The Sidi community has settled in Bhuj right from the time the city was established. They had claimed important place in the royal court for their honesty and loyalty. The Sidis have merged with local community to such an extent that their history has become an integral part of the later, and, though knowingly or unknowingly, the community has become the victim of negligence with time, documentation of history of Kutch is incomplete without mention of their sacrifices. The history of the Sidis who had won the trust of Maharao (the ruler of Kutch) is indeed very interesting.
The Sidis originally hail from South Africa. They have not migrated to Kutch on their own but were shipped to Kutch by Maharao considering their tall, strong and well-built physique and their loyal disposition apt to be employed in the defense service of the State Initially they settled down in Port of Jakhau, Vinzan (Abdasa)and Vagad. They came to Bhuj from different areas of Kutch and accordingly they were identified and called by the names of the areas they migrated from, like, Chobariwala, Fojdar, Makranawala, Vagadwala and so on. Those of them who were proficient, were employed in the State services and others joined the army and some others who could not adapt to the climate of Kutch, settled in different parts of Saurashtra , like Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Junagarh and Surendranagar.
Their Means of Livelihood | Occupation:
They protected and guarded the process of construction of Bhuj township. For their great regard for the values of truthfulness, respectfulness and trustworthiness, they were appointed even to the strategic posts of army-commander and treasurer of the State. According to an information, on the death of the treasurer who shouldered all the responsibilities of the entire State treasury, the family behind, wasn’t lefteven with enough food for their survival. The community with such high morals feels sorry for the history not having taken any note of both their loyal services to the old State and their participation in the 1971 Indo-Pak War.
About 150 Sidi families were living in the SejwalaMatam locality of Bhuj before the 2001 earthquake, with great harmony and fraternity amongst themselves. The unity was such that at any time – be it day or night – if the Mutvasaheb (a religious leader in Muslim community) blew the ’Naafir’ (a kind of conch) from the Dargaah (the shrine) of the Hazrat Mubaraq Bawa Gor, members from each family would come out to gather at the shrine. The community had also developed intimacy with Arabs, Muslims and Pathans of this area. They also admit that the standard of their girls’ education in particular, and,the standard of the education of the community in general, hasgone up owing to their contacts and interaction with the Hindu community. One of their girls has even bagged a gold medal in Karnataka University. All the same, their youth is still wandering in search of good job and occupational opportunities they are deprived of. Even in public sectors, there are few Sidis to have secured good jobs on the basis of their own merit and skill.
The Sidis of Bhujand those of Saurashtra have matrimonial relations among themselves and they eat at each other’s place. In other words, there is mutual social interaction among them. There is much similarity in their social customs and conventions.The entire community gathers in the fair organized at the site of the Samadhi (shrine) of Bawa in Ratanpur near Bharuch district in the month of June – July.
Their life-style and entire social order being so similar, isn’t it surprising that the Saurashtra Sidi community is identified as a socially backward class and is availed of all the government benefits such class is entitled for, whereas the Kutch Sidi community is identified only as an educationally backward class thus keeping it deprived of all those privileges.
As the after–effects of the 2001 earthquake and owing to the growth in their population, the Sidis gradually have come to settle in other parts of Bhuj .Today, Kutchi has become the language of their dialect. But, their mother -tongue is Swali – a language that can neither be learnt nor taught; it can only be inherited. But when they are in their religious or spiritual fits, they speak only Swali! Even today, they sing more than 60 JIKROs in Swali which are sung in chorus and everybody, young or old, participates in the singing enhancing the charm of the chorus.
Whenever we speak of Sidi music, it immediately reminds us of Sidi-Dhamaal. We all have seen Sidi-Dhamaal in Ranotsav (Festival of the Desert ), Kutch-Utsav (Kutch Festival) etc. The history of Sidi-Dhamaal is equally interesting. Sidis perform Dhamaal on stage, in family functions and at the Dargaah, the shrine. Unlike any other common group performances, Dhamaal cannot be performed just like that, that is, just by gathering and starting dancing. It is to be performed ritually. Everybody is invoked ritually to play. Dhamaal is to be played bare-footed. If anybody plays Dhamaal with shoes on, the dance does not gain its tempo and zenith. Then the person has to take off his shoes and ask Bawa’s forgiveness . Then only the Dhamaal gains its real zest, real gusto. The musical instrument used to build up the tempo of Dhamaal is called ‘Sahelani’. It is a ‘Mugarnuma’ - a four-footed drum which is to be heated for producing original Dhamaal-beats that boosts the religious fits of the performers. To add to the zest a rattle-like instrument called ‘Maimishra’ and ‘SidiMalunga’ (an instrument producing sound like ‘Mast Kalandar’) and a drum called ‘Musinga’ also join the orchestra to boost up the tempo. The beat of the Musinga is heart-beat raising.
Besides the shrine of Bawa Gori, there are two more shrines of Sidis in Bhuj and not only the Sidis, but Hindus too bow and pay salute at the Dargah (the shrine) and that the Mahajans (Hindu s) had borne the 80% of the expense of the post-earthquake renovation – expense of the Sidi Jamat Khana (a building for the use of the community) illustrates the faith of the Hindus in Bawa Gori. Even to-date, some Pakhali (a Hindu sect) families come to bow to this Dargah at the start of any auspicious work or occasion. They also pay Niyaz (Nyaz) and make Mannat (religious vows made for fulfilment of wishes).
But lack of good education, lack of proper platform for their traditional arts and lack of financial plans for exposure hinder the path of progress and growth of the community. With spread of education, the middle class of the community has realized the need of good education to both boys and girls even if they have to starve for one time i. e. to keep ‘Roja’ for one time daily. They have been demanding for their inclusion in socially backward category to avail the community the benefits of the government schemes they have been kept deprived of till date, for the uplifting and inclusion of the community in main stream of the society. The issue has been put up and appeals have been made to Gujarat Government to grant them their privileges to enable them to lead a respectable life and to maintain and sustain the dignity of the community.
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