Thursday, March 31, 2011

Critical Life of siddis (Indian Africans ) In Karnataka, India.

            Kamala Siddi, an international athlete from Manchikeri performed excellently well won one gold, two silver in Asian games and one bonze in Olympics, presently work in Railways, Phillip from Haliyal won gold medal in 45 KM marathon run in national level athletic meet, Mary Siddi from Jathaga Hosur won 8 gold medals in national games, David Ghadi won gold medal in Judo at national level competition, Suresh Siddi from Hunisotikoppa in swimming, Mala Siddi from D Kallalli in running, Kamrekar from Gardovalli in boxing, Agnel from Wada in Judo also won Ekalvya Award, Juje Siddi from Hosur in foot ball and Luis Siddi from the same village in long & high jump, Roopa Nagesh Siddi from D Kallahalli in weight lifting, Francis Siddi from Thottilagundi in marathon run like this many more gave excellent performances in sports & brought very big name & fame to Karavali, Karnataka & the country. The Siddi Community is considered as Treasury of sports potentials then.   
But now Siddi names are not being heard in sports why? Is a big question
About Siddi community
      The siddi are tribes, the community scattered across the country but concentrated mainly in Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharastra, Andhra Pradesh and very few families live in other parts of this country. The Uttara Kannad Gazetteer reported (page 189) that many ran away Negro slaves from Goa settled down in Haliyal & Supa (presently known as Joida) Taluks and they are termed as Siddis.
        “Siddis are Decedents of African Negros, who were brought to India mainly by Arabs, the Portuguese and the Dutch. They are chiefly found in the forest areas of Ankola, Mundgod, Haliyal and Yallapur taluks. They live in small clusters constituting settlement of a villages or an independent settlement. Their occupation is agriculture, they are also engaged in harvesting honey and hunting some of them are forest laborers, they are superior wrestlers. They worship Nysa halli devaru, Atchakanyeyaru, hanumantha, basavanna, dyamavva, yellamma, Siddarameswara. They worship their agricultural implements; they are the followers of swarnavalli muth of Sonda. Havyaka Brahmins are invited to officiate as priests in their religious ceremonies. They speak marati, mixture of marati, Konkani and kannada. Widow marriages are prevalent among them, divorce is permitted. They bury the dead and recently some cremate. Siddi Muslims are Sunnis and form a separate section among Muslims, they reincarnate of Babaghor said to be disciple of Prophet Mohammad, they are not allowed to have marital relationship with local Muslims, they also speak Urdu among them, mulla is the head of the settlement above the mulla is a Khazi who is the local.
      Siddi Christians are Catholics they do not have intimate relationship with local Christians. They worship hiriyaru (elders) they speak Konkani & Kannada.”  This in general speaks about them.
      There is no authentic official source of information regarding their population and their socio-economic condition, quality of life and the problems being faced. However, The Siddis are found in Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharastra, Andhra Pradesesh, Goa and Tamil Nadu. It is estimated that the total population of is about 1.5 lakh in the country, in Karnataka around 35000.
      In Karnataka, the Siddis are found in Uttara Kannada, Dharwad and Belgaum districts, scattered in villages and interior forests, inaccessible to each other even occasionally.
      The Siddis biologically distinct community belong African Negro clan with strong physic & stamina, curly hair with black complexions, well known for honest, hard working, tolerant, ability thrive with any adverse condition with nature loving & friendly character.
      Siddis have their own unique tribal cultural characteristics, profess & practice different religions such as Hindu, Islam and Christianity. Though, divided into different religions a few cultural practices & ritual such as remembering elders (hireru / hiriyaru) once a year. Men wear lungis / dhotis, shirts and women wear sari and blouse. Though the rituals followed according to the respective religion celebrated in the presence of their respective religious leaders, after that they celebrate according to their traditional customs, & their marriage rituals & customs are almost common. Irrespective of their respective religion all most all siddis are devotees of Yallamma openly or perform pooja at home. All three groups speak different languages such as Konkani, Urdu, Marati mix, however both men & women speak two languages. Damam, Duf, Gumte rhythmic musical instruments are being used by all siddis, both men & women together perform dance for all instruments. All three belong to Siddi clan and clan affinity quite strong yet there is no single ritual that brings all three groups together is seen as big gap which prevent them to come together as a community, seek mutual help, assistance & solidarity. They live & lead more individualistic life itself has become weakness & left them vulnerable. Even, their respective religious groups have not made any significant contribution to address the issues of siddis.
      A few sensible leaders and youth within the Siddi community observed that many NGOs, sometime Christian groups / missionaries and Hinduthva groups have taken advantage of this weakness organized them to meet according to their whims & fancies. In fact a few Siddi leaders have been associated for a long time with Vanavasi Kalyana Samsthe, a branch of RSS, none of these have made effort to bring all three groups together, if fact there were several NGOs prepared projects for the development of Siddis according to their needs, which did not help Siddis much. Siddis are now conscious and careful of such organizations, slowly organizing themselves to bring all Siddis culturally together to establish independent identity.    
      Siddis are socially most backward community mostly settled in villages, they are being treated on par with dalits but there is no practice of untouchability, however, the upper castes and a few backward communities at the individual house level observe similar practice. They are also being invited to functions & ceremonies such as marriage, etc, food will be served separately and they will be made to clean vessels & floor after serving the food. The majority of siddis are illiterates, though the trend of sending their children to schools increased, the rate of school dropout on the increase, as usual girls are not encouraged to pursue education after reaching puberty in all three religion, the most restricted among them are Muslims girls. Wide spread ragging because of their distinct physical feature often one of the reasons for discontinuation of their education. Practice of child marriage at the age of 14-15 years of age is prevalent & common; this is one of the reasons for girls discontinuing their education. Widow remarriage permitted and divorce is allowed. Almost 90% of the men & 25% women are alcoholic, resulted in spending large portion of their income on this leading to ill health, poverty, violence on women, neglecting children; borrow money on exorbitant rate of interest, etc, found in common. The illiteracy, school dropout rate, child marriages, child abuse, neglecting girl child education, teasing Siddi children in schools and social discrimination on the basis of race still continued. It is in this context the educated youth within Siddi community realized and began planning for intervention to address their issues.
      The continuous efforts & persuasion of Siddi Sangha, the Government of Karnataka, recognized their tribal characteristics and social economic backwardness, accorded Scheduled Tribe status which facilitates them to access to certain extra benefits. This is a significant development
      The economic condition of Siddi found different & distinct, they live in forest and non forest areas, majority to the extent of 75% of landless families engaged in different occupations for livelihood such as both male & female engaged in collecting minor forest products (honey, dalchinni, lavanga, tamarind, pepper, soft gum, etc), traditional occupations such as basket weaving, preparing bamboo chairs, cots, etc, all these items collected / prepared with hard labour being sold to local merchants for very less price because of absence of market facilities. The next alternative work is daily wages, agriculture work, construction work, fishing all these are seasonal in nature and not sustainable, income from all these are not enough to meet the day today needs, leading to borrow loan with exorbitant interest from a local money lenders. They work for low wages, different wages for men (Rs.50) & women (Rs.35), large sections work as coolies, few are bonded labourers, child labour also prevalent. A very few other occupations pursued by men are tractor, car, truck driving, work in boats, the women in domestic work, etc. It is because of seasonal employment, other reasons including low wages few families migrate to other nearer cities in Goa, Maharastra & Udupi, Mangalore sometimes Bangalore, etc, such migrants mostly work in building construction, forms, mutton stalls and women work as domestic servants, garment assistants, etc. They earn little more in cities, men earn Rs. 150 to 175 per day and the women earn Rs. 80 to Rs. 100. With this money, when they come back home repay the loan with interest. The helplessness of siddis have been encashed as bonded labour, payment of low coolie, extracting long hours of work, even their children were made to to work in their house or fields. They have been exploited by purchasing their minor forest products at lowest rate by middlemen & sell the same for higher rates. The fruit of their hard work is being enjoyed by others. 
Mohan siddi


  1. Mr. Mohan,
    Good evening Sir. My name is Shalini Rao, and I am a student of Architecture from Bangalore. I have been following up on the Siddi Culture for the past few weeks now, and have also seen the featured music video on the Siddi Community by MTV. I am currently doing some research regarding the lifestyle of the Siddis for my Thesis project, and would love to get more information from your end. Also, is there a Siddi Jana Vikas Sangha center here in Bangalore for me to go talk to? Please let me know, as your information or help of any sort will be very helpful to me!
    You can email me on Thank you Sir!

  2. Hello Sir,
    I am a student of film and videos communication, National Institute of design. I am in my diploma semester and thinking of doing a documentary on Siddis of Karnataka. Will be visiting Uttara Kannada in July or August. I am still doing my research would rally appreciate help from your side. You can mail me on
    Thank you sir!!!

  3. Hello sir
    Am a Kenyan, volunteering at Africa House,Auroville International city, located in Pondicherry. Africa House is an additive to several pavillions here in Auroville. We would like to create a network that dates back to the roots. This is in the sense the Africa House concepts is based upon better living, parmaculture sustainable farming and many more Activities which enhances livelihood.

    you can check us on

    also contact us

    Contact Us

    We can be contacted Africa house on facebook,
    Africa House,
    Unity Pavilion, International Zone
    Auroville 605101, Tamil Nadu, India

    Or contact me directly via

    Thank you in Advance