Brief Details of Siddi


The Siddi community is also known by different synonyms such as Habshi and Badsha. It is believed that they are of African origin. There are some controversies regarding their actual time of arrival to India. According to Census (1931), the Siddis appear to have been brought to India by the Portuguese towards the end of 17th century, presumably as slaves; while Russel and Hira Lal (1916) state that they have come to India in the middle of 15th century. The history of their migration is recalled in oral tradition as well as from the historical accounts. At present the Siddis are living in the western coast of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka states. Their main concentration is in Junagadh district of Rajkot division. They are a scheduled tribe. According to 1981 census, the population of Siddi tribe was 54291. But Siddi who are designated as scheduled tribe are 8662 out of which 4417 are male and 4245 female according to census 2001. The Siddi speak Gujarati language within their kin circle as well as with the outsiders. Gujarati script is used. The people living in urban areas can speak Hindustani (a mixture of Hindi and Urdu) also. The dress of the Siddi is a combination of traditional Hindu and Muslim dress. The males wear patloon (trousers), khamij (shirt) and safo (turban). But now-a-days, they mostly use pant and shirt. The females use saree or a ghagro (broad petticoat) and choli (blouse). Girls of the young generation now wear broad paijama and frock. Silver and glass bangles are also used by the women. The Siddi clearly show the Negroid racial strain, in their physical features.

The Siddis are non-vegetarian. They eat buffalo meat, eggs, fish, fowls and goat meat. Bajri (spiked millet) and rice constitute their staple food. They consume all varieties of pulses like gram, Lur (pigeon pea), masur (lentils) etc. Groundnut oil is used as cooking medium. They also consume roots and tubers which they gather from the forest. They use all kinds of vegetables and fruits which are locally available to them. Consumption of milk and milk products is quite low among them. Lately, there has been an increase in the use of pulses and vegetables because of the soaring prices of non-vegetarian items. They abstain from eating beef. Their clans are known as Morewana, Parmar. Mori, Bagia, Sirwan, Valia, Mosangra, Chovert, Darjada, Rayeka, Nobi etc. The sakhas are exogamous in nature. They settle matrimonial relations on the basis of these sakhas.

The Siddis are an endogamous group. The exogamous sakhas govern their matrimonial alliances. Cross-cousin marriages are given preference .but parallel-cousin marriages are prohibited. Monogamy is the norm. Both debartarni (levirate) and ghorghona (sorrorate) marriage are allowed and practiced. Pre-puberty marriage was an earlier practice. But now-a-days, Siddi girls are married after attaining puberty. At present the age at marriage varies from eighteen to twenty years for girls, while for boys it is between twenty to twenty five years. Mates are acquired by negotiations of parents. Bride-price exists in their society, the amount of which has been fixed by the jamat (traditional council). Mehar (promised money or article) fixed by the jamat is instantly paid to the bride. The value of the bride price is equivalent to five tolas of silver. Rule of residence after marriage is patrilocal. Divorce is permissible on grounds like adultery, mal-adjustment and cruelty. No compensation is to be given to wife in case of divorce. Only a husband can divorce his wife and in such cases the children become the liability of the father. Remarriage of widow, widower, male divorcee and female divorcee is permissible.

Majority of families among the Siddis have nuclear set up; however, extended type of families are also found among them. Joking relationship exists among certain kin categories, like between sister-in-law and brother-in-law, between grandparents and grand children etc. Avoidance relations are also maintained between certain affinal categories. Sons have the right to their ancestral property. A daughter can inherit the property only when there is no male issue. The eldest son succeeds as head of the family after the death of his father. Of late, it has been noticed; that the extended family system is on decline.

The Siddi women treated lower in status than that of their men. They participate in all social, rituals and religious activities along with their males. Women play an active role in agricultural: operations, collection of fuel, drinking water and other economic: activities. Some Women work as char (maid servants) in the houses; of Kunbi and contribute to family income. Women have no role in political spheres and in the mechanism of social control.

A married woman when becomes pregnant for the first time, a pre-delivery ritual of lap filling is, observed during the seventh month of the pregnancy at her husband's house. This is known as kholobharo. The pregnant woman receives new clothes, coconut etc. from her parents and the ceremony ends with a dinner to family members and close kins. They do not-observe any pollution after birth. Only the new mother does not visit the mosque for certain days. They observe chhatti ceremony on the sixth day after birth. Phuphi (father's sister) names the child. A male person whispers quran (prayer call) into the ears of the new born. Munddan ceremony is observed only in case of male children. A goat is sacrificed on that day and the relatives are entertained to a-feast. Circumcision of male children is performed when the child is above six months and within twelve years. Aqiqa ceremony is also performed by the Siddis.

Marriage is preceded by mangni (betrothal ceremony). Three to four days before marriage, pithi ceremony is observed in which both the bride and. the groom are anointed with paste of turmeric powder and ground nut oil. The women folk sing marriage songs on this occasion. A day before marriage the bride-groom moves around the village sitting on a horse back, called -tuleka. On the day of marriage, mandavo (marriage booth) is erected-in fronts of the bride's house. Kaji (religious priest) conducts the nikah as per Islamic tradition. The female members sing marriage -songs and perform rasda (a folk dance) till late night. On the next day the whole party is hosted to a. marriage feast. In the afternoon the marriage party returns to their house. Before they leave, the bride receives mameru (the gifts from maternal uncle). Consummation', of marriage takes place on the third day after marriage. The marriage rituals are being curtailed to reduce marriage expenditure on account of their poverty. Ceremonial feasts are only offered to the close relatives instead of all the villagers.

The Siddi bury their dead. Food is not prepared in the house, of the deceased till the day of ziarat on the- third day. All the relatives and friends attend this ceremony and are treated with a feast. They also observe dasma, bisma, trisma and chelem on tenth, twentieth, thirtieth and fortieth days respectively. Previously the, Siddis depended on hunting and. gathering but at present their main source of livelihood is (agricultural: labour and agriculture. Very few Siddis are land-owning agriculturists. Those who live in cities and towns are engaged in various occupations such as driving vehicles and motor repair work. Some Siddis are engaged in government services. The mode of transaction is in cash and kind both. Child labour does exist in the society. The number of casual laborers is increasing day-by-day due to landlessness and lack of other economic resources. They sell their cash crops like sugarcane, groundnut, cotton, bajjri (millet) etc. to the local seth (traders).

Traditional caste council called jamat exists which settles disputes among the people. But this traditional council is gradually losing its influence due to the Panchayat Raj system. The head of the jamat is called Patel, who is elected by a voice-vote; Jamat also looks after the religious and social affairs of the community. Jamat appoints a Kotawal (paid servant) whose main job is to circulate the news around the village in case of any meeting or gathering. The form of punishment is ex-communication and cash fine in case of breach of norms and taboos. The Siddis consider adultery, rape, elopement and theft as criminal offences. Fairs and festivals are also regulated by their jamat.

The Siddis belong to the Sunni sect of Islam. They do not have any family deity or village deities. During the time of crisis they visit dargha (tomb of pir). In Jambur village, there are a number of darghas of different pirs of which four are very important for them viz. Nagarshi pir dargha, BabaghorKi dargha, Dasal bapu ki dargha and Mai-Parsa Ki dargha at Jamlur village of Junagadh district. Each and every sakh of the Siddis are affiliated to one or the other pir. They observe Id, Ramjan and Moharram. Some of the Siddis offer Namaj every day. They also believe in supernatural powers: They have Bhua (a spirit possessed man) who has the power to cure various ailments of the people.

The Siddi have folk tales and folk songs about their origin and migration. These folk songs are sung at the time of 'Dhamal dance (traditional folk dance) which is extremely popular in Saurashtra. Both males and females participate in rasda dance but the dhamal dance is performed exclusively by men only. They also use percussion musical instruments. The Siddis accept both cooked and un-cooked food from any; Hindu or Muslim except from the lower communities. They maintain linkages with regards to economic matters with the Kunbis, Lohanas, Memon etc. Several of them work as labourers. Amongst the Siddis, there are some teachers, doctors and members in defense services.

The attitude of the Siddis towards formal education is favorable for boys but it is not favorable for girls. Boys study up to secondary level and the girls up to primary level. Boys, drop-out from studies due to economic reasons. In case of girls, it is due to both social as well as economic reasons. They avail of both modern and traditional Medicare facilities. The attitude towards family planning programme is favorable. They prefer to have at least three children. Some of the Siddis have been benefited from the rural development program for the development of agriculture. Firewood, cow dung cakes are their main fuel resources. Their attitude towards saving has been found to be favorable but a large section is still dependent on money lenders.

Siddi Life
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