India and Africa have a shared history that runs deeper than is often realized. Trade between the regions goes back centuries – 4th century CE Ethiopian (Aksumite) coins have been found in southern India. Several African groups, particularly Muslims from east Africa, came to India as slaves and traders. On settling down in the country, they played important roles in the history of the region.
Unlike slave experiences in other parts of the world, enslaved Africans in India were able to assert themselves and attain military and political authority in their new homeland. One of the most famous slave-turned-generals was Malik Ambar, an Ethiopian born guerrilla leader who went on to hold a prominent position in the Ahmadnagar Sultanate in west India in the 17th century. In spite of Ambar’s important role, he is a near forgotten chapter of history. Like Ambar, several other enslaved Africans rose to positions of power and prestige. Free African traders, sailors, and skilled artisans were part of the movement of people across the India Ocean.
United Nations – Gujarat in western India is home to more than 20,000 Siddis, an ethnic group of African descent. But today, many live on the fringes of society in poverty. One young man is fighting to protect their unique heritage – as well as their close ties with the remaining Asiatic lions of the neighboring Gir forest- by raising awareness of their culture through dance.
Later on, captives were brought by the Arabs, the Portuguese and Indians”, Sylviane Diouf, director of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery in New York, told The Wire.
“The people who became ‘elite slaves’ came mostly from the countries that today are Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan. The Portuguese brought in men and women from Mozambique. Later years also saw the arrival of people from Tanzania and adjacent countries.” Africans in India were known as either Habshi or Sidi to denote their African origins. Even after centuries of mixing with local populations, the name Sidi remains for their descendants. Sidis today number in the tens of thousands, and are found primarily in Karnataka, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. A majority of them are Muslims, with a few Christians and Hindus.
The African community that is India’s hope for an Olympic medal.
The Siddis are a community that migrated from East Africa to India between the 15th and 19th century. In 1987, the Sports Authority of India set up the Special Area Games program to scout and train members of the Siddi community to perform as athletes for India on the international stage. Despite the glory they have brought to the nation, the Siddis have to battle racism on a daily basis, often being treated as outsiders in the country that they have given their everything for.
The Siddis have now settled primarily in the states of Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. They came as merchants, sailors, slaves, and mercenaries, going on to even become rulers. Today, they are India’s hope for an Olympic medal in Track and Field.
101 Traces is an ongoing effort to bring to the limelight stories from dwindling or forgotten communities that are a part of the melting pot that is India’s cultural landscape.
Juje Joseph Sidi is a Footballer from the Siddi Community who speaks 6 languages.
1-Kannadda, 2-Konkani, 3-Marathi, 4-Hindi, 5-Tamil & 6-English.
Juje Joseph Sidi is a goalkeeper belonging to the Sidi community living in India. He played football for 18 years. He has lived in India for almost all his life and is an avid Bollywood fan. His favorite dishes are all Indian specialties, specially Goan fish curry rice!
Author Kenneth X. Robbins discusses his book, a series of snapshots, in the form of essays by specialists in the history numismatics, architecture, and art history of South Asia.
An exhibition on Africans in India, highlighting the long history of African communities in India, opens on March 21. The ‘Africans in India: From Slaves to Generals’ exhibition opens at 4 pm on 21 March, and will be showing daily from 11 am to 5 pm at the South Asian University Gallery, Akbar Bhawan, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi.
-Art News Africa
An image of the African Continent, Middle East and India from space above.
Basheer Ahmed Siddi, a Siddhi Dhamal artist belongs to the Siddhi tribe from Africa but have been residing in India for more than 700 years and sings Sufi music. They are born dancers and sing in a language mixing Hindi and Gujarati. Check their dumbstruck performance here!
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This is the Konark Sun Temple in India, and I am going to show you a sculpture that flies in the face of mainstream history. Historians claim that Africa had no connection with India until Vasco Da Gama reached India in 1498.
But look at this carving, it clearly shows a Giraffe on the left side and all its legs, body and long neck are shown with remarkable accuracy. Notice how even its face, the ears and even its long tail are carved perfectly depicting a real giraffe. This is incredible, because Giraffes are found only in Africa, and this temple was built no later than 1250 A.D. And Giraffes are not found in Egypt, where we know advanced civilization existed, but are found far down south in the African continent. According to historians Vasco Da Gama was the first person to ever visit India from Africa. They claim that he had briefly explored Africa, before reaching India in 1498. How is an African Giraffe accurately carved at least two hundred and fifty years before Vasco Da Gama’s arrival to India?
Let us to take a good look at the entire carving. It clearly shows an Indian King sitting on an Elephant on the left side. You can even see another person sitting in front of him who controls the elephant. On the right side, you can side several people wearing long skirts standing on the ground. The clothing and the faces are carved distinctly different from other Indian sculptures, to show that they are African people. It also looks like they are lifting a few other people who are giving something to the Indian King. On the far right you can see the Giraffe, and a young boy sitting on it, while there is bystander watching this entire scene. All this happens under a tree that has very large flowers, almost the size of an elephant’s head.
Did this meeting happen while an Indian King was traveling to Africa? It’s less likely because the sculptor who carved this, would have not have seen it. It’s much more likely that African travelers visited India way before Vasco Da Gama, which is not mentioned in anywhere in History. And whether this journey took place through land or water, it is truly a remarkable feat to bring a Giraffe alive through such a long trip.
So, now we know that India was connected to Africa, centuries before what the history claims. It also proves that ancient Africans had a very advanced civilization that was capable of making journeys to other continents. Is it possible that ancient Africans and Indians had established trade routes between continents? Thanks to the Indian sculptor for carving such an accurate scene, because without this we would just be depending on mainstream historians.