Sunday, 27 July 2008

Sidi URS..African Indian Community in Mumbai

For some in Mumbai, the last weekend of July will be a time to party. There will be dancing in the streets, mutton biryani and, if the celebrations of the preceding years are anything to go by, frenzied, trance-like revelry that will start at 11pm and won’t stop until dawn. The Sidis’ drumming patterns and dances that accompany the music resemble African forms

It’s an exclusive affair; you can watch but not participate. The annual Sidi Urs is open only to Sidis, a tiny community whose ancestors came to India as traders, slaves and mercenaries from across Africa starting from at least the thirteenth century. Now clustered in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, roughly 500 of them reside in Mumbai.

The Gori Pir dargah in Sidi Mohalla is an unimposing shrine in the Muslim suburb of Dongri. But this decrepit Sufi shrine, with its curious antique musical instruments, is a very special place: it is where the Sidis, the city’s little-known community of African-Indians, worship.

Despite the hardships they face, the Sidis are a proud, adaptable people who have a huge capacity for happiness



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