African Cavalry Guards: Hyderabadis of Afro-Arab Descent

in Module
Published on: 28 February 2020

Anisha Padma

Anisha Padma is a researcher based in Hyderabad. In her Master’s thesis, she explored the history of a Hyderabadi community of Afro-Arabian descent whose ancestors were the ceremonial guards of the sixth and seventh Nizams of the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad. She has also been working on compiling an archive of the oral histories and photography of the pasts and presents of the Siddi community in Hyderabad.

Siddis and Habshis are Indians of African descent who primarily reside in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telangana and Karnataka. They have historically performed various roles in the subcontinent, working as traders, sailors, military tacticians, domestic slaves, dock workers and conscripted guards. Despite the diverse African presence in South Asia, Siddis are commonly believed to be the descendants of slaves from the Indian Ocean trade. This module intends to question the notion of a single Siddi community by focusing on African presence in India between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries.

The module explores in detail—through a range of photos, videos, and oral histories—the lived experiences and practices of the the African Cavalry Guards of Hyderabad, a community of Afro-Arab descent that traces their ancestry to the ceremonial guards of the sixth and seventh Nizams of Hyderabad.