Beautiful Tribe...Beautiful People
The Sidi community lives mostly in Gujarat (in western India), with smaller populations settled in the neighboring state of Maharashtra and the southern states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. There is no accurate census on the number of Sidis in India. According to various publications, there are no more than 20,000 in any one state. Although most Sidis live in villages, many are urban dwellers residing in towns and cities. Some also live in tribal surroundings and villages.
Descendants of African slaves and seamen, the ancestors of the Sidis came to India through sea trade with East Africa and the Gulf around the 12th century. They came from different areas such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and later Zanzibar. The Sidis of Gujarat are Muslims with a strong Sufi tradition. They have to some extent assimilated into the local culture through their dress, food and language, though their dark skin and African features are distinctive. Some have even married outside of their community. But, by and large, they remain marginalized, leading a life of relative obscurity and poverty. In some districts, the government has accorded them the Scheduled Tribe status.
Their history lost in time, the Sidis' only link to their past is their devotional music and dance dedicated to Gori Pir, a Sufi saint from Africa. Known as Hazrat Mubarak Nobi, he is said to have come from Nubia to India from Africa via Mecca, and stopped in Basra (in Iraq) to study with Rifai Sufis. He has shrines throughout Gujarat, in the places stopped at before settling in Bharuch district. Here he set up an agate workshop and became part of the Indian Ocean trade, especially in tasbihs (Islamic prayer beads) for hajis (pilgrims)
Read More>India's African Past by Fatima Chowdhury
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