Migrations have taken place throughout human history, beginning with the movements of the primitive human groups from their origins in East Africa to their current locations within the world. One of the most astonishing examples of immigrants from Africa who settled in another part of the globe is the community of Siddis who migrated to the Indian Subcontinent from the African continent.

The Siddis, also known as the Sheddi, Sidi, or Habshi are an ethnic group inhabiting India and some parts of Pakistan. They are primarily descendants from the Bantu peoples of the Zanj coast in Southeast Africa and Ethiopia, most whom arrived to the Indian subcontinent through the Arab Slave Trade. Others arrived as merchants, sailors, indentured servants, and mercenaries.
Siddis, Indians of African descent
The Siddi population is currently estimated at around 850,000 individuals, with Karnataka, Gujarat and Hyderabad in India and Makran and Karachi in Pakistan serving as the main population centers. They are primarily Muslims, although some are Hindus and others belong to the Catholic Church.

The first Siddis are thought to have arrived in India in 628 AD at the Bharuch port. Several others followed with the first Arab Islamic conquest of the subcontinent in 712 AD. Later the Siddi population grew as slaves brought by the Portuguese and the British. Most of them became Muslim and a small minority became Hindu.

The Siddis self-identify as Indians – they speak local languages, wear native clothing and follow the same local customs and traditions – but because of their physical appearance, they are widely regarded as ‘outsiders’ and live together in small communities in rural areas and wastelands.

It was when slavery was abolished in the 18th and 19th centuries that the Siddi people, for fear of recapture, had to flee into the dense jungle areas and isolated parts of India where they are still found to be living to this day in small settlements
Kamala Mingel, a renowned athlete of the Siddi tribe
At first glance, Siddis stand out because of their physical appearance. Despite having lived in India for centuries, the Siddi people have managed to retain their typically African features because they marry within their communities. It’s quite rare for Siddis to marry a person from outside of their community. They dress in the same way as other locals and they speak local languages fluently. Men typically work as drivers or security guards while women stay in the home (typical labor patterns in India) and their staple diets consist largely of rice, dal and pickles.
Siddi community members
The Siddi people were largely living unnoticed until the 1980s when they caught national attention for their perceived athletic ability. Because of their African lineage, the Sports Authority

of India decided that their natural athleticism could be used to win medals for India at world sports competitions. A number of Siddi children were selected to be coached as athletes once the Special Area Games Project was set up. The program did plenty for both the Siddi people and the country. It brought public acceptance to Siddis and enabled them to gain jobs while India won medals. A well-known Siddi member, Kamala Mingel Siddi, is still regarded as one of the best national and international Siddi athletes.