Little Africa in India : Siddi Tribe of Gujarat



Imagine you walking in Gujarat and suddenly you meet people from Africa. You say Hi to them in English thinking them as tourists and they answer you in clear Gujrati. Surprised !!!

Don't worry you have suddenly not got teleported to Africa, but you are still in India. These people are a part of Siddi Tribe who have made India their home. They are the direct descendants of Bantu Tribe of the African Great Lake region. Most of the Siddi tribes were brought to India by the Portuguese as a slave and presented to Nawab of Junagadh.

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A Brief History of Siddi Tribe Name


The African slaves, brought by the Portuguese people were originally known as Habshis, which is Persian for Abyssinian. The tribes who rose in the ranks of were given with the title of Siddi. Its possible, this name of Siddi was derived from the Arabic word Sayed/Sayyid which means master.No one knows when the term Habshi was replaced by the word Siddi.

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Where can you meet Siddi Tribes in Gujarat


The Siddi tribes have made the village of Jambur in Talala taluka their home. The village of Jambur is situated approx 20 km from Gir and is easily accessible by car.

To reach the village, take a car from Gir and ask the driver to take you to the Siddhi Village. From Gir it will take your approximately 30 mins to reach the village.

The village of Jambur is approx 2Hrs drive from Junagadh and 3.3 Hrs drive from Rajkot.

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Siddi Community's Unique Heritage


The Siddi community strictly marries among themselves and hence their genes have not got mixed with local people. This gives the unique African look of the Siddi people in Gujarat.

In terms of tradition, they have almost forgotten their ancestral traditions and they follow most of the Gujarati traditions that they have inherited over the years.

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However, they have preserved a few Bantu traditions. They practice the Goma music and the dance form. In local Gujarati language, its called as Dhamal. The Siddis used to perform this dance after returning from a successful hunt in the jungles. This was also an entertainment for the rulers. The word Dhamal is derived from the word drum in their language.

The dance form has a unique way of drumming derived from the Bantu people and they dance in a similar fashion to the Africans.

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The dancers gradually pick up tempo and get into trance breaking tossed coconut on their heads. Just like their ancestors from Africa, Siddhis are master of rhythm dancing to the tune of huge drums.

When you are in Gir don't miss to see their colorful dance. Just ask your resort where the performance is being done and your hotel/resort will be happy to book one performance for you.

During the performance of they wear nothing above the waist while they wear either a piece of fabric or peacock feathers below the waist. The waist belt decorated with shells is a must.
 Siddis, known for physical strength and they will happily perform the Dhamaal dance whenever they get an opportunity to do so.

When you are visiting the Siddi Village of Jambur take a note of what they are wearing. They often wear colorful dresses which makes for a picture perfect shot. They have a very simple way of living and they are very humble and that makes it really interesting to visit them.

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It's extremely important to protect the unique culture of these people and help them in their sustenance. So shoestring travel would like to request you to donate when you visit the Siddi tribe of Gujarat or buy handicraft stuff from them without bargaining so they can sustain themselves and hold on to this rich culture.

Let us know your experience of visiting the Jambur village in Gujarat.





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