The Siddi are an ethnic group inhabiting India and Pakistan and are descended from Bantu (African) peoples from Southeast Africa brought to the Indian subcontinent as slaves by Portuguese merchants. The Siddi community is currently around 55,000, with Karnataka, Gujarat and Hyderabad in India and Makran and Karachi in Pakistan as the main population centres.|
The last power base for the Siddis was Murud- Janjira, a fort on an island just off the coastal village of Murud, India 165 km from Mumbai. It was occupied by the Siddis and is famous for being the only fort along India's Western coast that remained undefeated despite Dutch, Maratha and English attacks.
The word Janjira comes from the Arabic word Jazeera, meaning island and Murud, once used in Marathi for Abyssinian. Janjira is considered one of the strongest marine forts in India. The fort has 19 bastions, still intact. In its heyday it had all the necessary facilities, e.g., palaces, quarters, mosque, etc. The palace of the Nawabs of Janjira at Murud is still in good shape.
Originally the fort was a small wooden structure built by a Koli chief in the late 15th century. It was captured by Pir Khan, a general of Nizamshah of Ahmednagar. Later, the fort was strengthened by Malik Ambar, the African- origin Siddi regent of the Ahmednagar kings. From then onward, Siddis became independent, owing allegiance to Adilshah and the Mughals. Despite repeated attempts, the Portuguese, British and Marathas failed to subdue the power of the Siddi's.
Major historical figures from Murud-Janjira include Yahya Saleh and Sidi Yaqub.
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