Learning from the Siddis

Camping with friends brings some unforgettable memories. One such moment was my trip to Hubli in Karnataka. After half a day's journey from Hubli to Yellapur, we reached the forest where the Siddi people lived. After the drive through bumpy tar roads, mud roads welcomed us. On the outskirts of the forest, we could see people cutting trees and loading them in lorries. The journey through the deciduous forest was spooky; we could hear only the sounds of birds, monkeys and the rustling of trees.

Close to Nature

Ramanadhan, a missionary, took us to the place where the Siddis resided. The Siddis are said to have come to India from Africa. The Portuguese brought them here as slaves. History is not clear about whether they were left behind or had run away from their masters. They settled in the forest areas near Goa, Gujarat and Maharashtra. In Karnataka, they live in the forests of Yellapur, Dhandeli, and Karwar districts. They depend on natural resources for their basic needs. Their houses are built of bamboo and animal dung . They use vegetables to wash their clothes instead of detergents. It was amazing to see people depend on nature for many things, so far from modernity and technology.

Susheela, a Siddi woman, told us about their favourite food- red ant chutney, semiya appalam and a recipe with jackfruit. Women enjoy much freedom; they have the right to act according to their decisions. The bridegrooms have to pay money (bride price) to get married.

The Siddis were recognised as a Scheduled Tribe by the government in 2002. “Our forefathers were hunters. Nowadays we work as drivers, masons and farmers. We work for others but we do not own anything,” said Morris. It was a memorable and informative trip for all of us.

Christa. J, B.A. English, WCC

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 9:20:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nxg/learning-from-the-siddis/article2028770.ece

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