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‘From Africa’ to ‘Of India’: Siddis Through Colonial Period


Siddis are one of the Scheduled Tribes of post-Independence India, though they are of African origin. Their presence in India is traced back to 1100 AD in historical records, but it is believed that they came to India much earlier. Arab merchants and later the Portuguese, the British and the French brought them to India who worked as slaves, load carriers, soldiers and subsequently occupied important position in army and royal courts. For example, the Title of Amir-al-Umara (Leader of Leaders) was given to Siddi Jamal-ud-Din Yakut of the thirteenth century. In Bengal Shahzada Barbak founded the Habshi dynasty in 1487 and during colonial period there are instances of Siddi rulers in Sachin and Janjira. The famous Ahmadabad Siddi Sayyidnijali of Siddi Sayyid Masjid during the sixteenth century was designed by a Siddi soldier, Shaykh sa’id al-Habshi Sultani. In India, Siddis are found belonging to different religious denominations—Islam, Christianity and Hinduism. They were found fighting against the British, participating in freedom movement and fighting for the British in World War II. Undauntedly, they have contributed immensely in the making of history in different capacities. In view this, the present paper attempts to list their role in India with focus on colonial period.


  • Habshi/Siddis
  • African slave
  • Colonial period
  • Portuguese
  • East India company
  • Slave trade
  • Janjira
  • Sachin
  • Siddi Abdul Karim Yakut Khan
  • Malik Amber

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  1. 1. Accessed on 12/12/2019.

  2. 2.

  3. 3.

  4. 4.

    As defined in Encyclopedia Britanica.

  5. 5.

  6. 6. Accessed on 13-12-2019. The educational documentary on Siddi people of Karnataka prepared by unknown anchor of and along with the Interview of the Prof. Ashish Nandi during 2013.

  7. 7.

    In 2013, in a video documentary, Mr. Bosco Kaweesi who was then president of Siddi Educational Society informed to a scholar. Available in You tube, accessed on 16/12/2019.

  8. 8.

  9. 9.

    The colours of the veils worn by the nuns in Santa Monica convent were mainly two types. Black veil symbolized for those who belonged to Portuguese lineage whereas white veils reflected the Indians origin (see Christopher, 2010).

  10. 10.

    Historical Archives of Goa, Ms. Moncaes n. 159B, fls. 592.

  11. 11.

    There is no written record about the name of Father of Fr. Thomas, but few sources mention that his father name was also Thomas Sthephen (Steven) as in old days it was common practice to take the father name with prefix Senior for the father and Junior for the Son.!topic/soc.culture.portuguese/NT2hVqbmS4E and

  12. 12. Accessed on 16/12/2019.

  13. 13.

  14. 14.

    Africans in India: From slaves to Generals, see Accessed on 24th February 2020.

  15. 15.

  16. 16.

    See Footnote 15.


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Correspondence to Mohammad Nasir Ahmad .

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Ahmad, M.N. (2022). ‘From Africa’ to ‘Of India’: Siddis Through Colonial Period. In: Behera, M.C. (eds) Tribe, Space and Mobilisation. Springer, Singapore.

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