Population: 20,000 to 65,000 (estimates vary greatly)
Today in India, lost among the mosaic of different cultures and communities, are tens of thousands of African descendants known as Siddis. Having lived in India for generations, most of them are unaware of their own history.
The African Connection
Many years ago, long before African slaves were brought to America, Brazil, and the Caribbean, the Siddis were sold as slave soldiers for India’s princely states. A large number came or were brought from different parts of Africa to serve in the Muslim armies of the Nawabs and Sultans -— from whom they adopted their Muslim faith. Being Indians of African origins, the Siddis are socially and economically marginalized. They are trapped between two societies, and can neither assimilate with the mainstream India society, nor retain the originality of their African culture. While they speak mostly Gujarati and Hindi, their songs have a touch of Swahili. In fact, their music, song, and dance are their only links to their African history.
Most Siddis live in the western state of Gujarat. The village of Jambur, located deep in the Gir forest, is one of two exclusively Siddi settlements. It is profoundly poor. According to one commonly accepted legend, the founder of this Siddi settlement came from Nigeria via Sudan on his Hajj in Mecca. This leader was a wealthy merchant by the name of Bawa/Baba Ghor who first settled in the Rajpipla Hills before arriving at Jambur.
What They Do
Siddi adults are typically daily labourers, engaged in organised odd jobs. They leave early in the morning to work in the fields, forests, or on the roads to earn 50-60 rupees (about US$1.50) a day. Children are often left to fend for themselves, parents often unaware of their activities. Few Siddis finish primary school and even fewer go to high school. Women are especially marginalized, and have no knowledge of the outside world.
Social Issues of the Siddi
Some of the social issues of the Siddis include alcoholism (men spend a major amount of their small earnings to buy local liquor, thus depriving their families of basic necessities); school drop outs; broken families; poor hygiene and a lack of health care; poverty and powerlessness. Their lack of education and consequent slavery into menial jobs degrades them below the so-called social strata.
Siddis are mostly Sunni Muslims, but also have connections to a Sufi leader, Baba. They would probably receive the message of Jesus as Good News, but because of their isolation, few carriers of the Gospel have reached them.
- Pray for a revelation of the love of God in the Messiah.
- Pray for family unity and love, especially for neglected children.
- Pray for freedom from addiction/alcoholism.
- Strong leadership is needed: despite the presence of a village chief, there is a need for new leaders to rise up to help the Siddis’ societal and political positions.
- May God to send people specifically to reach the Siddis with the Gospel, health care, education, agricultural development, etc.
Listen to the Podcast – DAY 07 – The Siddis People of Gujarat, India
India has one of the world’s largest concentrations of unevangelized Muslims. There are possibly 150 million Muslims in India. Most live in the vast Ganges Plain. India has more Muslims than all the following countries combined: Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Egypt. But God loves them all.