Indians Trading in the Indian Ocean Regions

In most European’s minds the Indians simply did not matter. When writing of East African history in general, the role of Indians is ignored or slighted. It is the British that get the credit for ‘pluck and determination’ building the Railways even when it is admitted that Indians suffered untold horrors.

 

 Even classifying the architectural styles in Mombasa’s Old Town, the authors of the “Conservation Plan for Old Town” deliberately called the Indian Buildings ‘Traditional Mombasa houses”. The assumption was that every Indian was a ‘coolie’ unless you were of a Goan back ground (mostly educated clerks).

 

Most if not all prime geographical areas were also chosen for themselves and area controlled by the British Europeans for the Europeans. The lack of information about Indians is due not only to the non-Indians’ disinterest (and often hostility). It is due also to the Indians’ own lack of Interest in writing about themselves.

 

There are good reasons for this. Whereas most of the Europeans who came to Kenya came primarily to have a more adventuresome life (albeit often with extremely hard work) in a lovely land, the great majority of Indians came out of desperation, to try make a living. And whereas the European who settled  or worked in Kenya  came from a culture and class where writing a diary and publishing a book reminiscences were taken for granted, many Indians who came to Kenya were illiterate and those who were literate were not from a journal-writing culture. They recounted their adventure as oral history.

 

 The presence of Indians in East Africa is well documented in the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea or Guidebook of Red Sea by an ancient Greek author written in 60 AD. The ancient Indian work the Puranas also mention the East African coast as well interior of Kenya as far as Lake Victoria, which was known as ’ Nil (Nile?) Sarover,’ Lake Nil, and knew the source the of ‘Nil’ Nile.

The Indian sea merchants from the Gulf of Kutch and further south on the west coast of India sailed their seagoing dhows, large wooden ships with a huge lateen sails, aided by the alternating monsoon winds. The North East monsoon winds brought these merchant sailors across the Indian Ocean to the African east coast from December to March. After trading and bartering, they returned using the reversed South West winds from June to September.

They sailed regularly to the Zenj Coast where they traded in cloth, metal implements, iron nails, copper wire, glassware, wheat, rice, sesame oil, raw sugar, and salt.  
  

 

Early contacts between Indians and East Africa go back at least 2000 years. And when Vasco Da Gama arrived in Mozambique, Mombasa and Lindi in 1497, he was surprised at the number of Arabs and Indians he found there. Obviously, Da Gama went to East Africa to find the sea-route to India, but many of today’s businessmen are happy to inform you that it was not Da Gama who discovered that route himself, but he was guided by the Indian Navigator Kanji Malam, who showed him the way to the South Indian Coast.

“ you want to know who was the first member of our family to be in Africa and when? Well, his name is Mohammed, he was known as “Kanji Maalim”. That name means’ master of the tille’, because in the language of Gujarat, which is where we Badalas are from, the word for tiller or ruder , is ‘sukhan’. He was the pilot who showed Vasco Da Gama the way from Malindi to India.

Most present day Indian families in East Africa have at least some memories of their (grand) parents’ migration and settlement histories. By far the most frequently heard one-liner were, ‘we came in Dhows’  and most came as young boys with little or no money seeking employment in one of the shop of family members or other community members. And then, after a while, that they started their own shops making long hours and working very very hard.

These above citations are from both well-known writers in Mr. Gijsbert Oonk and Ms. Cynthia Salvadori who both separately carried out their own researches about the Asians in East Africa. 

Monsoon Winds In The Indian Ocean

Asians In East Africa - A Brief History

 

The easternmost region of Africa consists of countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. This region also consists of some well-known lakes and mountains: the fresh water Lake Victoria, Lakes Albert and Tanganyika, and Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro  — the two tallest peaks in the region.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/place-london/plain/A32016241

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Click on Photo for History of the Asians in East Africa

 

In the British Empire, the labourers, originally referred to as "coolies", were indentured labourers who lived under conditions often resembling slavery. The system, inaugurated in 1834 in Mauritius, involved the use of licensed agents after slavery had been abolished in the British Empire. The agents imported indentured labour to replace the slaves. The labourers were however only slightly better off than the slaves had been. They were supposed to receive either minimal wages or some small form of payout (such as a small parcel of land, or the money for their return passage) upon completion of their indentures. Employers did not have the right to buy or sell indentured labourers as they did slaves.

 

Of the original 32,000 contracted laborers, after the end of indentured service about 6,700 stayed on to work as dukawallas,[Note 1] artisans, traders, clerks, and, finally, lower-level administrators. Colonial personnel practices excluded them from the middle and senior ranks of the colonial government and from farming; instead they became a commercial middleman and professionals, including doctors and lawyers.

 

It was the dukawalla, not European settlers, who first moved into new colonial areas. Even before the dukawallas, Indian traders had followed the Arab trading routes inland on the coast of modern-day Kenya and Tanzania. Indians had a virtual lock on Zanzibar's lucrative trade in the 19th century, working as the Sultan's exclusive agents.

 

Between the building of the railways and the end of World War II, the number of Indians in East Africa swelled to 320,000. By the 1940s, some colonial areas had already passed laws restricting the flow of immigrants, as did white-ruled Rhodesia in 1924. But by then, the Indians had firmly established control of commercial trade — some 80 to 90 percent in Kenya and Uganda was in the hands of Indians — plus some industrial activities. In 1948, all but 12 of Uganda's 195 cotton ginneries were Indian run.

 

Many Parsis settled on Zanzibar to work as merchants and civil servants for the colonial government. They formed one of the largest Parsi communities outside of India, a community that survived until the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964. Indians in Zanzibar founded the one locally-owned bank in all of East Africa, Jetha Lila, which closed after the Revolution when its customer base left.

Sir Tharia Thopan (1823-1891)

 

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Sir Tharia Thopan (1823-1891)

 

About Tharia Thopan, the European Explorer H.M. Stanley writes in his book, ‘How I found Livingstone,’ that, ‘one of the most honest men among all individuals, white or black, red or yellow, is a Mohammetan Hindi called Tharia Topan(…) he had become a proverb for honesty and strict business integrity. He is enormously wealthy, owns several ships and dhows, and is a prominent man in the councils of Seyyid Burgash.


Maharao Khengar I (1510-1585), the ruler of Kutchh is credited to have flourished Mandavi in Kutchh with a port during 16th century. The Bhatia caste of Hindus in Thatta, Sind was a famous merchant class. For promoting trade in Kutchh, Maharao Khengar I invited a certain Bhatia Seth Topan in Bhuj and sought his advice. With the suggestions of Seth Topan, the city of Mandavi with a port was built with massive sum. Seth Topan employed expert carpenters of Sind to build ships.

 

He imported wood fromMalbar and formed the firnances in Bhachao to prepare iron-nails. He was thus responsible to lay foundation of trade and ship building in Kutchh. He also built many temples in Mandavi. In those days, the Ismaili vakil, Sayed Pir Dadu (1474-1596) had come in Kutchh from Sind in 1587 and converted a large number of the Hindus, including Seth Topan in the time of Rao Bharmal I (1585-1631). The descendant of Seth Topan continued the business in Kutchh for about two centuries, but the later generations began to reduce in extreme poverty.

 

Among the greatest Ismaili heroes of East Africa was Varas Sir Tharia Topan, one of the descendants of Seth Topan, who coming from India as a small boy and working for the firm, M/S Jairam Shivji for 6 shillings per month, rose to be known as The King of the Ivory Trade.

 

He was born on Wednesday, September 21, 1823 in Lakhpat, Kutchh and was a son of a small vegetable seller. No facility of the formal educational subsisted in Lakhpat, which made him unlettered. He worked with his father as a helper. When he was 12 years old, he noticed one evening a playmate stealing money from a shop. He caught the boy in the street, recovered money and as he went to the shop to return it, the owner who, without hearing anything, raised a hue and cry himself accused him of the theft. Poor Tharia was severely belabored by the crowd, which had gathered around him. Fearing the worst and not daring to face his parents, he fled and jumped into the sea, got into the nearest vessel he saw, and took refuge amidst the cargo.

 

The fear of the thrashing he received, sent him to sleep and when he woke up he found that the vessel was on high seas and himself a stowaway. Compelled by hunger and thirst he revealed himself to the crew, and the Tandel, who took compassion on him when he related incidents leading to his refuge in the vessel, tended to his needs as there was no chance of being restored to his parents.

 

This vessel landed him in Zanzibar, where an accountant, who was working with the prominent Indian firm of Jairam Shivji of Mundra, Kutchh and knew his father, befriended him and got him the job of a garden sweeper in the house of Ladha Damji, the owner of the firm. It is an admitted fact that most of the Indian Ismailis came in Africa with industry in their blood, business in their brains and immense calibre to labour in their muscles, but with empty pockets. This illustration richly emanated in the personage of Tharia Topan.

 

Cont: Linked on Photo/http://www.ismaili.net/Source/mumtaz/Heroes1/hero099.html

http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/books/66789/print

http://records.ancestry.com/Tharia_Topan_records.ashx?pid=174921271

http://www.dewani.ca/af/communal/zanzibar_khoja_shia/zanzibar_khoja_shia.htm

 

Prominent Indians

THARIA TOPAN, SIR (1823-1891)

Allidina Visram(1851-1916)

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He was born in Kera, Kutch, in 1851, and came to Zanzibar on a dhow in 1863, at the age of 12 years. He proceeded to Bagamoyo to work as an assistant to Sewa Haji Paroo (1851-1897). Soon he branched out on his own and started organizing caravans into the interior. He opened branches of his firm at Dar-es-Salaam, Sadani, Tabora, Ujiji, and Alima and Tindo in the Belgium Congo.In the early years he purchased cloves, wax, and honey in exchange for cloth, salt, grains, etc.
Soon he began to specialise in ivory, which was increasingly a by-product of hunting safaris by early Europeans and Americans. Allidina was given the contract to provide packed foods to the hunters. After the death of Sewa Haji Paroo he took over his caravan trade and took his wagons as far as Uganda, and parts of Congo Free State and Southern Sudan. He was the “King of Ivory” in Africa.
With the ongoing construction of the Uganda Railway he opened many stores along the line of the railway and became the supplier of food to the Indian workers. He also obtained the contract of paying the railway workers their salaries as well as providing funds to the railway authority. He was practically a bank: cheques given to him at the coast could be cashed in the interior for a commission of 3-5 percent.
By 1904 he began to branch into agriculture and within a few years owned seven large plantations, for sugar cane and rubber, with experimental plots of grams, fruits, flowers, tea, and cotton, employing over 3,000 workers on his projects. He opened his first ginnery at Entebbe in 1910 for exporting ginned cotton to India, via dhows and steamer to Kisumu and then by rail to Mombasa. To facilitate the transport he himself owned the sailing crafts on Lake Victoria. At Kisumu he had his transportation hub for the connection to the coast. His telegraphic address said it all:PAGAZI, meaning transporters.
Cont:
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The Three Kings Without Crowns

 

“I Wish I’d Been There”

By Mohib Ebrahim

http://simerg.com/special-series-i-wish-id-been-there/the-three-kings-without-crowns/

Omani Sultans banked on Kutchi moneybags

AHMEDABAD: The sultans of Oman and Zanzibar heavily banked on Kutchi moneybags. Many of them were in debt of banker-merchant from Mundra, Jairam Shivji.

After the death of Jairam Shivji in 1867, the amount of debt which the Sultans owed him stood at 600,000 dollars. A large number of European explorers also depended on the financial assistance of Gujarati banker-merchants like Jairam.

"Jairam, a Kutchi Bhatia, had a consolidated trading and banking network between Mandvi, Mundra, Bombay, Muscat and Zanzibar in the 18th and 19th centuries. After his death, the amount of debt which the Sultans owed him had reached such a magnitude as to lead the British consuls to intervene in the matter . The issue was finally settled with the help of John Kirk, political agent of Zanzibar, when the debt was reduced to 200,000 dollars," writes former Gujarat University professor Shirin Mehta in the book 'Gujarat and the Sea' .

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Omani-Sultans-banked-on-Kutchi-moneybags/articleshow/11249924.cms

 

The Ismaili Imami Shiah Khoja in East Africa
Before the Colonial Period

http://www.ismaili.net/Source/beforecol.html

The Karimjee Jivanjee Family

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Gijsbert Oonk, the author, starts the book (The Karimjee Jivanjee Family: Merchant Princes of East Africa 1800–2000) with an insert of a family tree. This becomes a very necessary tool for readers as we weave through the journey of the prominent Karimjee Jeevanji family on the east coast of Africa. The author is a senior associate professor of non-western history at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He has published various books and numerous articles on the history of the Indian Ocean region.

 

 

A story of South Asians in Africa

 

Review of ‘The Karimjee Jivanjee Family: Merchant Princes of East Africa 1800–2000’

 

Fatma Alloo

 

http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/books/66789/print


Migration Of South Asians In East Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If we look at the Map of the Indian Ocean it is not surprising that there was a lot of trade between West India, the Arab countries and East Africa.

 

Early contacts between Indians and East Africa go back at least 2000 years. And when Vasco Da Gama arrived in Mozambique, Mombasa and Lindi in 1497, he was surprised at the number of Arabs and Indians he found there. Obviously, Da Gama went to East Africa to find the sea-route to India, but many of today’s businessmen are happy to inform you that it was not Da Gama who discovered that route himself, but he was guided by the Indian Navigator Kanji Malam, who showed him the way to the South Indian Coast.

“ you want to know who was the first member of our family to be in Africa and when? Well, his name is Mohammed, he was known as “Kanji Maalim”. That name means’ master of the tille’, because in the language of Gujarat, which is where we Badalas are from, the word for tiller or ruder , is ‘sukhan’. He was the pilot who showed Vasco Da Gama the way from Malindi to India.

 

Arab Navigation in the Indian Ocean before the Portuguese (Royal Asiatic Society Books) by a leading Scholar G.R. Tibbetts. Ibn Majid became famous in the West as the navigator who helped Vasco da Gama find his way from Africa to India, however, the leading scholar on the subject, G.R. Tibbetts, disputes this claim. Ibn Majid was the author of nearly forty works of poetry and prose.

 

Most present day Indian families in East Africa have at least some memories of their (grand) parents’ migration and settlement histories. By far the most frequently heard one-liner were, ‘we came in Dhows’  and most came as young boys with little or no money seeking employment in one of the shop of family members or other community members. And then, after a while, that they started their own shops making long hours and working very very hard.

 

-In 1873, Sir Bartle Frere writes, not without admiration, about Indians in Zanzibar’ Arriving at his future scene of Business with little beyond credentials of his fellow castemen, after perhaps a brief apprenticeship in some older firms, he (the Indian entrepreneur, G.O) start a shop of his own with goods advanced on credit by some large house, and after a few years, when he has made a little money, generally returns home to marry, to make fresh business connections, and then comes back to Africa to start all over again, on a large scale.

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WHY HAVE THE SUNNI PUNJABI MUSLIMS CHOSEN THEUNDESIRABLE PATH OF EXCLUSIVENESS?

https://www.scribd.com/document/307242967/Why-Have-the-Sunni-Punjabi-Muslims-chosen-the-Undesirable-Path-of-Exclusiveness

 

 

 

Mombasa various History:

 

 

http://www.sikh-heritage.co.uk/heritage/sikhhert%20EAfrica/nostalgic-Mombasa.html

 

http://www.sikh-heritage.co.uk/heritage/sikhhert%20EAfrica/nostalgic-other%20cities%20%26%20towns.html

 

 

Asian African Heritage Trust.

 

Welcome and Overview

 

It has been recognized that the presence of peoples from the Indian sub-continent in East Africa goes back well over three thousand years. The presence of peoples from Eastern Africa in India is also of long duration.

Many Asian African families have been settled on the Coast, Lamu, Pate, Malindi, Mombasa, Pemba, Zanzibar, Bagamoyo and Dar-es-Salaam from the 1820s and earlier; but the development of our Asian African minority as we know it today emerges from the 1880s.

 

Copyright 2012 Asian African Heritage Trust. All rights reserved

 

http://www.asianafricanheritage.com/index.htm

 

 

 

Asian Community in East Africa
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