mozambique ,
but some came from as far off as South Africa and even Nigeria .
Little research has been done on this unique population,
but slowly literature on this small group is growing.
Many of the Indo-Africans who arrived from eastern Africa
came as sailors and traders engaged in the vibrant Indian
ocean trade and stayed on in India , usually around the
main ports, from Kerala in the south to Gujarat in the north.
The monsoon winds that blew across the Indian ocean
powered an extensive trade system that shipped spices
from Kerala through Northeast Africa and on
to Rome and other parts of the European
continent since before the time of Christ.
Ivory, gold and other valuables from Zimbabwe and the
Congo found their way to the East African coast to areas
such as Kilwa, Mombassa and Zanzibar from where they
were further shipped across the Indian Ocean and
on to India , Southeast Asia , China and even Japan .
Perhaps the most interesting example of Indo-Africans
in Indian history was the establishment of the Habshi
State in Bengal during the 15th century ...
Another group of Indo-Africans, known as the Shemali,
originated in Kano , Nigeria , and came to India via
Sudan and Mecca following their Hajj pilgrimage.
Under the leadership of a wealthy merchant known as
Baba Ghor, the Shemali became prosperous through
the mining and trade of the precious stone Agate.
This group of Indo-Africans retains quite a few
African customs, and Baba Ghor and the story
of their arrival in India is proudly remembered.
It is difficult to speak of the Indo-Africans as a
singular group as they came from vastly different
parts of Africa and through many periods of history.
Nonetheless, most of the groups have
largely assimilated into Indian society.
The majority of Indo-Africans are Muslims,
but other similarities are hard to find.
Different communities speak different languages and
culturally most consider themselves Indian
save for a few African cultural remnants.
Some Indo-Africans, descended from powerful soldiers,
administrators, and even rulers, are indistinguishable
from the general population, for their ancestors
were considered higher class and married
freely amongst the elite Indian population.
This group of Indo-Africans are
sometimes known as the Royal Sidis ..
There are identifiable Sidi communities in Gujarat,
Maharashtra (around Bombay ), and Hyderabad .
Most of the Sidis live in Gujarat, a state in western India .
Jambur, a village in the Gir forest is an exclusive Sidi settlement.
A smaller group of Sidis lives in
Junagadh, a town not far from Jambur.
Sidis also settled in Murud, once the capital of the
erstwhile state of Janjira (from the Arabic `jazirah'
meaning an island) on the western coast of Maharashtra .
The Janjira Fort at Murad was "once the stronghold of
Abyssinian Sidis, who played an important role in the
history of Bombay in the latter half of the 17th century".
Those Sidis who settled in Janjira
prospered as warriors and great sailors.
Their fort still stands today in Murud – a small fishing village
– as does the Sidi Palace on the outskirts of the village.
Though the interior of the palace is
not open to tourists, the fort can be visited.
"Once the fort boasted of five hundred canons, today only
a handful are left, still intact and able to tell their story.
Amongst them are the three major cannons, Kalal Bangdi,
Landakasam and Bhavani, the cherished weapons
of the Sidis, built from five metals."- Discover India
"Siddi kingdoms were established in western
India in Janjira and Jaffrabad as early as 1100 AD.
After their conversion to Islam, the African freedmen of
India , originally called Habshi from the Arabic, called
themselves Sayyad and were consequently called Siddis.
Indeed, the island Janjira was formerly called Habshan,
meaning Habshan's or African's land. Siddi signifies lord or prince.
It is further said that Siddi is an expression of respectful
address commonly used in North Africa, like Sahib in India .
Specifically, it is said to be an honorific title given to the descendants
of African natives in the west of India , some of whom were distinguished
military officers and administrators of the Muslim princes of the Deccan . …
The Siddis were employed largely as security forces ...
in the Indian Ocean , a position they maintained for centuries."
- Tom Mountains Ambedkar Journal Website
HABSHIS AND SIDDIS: AFRICAN DYNASTIES IN INDIA
Scholars generally consider the Indo-Africans de
facto Indians as they mostly speak Indian languages,
although some groups do retain many African words.
This process of assimilation was interrupted with the
advent of British rule in India in the 19th century.
The British segregated the Indo-Africans from the local
population, thus impoverishing the process of assimilation.
Today, except for the Royal Sidis and their descendants
who are largely integrated, the Indo-African population
remains largely farmers or unskilled workers, although
some have also become professionals such as
doctors, lawyers, teachers and businessmen.
In Pakistan , which also has a small Indo-African
population, Indo-Africans are substantially
more visible as performers and athletes.
The community, known as Makranis, is almost completely
centred in the coastal city of Karachi and has achieved
national status as athletes, especially as boxers,
a field in which Indo-Africans have represented
Pakistan in international competition.
India has always welcomed immigrants from
around the world, giving them acceptance
and taking from them certain cultural attributes
that have further enlarged the Indian mosaic.
Afro-Indians, like all other groups that sought
shelter in India , were given the freedom
to assimilate without the pressure
to lose their ancestral traditions.
However one views Afro-Indians, their mere
existence has much to tell us about Africa 's
place in the world community beyond
just the dark days of slavery.
Their history speaks of the African ability to integrate
into a land other than that from where they originated.
The African Diaspora in the Americas was an
unwilling one, but the Indo-Africans came
willingly to India , and regardless of their
ups and downs in Indian history,
they have chosen to stay there.
Prominent Indo-Africans in history of India
Jamal al-Din Yaqut - a royal courtier in the kingdom
of Delhi who was believed to be close to the then
reigning sovereign Queen Raziya (1236- 1240).
He was killed by jealous rivals.
Ibn Battuta recalls that at Alapur, north of Delhi ,
the governor was "the Abyssinian Badr...,
a man whose bravery passed into a proverb".
Malik Sarwar, described as a Habshi,
was appointed governor of Jaunpur.
Mubarak Shah, his son, later succeeded him.
Ibrahim Shah, succeeded his brother
Mubarak Shah, and ruled for forty years.
"..the most famous among the Indo-Africans
was the celebrated Malik Ambar (1550-1626).
Ambar, like a number of Africans in medieval India ,
elevated himself to a position of great authority.
Malik Ambar, whose original name was Shambu,
was born around 1550 in Harar , Ethiopia .
After his arrival in India , Ambar was able to raise
a formidable army and achieve great power
in the west Indian realm of Ahmadnagar.
Ambar was a brilliant diplomat and administrator.
" Tom Mountains Ambedkar Journal Website
HABSHIS AND SIDDIS: AFRICAN DYNASTIES IN INDIA
Habshis ruled Bengal 1486-1491
by overthrowing the ruler Jalal-al Din.
Sultan Shahzada 1486 -1487
Habshi Amir al-Umara (1487-1490)
"I've had something to say as long as I've
known there was somthing that needed improving, and
every step I take is a woman's movement"
"why can't every decent woman call herself a feminist,
if just out of respect for those who fought before her?"