Siddi (pronounced [sɪd̪d̪iː]), also known as Sidi,
Siddhi, Sheedi or Habshi, is an ethnic group inhabiting
Pakistan. Members are descended from the
Bantu peoples of the East
African region. Some were merchants, sailors, indentured servants,
slaves and mercenaries. The
Siddi community is currently
estimated at around 50,000–60,000 individuals, with Karnataka,
Pakistan as the main population centres. Siddis
are primarily Muslims, although some are
Hindus and others belong to
the Catholic Church.
3 Siddis of India
3.1 Siddis of Hyderabad
3.2 Siddis of Gujarat
3.3 Siddis of Karnataka
4 Siddis of Pakistan
4.1 Siddis or Sheedis in lower Sindh
5.1 Y DNA
5.3 Autosomal DNA
6 Famous Siddis or Sheedis
7 Films and books
8 See also
10 External links
Siddi girl from the town of
Yellapur in Uttara
There are conflicting hypotheses on the origin of the name Siddi. One
theory is that the word derives from sahibi, an Arabic term of respect
in North Africa, similar to the word sahib in modern
Pakistan. A second theory is that the term
Siddi is derived
from the title borne by the captains of the Arab vessels that first
Siddi settlers to India. These captains were known as
Similarly, another term for Siddis, habshi, is held to be derived from
the common name for the captains of the Abyssinian ships that also
Siddi slaves to the subcontinent. Siddis
are also sometimes referred to as
Afro-Indians. Siddis were referred
to as Zanji by Arabs; in China, various transcriptions of this Arabic
word were used, including Xinji (辛吉) and Jinzhi
Ikhlas Khan, African prime minister of Bijapur, c. 1650
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. The latter group
are believed to have been soldiers with Muhammad bin Qasim's Arab
army, and were called Zanjis.
Siddi population was added to via
Bantu peoples from
Southeast Africa that had been brought to the
Indian subcontinent as
slaves by the Portuguese. Later most of these migrants
Muslim and a small minority became Hindu.
Flag of the Siddis from Murud-Janjira, an important vassal of the
Some Siddis escaped slavery to establish communities in forested
areas, and some also established the small
Siddi principalities of
Janjira State on Janjira Island and
Jafarabad State in
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
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.
Siddis of India
Sidis of Madras
Harris (1971) provides an historical survey of the eastward dispersal
of slaves from Southeast Africa to places like India.
Hamilton (1990) argues that Siddis in South
India are a significant
social group whose histories, experiences, cultures, and expressions
are integral to the
African Diaspora and thus, help better understand
the dynamics of dispersed peoples. More recent focused scholarship
argues that although Siddis are numerically a minority, their historic
India for over five hundred years, as well as their
self-perception, and how the broader Indian society relates to them,
make them a distinct Bantu/Indian. Historically, Siddis
have not existed only within binary relations to the nation state and
imperial forces. They did not simply succumb to the ideologies and
structures of imperial forces, nor did they simply rebel against
imperial rule. The
Siddi are recognized as a scheduled
tribe in 3 states and 1 union territory: Goa, Gujarat,
Daman and Diu.
Siddis of Hyderabad
In the 18th century, a
Siddi community was established in Hyderabad
State by the Arab
Siddi diaspora, who have frequently served as
cavalry guards to the Asif Jahi Nizam of Hyderabad's army. The Asif
Jahi rulers patronised them with rewards and the traditional Marfa
music gained popularity and would be performed during official
celebrations and ceremonies.
The Siddis of
Hyderabad have traditionally resided in the A.C. Guards
Cavalry Guards) area near Masjid Rahmania, known locally as
Siddi Risala in the city Hyderabad.
Siddis of Gujarat
See also: Sachin State
Siddi Folk Dancers, at Devaliya Naka, Sasan Gir, 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.
On the way to Deva-dungar is the quaint village of Sirvan, inhabited
entirely by Siddis. They were brought 300 years ago from Portuguese
colonial territories for the Nawab of Junagadh. Today, they follow
very few of their original customs, with a few exceptions like the
traditional Dhamal dance.
Although Gujarati Siddis have adopted the language and many customs of
their surrounding populations, some of their Bantu traditions have
been preserved. These include the Goma music and dance form, which is
sometimes called Dhamaal (Gujarati: ધમાલ, fun).
The term is believed to be derived from the Ngoma drumming and
traditional dance forms of the Bantu people inhabiting Central, East
and Southern Africa. 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
Goma music comes from the Kiswahili word "ngoma", which means a drum
or drums. It also denotes any dancing occasion where traditional drums
are principally used.
Siddis of Karnataka
Main article: Siddis of Karnataka
The Siddis of
Karnataka (also spelled Siddhis) are an ethnic group of
mainly Bantu descent that has made
Karnataka their home for the last
400 years. 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,
Mundgod and Sirsi taluks of Uttara
Kannada and in
Kalaghatagi of Dharwad district. Many members of the
Siddis community of
Karnataka had migrated to
independence and have settled in Karachi, Sindh. 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.
Siddis of Pakistan
In Pakistan, locals of Bantu descent are called "Sheedi". They live
primarily along the
Makran in Balochistan, and lower Sindh.
The estimated population of Sheedis in
250,000. In the city of Karachi, the main Sheedi centre is
the area of
Lyari and other nearby coastal areas. Technically, the
Sheedi are a brotherhood or a subdivision of the Siddi. The Sheedis
are divided into four clans, or houses: Kharadar Makan, Hyderabad
Makan, Lassi Makan and Belaro Makan. The Sufi saint Pir
Mangho is regarded by many as the patron saint of the Sheedis, and the
Sheedi Mela festival, is the key event in the Sheedi
community's cultural calendar. Some glimpses of the
rituals at Sidi/Sheedi Festival 2010 include visit to sacred
alligators at Mangho pir, playing music and dance.
Clearly, the instrument, songs and dance appear to be derived from
In Sindh, the Sheedis have traditionally intermarried only with people
such as the Mallahs (fisherpeople),
Khaskheli (laborers), Khatri
(dyeing community) and Kori (clothmakers).
Famous Sheedis include the historic Sindhi army leader Hoshu
Urdu poet Noon Meem
Danish. Sheedis are also well known for their
excellence in sports, especially in football and boxing. Qasim Umer is
one cricketer who played for
Pakistan in 80s. The musical anthem of
Pakistan Peoples Party, "Bija Teer", is a Balochi song in
the musical style of the Sheedis with Black African style rhythm and
drums. Younis Jani is a popular Sheedi singer famous for
Urdu version of the reggaeton song "Papi chulo... (te
traigo el mmmm...)."
Siddis or Sheedis in lower Sindh
Sawan Qambrani, resident of village Syed Matto Shah, Tehsil Bulri
Shah Karim, District Tando Muhammad Khan, 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.
Sindh also proudly call themselves the Qambranis, (Urdu:
قمبرانی ; Sindhi: قمبراڻي), in reverence
to Qambar, the freed slave of Ali, the fourth Rashid
Tanzeela Qambrani became the first
Sheedi woman to be elected as the member of Provincial Assembly of
Sindh in 2018 Pakistani general election.
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.
A Y-chromosome study by Shah et al. (2011) tested
Siddi individuals in
India for paternal lineages. The authors observed the E1b1a1-M2
haplogroup, which is frequent among Bantu peoples, in about 42% and
34% of Siddis from
Karnataka and Gujarat, respectively. Around 14% of
Karnataka and 35% of Siddis from
Gujarat also belonged to
the Sub-Saharan B-M60. The remaining Siddis had Indian associated or
Near Eastern-linked clades, including haplogroups P, H, R1a-M17, J2
Thangaraj (2009) observed similar, mainly Bantu-linked paternal
affinities amongst the Siddi.
Qamar et al. (2002) analysed Makrani Siddis in
Pakistan and found that
they instead predominantly carried Indian-associated or Near
Eastern-linked haplogroups. R1a1a-M17 (30.30%), J2 (18.18%) and R2
(18.18%) were their most common male lineages.
 Only around 12% carried Africa-derived clades, which
mainly consisted of the archaic haplogroup B-M60, of which they bore
the highest frequency of any Pakistani population Underhill et al.
(2009) likewise detected a relatively high frequency of R1a1a-M17
(25%) subclade among Makrani Siddis.
According to an mt
DNA study by Shah et al. (2011), the maternal
ancestry of the
Siddi consists of a mixture of Bantu-associated
haplogroups and Indian-associated haplogroups, reflecting substantial
female gene flow from neighbouring Indian populations. About 53% of
the Siddis from
Gujarat and 24% of the Siddis from
to various Bantu-derived macro-haplogroup L subclades. 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.
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.
Similarly, Shah et al. (2011) observed that Siddis in
66.90%–70.50% of their ancestry from Bantu forebears, while the
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.
However, Guha et al. (2012) observed few genetic differences between
the Makrani of
Pakistan and adjacent populations. According to the
authors, the genome-wide ancestry of the Makrani was essentially the
same as that of the neighboring Indo-European speaking Balochi and
Famous Siddis or Sheedis
Nawab Ibrahim Mohammad
Yakut Khan II of Sachin (1833-1873)
Jamal-ud-Din Yaqut, confidante of Razia Sultana
Yakut Khan, naval admiral
Hoshu Sheedi, Sindhi commander
Noon Meem Danish,
Nawabs of Janjira State
Nawabs of Sachin State
Juje Siddi, former
Indian national football team
Indian national football team and Salgaocar SC
Abdul Rashid Qambrani, Pakistani boxer
Malik Ambar, regent of the Ahmadnagar kingdom
Abid Brohi, Pakistani Balochi rapper
Films and books
From Africa...To Indian Subcontinent: Sidi Music in the Indian Ocean
Diaspora (2003) by Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy, in close collaboration with
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.
Razia Sultan (1983), an Indian
Urdu film directed by Kamal Amrohi, is
based on the life of Razia Sultan (played by Hema Malini)
(1205–1240), the only female
Sultan of Delhi (1236–1240), and her
speculated love affair with the Abyssinian slave Jamal-ud-Din Yakut
(played by Dharmendra). He was referred to in the movie as a habshee.
A Certain Grace: The Sidi, Indians of African Descent by Ketaki Sheth,
Shaping Membership, Defining Nation: The Cultural Politics of African
Indians in South Asia (2007) by Pashington Obeng.
Inside a Lost African Tribe Still Living in
India Today (2018) by Asha
Afro-Asians in South Asia
Habshi dynasty of Bengal
List of Scheduled Tribes in India
Noon Meem Danish
Pir Mangho Urs
Sri Lanka Kaffirs
Siddis of Karnataka
^ a b The Sidi Project.
^ name="dawn.com">Paracha, Nadeem (26 August 2018), "Smokers’
corner: Sindh's African roots ", Dawn.
^ a b c d "A-11 Individual Scheduled Tribe Primary Census Abstract
Data and its Appendix". Census of
India 2011. Office of the Registrar
General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 24 March
2017..mw-parser-output cite.citation font-style:inherit
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^ a b c d e f Shah, Anish M.; et al. (15 July 2011). "Indian Siddis:
African Descendants with Indian Admixture". American Journal of Human
Genetics. 89 (1): 154–161. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2011.05.030.
PMC 3135801. PMID 21741027.
^ a b Abbas, Zaffar (13 March 2002). "Pakistan's Sidi keep heritage
alive". BBC. Retrieved 26 December 2016. One of the Pakistan's
smallest ethnic communities is made up of people of African origin,
known as Sidi. The African-Pakistanis live in
Karachi and other parts
Sindh and Baluchistan provinces in abject poverty, but they
rarely complain of discrimination. Although this small Muslim
community is not on the verge of extinction, their growing concern is
how to maintain their distinct African identity in the midst of the
dominating South Asian cultures.
^ Kumar Suresh Singh, Rajendra Behari Lal (2003), Gujarat,
Anthropological Survey of
India (Popular Prakashan),
ISBN 978-81-7991-106-8, At present the Siddis are living in the
western coast of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh,
Maharashtra and Karnataka
states. Their main concentration is in Junagadh district of Rajkot
division. They are a scheduled tribe. According to the 1981 census,
the population of the
Siddi tribe is 54,291. The
Siddi speak Gujarati
language within their kin circle as well as with the outsiders.
Gujarati script is used....
^ Shanti Sadiq
Ali (1996), The African dispersal in the Deccan, Orient
Blackswan, ISBN 978-81-250-0485-1, Among the
Siddi families in
Karnataka there are Catholics,
Hindus and Muslims.... It was a normal
procedure for the Portuguese to baptise African slaves.... After
living for generations among
Hindus they considered themselves to be
Hindus owe allegiance to Saudmath....
^ a b Albinia, Alice (2012). Empires of the Indus: The Story of a
River. UK: Hachette. ISBN 978-0393063226.
^ a b Vijay Prashad (2002), Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian
Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity, Beacon Press,
ISBN 978-0-8070-5011-8, ...since the captains of the African and
Arab vessels bore the title Sidi (from Sayyid, or the lineage of the
prophet Muhammad), the African settlers on the Indian mainland came to
be called Siddis...
Ali Al'Amin Mazrui, Toby Kleban Levine (1986), The Africans: a
reader, Praeger, ISBN 978-0-03-006209-4, ...continue to exist in
three main communities. These Afro-Indians, known as 'Siddis' ...
^ Joseph E. Harris (1971), The African presence in Asia: consequences
of the East African slave trade, Northwestern University Press,
ISBN 978-0-8101-0348-1, In fact, it is frequently said that
Afro-Indians in western
Gujarat are descendants of escaped slaves....
^ Ruth Simms Hamilton (2007), Routes of Passage: Rethinking the
African Diaspora, Michigan State University Press,
^ David Brion Davis, Challenging the Boundaries of
University Press, 2006), p. 12.
^ Ci Hai 7(1): 125.
^ Roland Oliver, Africa in the Iron Age: c.500 BC-1400 AD, (Cambridge
University Press, 1975), p. 192.
^ F. R. C. Bagley et al., The Last Great
Muslim Empires, (Brill:
1997), p. 174.
^ Yatin Pandya, Trupti Rawal (2002), The Ahmedabad Chronicle: Imprints
of a Millennium, Vastu Shilpa Foundation for Studies and Research in
Environmental Design, The first Muslims in
Gujarat to have arrived are
the Siddis via the
Bharuch port in 628 AD ... The major group, though,
arrived in 712 AD via
Sindh and the north.... With the founding of
Ahmedabad in 1411 AD it became the concentrated base of the
^ Josef W. Meri, Jere L. Bacharach (2006), Medieval Islamic
Civilization: An Encyclopedia, Taylor & Francis,
ISBN 978-0-415-96692-4, ...she appointed Jala ad-Din Yaqut, an
Abyssinian slave, to the post of master of the stables, a position
traditionally reserved for a distinguished Turk. Her partiality for
Yaqut has led later historians to speculae whether there had been a
sexual relationship between them, but contemporaneous sources do not
indicate that this was necessarily the case....
^ Harris, J. E. (1971). The African Presence in Asia: Consequences of
the East African Slave Trade.
^ Obeng, P. (2007). Shaping Membership, Defining Nation: The Cultural
Politics of African Indians in South India, p. xiii.
^ Obeng P (2003). "Religion and empire: Belief and identity among
African Indians in Karnataka, South India". Journal of the American
Academy of Religion. 71 (1): 99–120. doi:10.1093/jaar/71.1.99.
^ "List of notified Scheduled Tribes" (PDF). Census India. Archived
from the original (PDF) on 7 November 2013. Retrieved 15 December
2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
^ "'Marfa' band of the Siddis 'losing' its beat". The Hindu.
Hyderabad, India. 10 July 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
^ Yimene, Ababu Minda (2004). An African Indian Community in
Siddi Identity, Its Maintenance and Change. Cuvillier
Verlag. ISBN 978-3-86537-206-2.
^ Ali, Shanti Sadiq (1996). The African Dispersal in the Deccan: From
Medieval to Modern Times. Orient Blackswan.
^ "Siddis stray from tradition". Retrieved 5 December 2004.
^ Shekhawat, Rahul Singh (n.d.), "Black Sufis: Preserving the Siddi's
and its age old culture in India"
^ Journal of the Indian Anthropological Society, 28, Indian
Anthropological Society, 1993, The word goma is derived from the
Swahili word for dance, ngoma, which in the East African ... Siddi
servants used to perform goma dances with drums....
^ Stuart Sillars (ed.) (2017). The Shakespearean International
Yearbook: Volume 13. Routledge. p. 22. ISBN 978-1351963497.
Retrieved 16 February 2018.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
^ Shihan de S. Jayasuriya, Richard Pankhurst (2003), The African
Diaspora in the Indian Ocean, Africa World Press,
ISBN 978-0-86543-980-1, At the climax, when large numbers of
people are simultaneously possessed, the presence of Sidi saints among
the living is experienced through the bodies chosen by the saints as
vehicle. This happens during dancing sessions called damal or goma ...
^ Anil Budur Lulla, A Bottle of Honey for Our Brother Prez Archived 31
October 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Short Takes section, Open
Magazine, 30 October 2010.
^ Paracha, Nadeem (26 August 2018), "Smokers’ corner: Sindh's
African roots ", Dawn.
^ a b
Sheedi Mela begins with ritual aplomb[dead link], The
News International, 7 July 2008.
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 June 2010.
Retrieved 4 October 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter
|deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), BBC
Urdu, 18 June 2010
^ "Manghopir urs a living tribute to Sheedi culture", Dawn 16 July
Hoshu Sheedi Day’ on March 23", Dawn, 21 March 2007.
^ "A poet in New York", Dawn, 9 December 2007.
^ Afro-Asia in
Pakistan Archived 13 January 2009 at the Wayback
Machine Hasan Mujtaba, Samar Magazine, Issue 13: Winter/Spring, 2000.
^ YouTube – teer bija
^ YouTube – Younis Jani – Papi Chulo
^ Bhurgari, M. Hashim (24 October 2009). "Sheedi basha hum basha:
black people dance away sorrows". Dawn. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
^ "'Sheedis have been hurt most by attitudes'". Dawn. 23 June 2008.
Retrieved 30 December 2013. Sindhi Sheedis call themselves Qambrani,
out of reverence for Hazrat Qambar, a servant of Hazrat
^ Tanzeela Qambrani: First Sheedi woman to become member of Sindh
^ Tanzeela to be first Sheedi woman to enter
^ Shah, AM; Tamang, R; Moorjani, P; Rani, DS; Govindaraj, P; Kulkarni,
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^ Mishra, Rakesh K. (2009). Chromosomes To Genome. I. K. International
Pvt Ltd. p. 183. ISBN 978-9380026213.
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Sayyid of Gujarat
Tangals (the Sayyids)
Vattakkolis (the Bhatkalis) or Navayats
Dakhnis or Pathans
Bohras (Daudi Bohras)
Muslim Raj Gond
Shaikhs of Rajasthan
Bhale Sultan Khanzada
Sayyid of Uttar Pradesh
Shaikh of Uttar Pradesh