The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World traces a truly unique and fascinating story of struggles and achievements across a variety of societies, cultures, religions, languages and times:
The history of India’s Africans, called Siddis, is the best known in the region—largely because of the documentation on those who rose to high positions as military commanders.
African ivory was the most sought-after commodity among Indian merchants; ivory was carried from the inland to the East African coast, where it was sold, loaded onto dhows, and transported to the ports of southern Arabia. From there they would continue across the Arabian Sea, stopping along the Makran coast, before continuing on to western India. Given India’s large population, its indigenous slaves, and a caste system among Hindus in which most labor-intensive tasks were traditionally performed by specific groups, African males were employed in very specialized jobs, almost always having to do with some aspect of security—as soldiers, palace guards, or personal bodyguards. They were generally deemed more trustworthy than indigenous people to serve in those capacities, but in a number of cases Africans rebelled against their Muslim or Hindu rulers. During the 15th and 16th centuries, African slave-soldiers seized power in the Bengal sultanate, parts of the Deccan, and the sultanate of Gujarat. However, several centuries before these rebellions, an Abyssinian attained high rank in alliance with the female ruler of Delhi.
In 1236 an Abyssinian named Jalal-ud-din Yakut served in the important imperial post of master of the royal stable, an honor conferred by the Delhi sultana Raziya. In India, where Africans were known for their equestrian skills and their ability to tame wild horses, they served in the cavalry, unlike in the Middle East, where they were limited to service in the infantry. More: