Monday 4 September 2023


There are at least 20,000 of an African-origin ethnic tribe who have been living in near total obscurity in India for centuries.

Descendants of Bantu people of East Africa, Siddi ancestors were largely brought to India  by Arabs as early as the 7th Century, followed by the Portuguese and the British later on. Others were free people who came to India as merchants, sailors and mercenaries before the Portuguese slave trade went into overdrive. When slavery was abolished in the 18th and 19th Centuries, Siddis fled into the country’s thick jungles, fearing recapture and torture.

These African first settlers in India were originally known as Habshis, which is Persian for Abyssinian (the former name of Ethiopia was Abyssinia). But those who rose through the ranks of royal retinue were honoured with the title Siddi, a possible etymon from the Arabic word for master, sayed/sayyid. It is not entirely clear when the use of the term Habshi declined and Siddi replaced it, but today, Siddi describes all people of African descent in India.

Culled from the BBC 2016 documentary," India’s forgotten African tribe"

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