Descendants of Eastern and Southern Africans, and more specifically the Bantu people of the Great Lakes region of Central and Southern Africa, the Siddi are a cultural group who inhabit the areas of India Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Our research tells us that some of the Siddi were brought to India by the Portuguese over five hundred years ago. Because of the enslavement of the Siddi by the Portuguese and Indians, modern Siddi are a mixture of African, Indian and Portuguese; genetic research suggests that the intermixing of the different cultural groups occurred over the last eight hundred years. The Siddi are dispersed throughout India and Western Asia and are known by many names, they are commonly associated with the title habshi which was the name of the African and Arab seas captains who is said to have delivered the Siddi to India. The first group of people to be considered Siddi are said to have arrived in India around 628 AD in the city of Bharuch, which was the administrative headquarters of the Bharuch District. The second group of Siddi are said to have been Zanjis soldiers in Muhammad bin Qasim’s Arab army. The last of the Siddi were the East African Bantu who were the slaves of the Portuguese.
Because of slave trading the Siddi now populate many districts and states throughout India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The population of the Siddi that inhabit Gujarat are due to the Prince of Junagadh purchasing African slaves. The Siddi have been able to maintain some of their African culture and phenotype by rarely mixing with other cultural groups. Genetic studies have proven that all of the Siddi who inhabit India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and other areas of Asia have at least a 25% genetic link to an African ancestor. Some of the Siddi have adapted to the customs and ways of living in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and other places; many have adopted Hinduism, Christianity and Islam as their primary religions. Several stories exist about how the different groups of the Siddi came to populate Western and Central Asia, one thing we do know is the story of this group of people is largely hidden from our historical records or curriculums. We have come to learn that the African diaspora covers every continent and corner of this earth; we were taught that we have no history yet we keep finding more information that tells a different story. The story of the Siddi shows us once again how African people have been subjugated by many different groups of people outside of Africa. The continent and its people have endured much terror over the years, but as always, African people have found a way to endure, survive and thrive. The Siddi diaspora, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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