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The forgotten community, “the Siddis of Uttara Kannada”: How the Portuguese slave trade produced a community of Indians of African descent

Mark Sebastian Pinto


The African presence in the Indian Ocean has been grossly underestimated in terms of numbers and impact. Not just does it involve a displacement of people from the African continent eastwards, towards Asia, but it has had a significant impact on the development of peculiar communities in the Indian Ocean world. The Siddis of Uttara Kannada are one such community. This article recounts the Portuguese Indian Ocean slave trade from the 16th to the 19th centuries to the erstwhile Portuguese territories of Goa, Daman and Diu and the distinct role of the African in this region before slavery was eventually abolished throughout the Portuguese territories. The focus then shifts to how the African slaves who were transported to India, gradually, over three centuries, established themselves in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, where they now form a distinct community. The Siddis, are an example of a fascinating phenomenon; the assimilation and integration of a people, uprooted from Mozambique, into an alien society, while steadfastly clinging on to preserve and assert their distinct identity, which sets them apart from the rest of the inhabitants of the region.


Slave-Trade, African, Portuguese, Siddi, Indian

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