AFRICAN DIASPORA: Meet Indians who migrated from Kano (Daily Trust)

No Comments » April 30th, 2012 posted by // Categories: Nigerians in the Diaspora




Meet Indians who migrated from Kano


Written by Austine Odo Tuesday, 17 April 2012 05:00

The Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, His Excellency Mahesh Sachdev recently told Daily Trust in an interview that some Indians migrated from Nigeria, which partly underscores the close-knitted relationship and cultural similarity between Nigeria and India. Here is a close-up on the migrants.

In India, there is a group of Indian-Africans known as the Shemali. They are said to have originated from Kano State in Nigeria, and went to India through Sudan and Mecca in Saudi Arabia after a Hajj pilgrimage in the 15th Century. The Shemali were led by a wealthy merchant known as Baba Ghor. The Nigerians traded in a precious stone known as Agate and later became prosperous through mining and trading in this  stone.Baba Ghor began mining and trading agate stones from the Indian town of Khambhat. As recorded by a 16th century Portuguese traveller called Duarte Barbossa, Baba Ghor’s brand of jewellery was very popular in India and abroad. That is why he and the other Nigerian migrants quickly became popular and prosperous. Today, most of the Shemali live in Gujarat State of India. Most of them are Muslims, and worship Baba Ghor whose shrine is situated in Ratanpur near Junagadh. The Shemali still retain some African customs, and Baba Ghor and the story of their arrival in India are proudly remembered.

Besides the Shemali, there are other Indian-Africans who migrated there through other means.  These are known as the Siddis. The Siddi ethnic groups with story of African roots can be found in four states in India. According to InfiniTies, a publication of the Indian High Commission in Nigeria, the word Siddi is derived from the Arabic “sayyidi” or “sayidi” meaning leader or master.

Most of the Siddis were brought as slaves, soldiers or servants. Some were successful as fighters that they managed to usurp power from the rulers. Their descendants are the least visible part of the huge African diasporas in India. But today in India, they are a part of the mosaic of different cultures and communities of the country. Siddis can be Hindus, Muslims or Christians. It is estimated that the population of Siddi’s in Gujarat is between 20,000 and 30,000.

Indo-Africans trace their ancestry primarily from the East African coast from Sudan, Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) to Mozambique, but some came from as far off as South Africa and Nigeria.

In independent India the Siddi’s are majorly concentrated in Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesesh, Goa and Tamil Nadu. It is estimated that the total population is about 250,000.


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