African Rulers in Indian History: Janjira, Maharashtra, India (1622-Present)

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The princely state of Janjira fluttered its red flag with the crescent moon until India won independence in 1947 and merged all the princely states with the union by the following year. The state of Janjira is noted as being among the smallest of the princely States in Menon’s “The Story of Integration of Indian Princely States.” However, compared to its size, the little state of Janjira played a disproportionately large role in history. The people manning the fort came from North Africa (Ethiopia/Somalia) and were followers of Islam. They were known to be the best sea fighters anywhere among the Muslim races and called themselves Siddis (a North African term of respect). While they were called Siddis in India’s west coast, they were known as Habshis in the rest of India.

Janjira was established in 1489. The state Janjira was located in the Konkan of Rangai District of Maharashtra. The area of Janjira was 981.61 Km². The state was ruled by Africans who were of a Sidi dynasty. In 1941, the population of Janjira was 110,388.

Janjira state included the towns of Murud and Shrivardhan, alongside the fortified island of Murud-Janjira. Murud-Janjira was known as the capital and the residence of its rulers.

The ruling family of Janjira is of Abyssinian origin. They came across the Arabian Sea to India and took service with their countrymen under the then Nizam Shahi Kings of Ahmadnagar around the 15th century. Most of them were appointed as captains of the island fortress after taking possession of Dandarajpuri and the island of Janjira in 1490. This appointment was done by Malik Ahmad Shah and in 1618, Sidi Surul Khan I secured the governorship of the island of Janjira. Another great highlight of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate was the capture of the fort of Janjira which played a great role in the resistance of the repeated attacks of the Maratha Empire.

Janjira also combined forces with the Ottomans to route a Portuguese fleet in 1587 at Yemen. After this event, Janjira continued playing a great role in the resistance of the Portuguese influence in that region. An ironic event happened during this period whereby the Portuguese, British and Dutch started to label certain Indian mariners as pirate, who were acting legitimately to defend the trade rights of the polities native to the area of Indian Ocean.

Janjira state had always faced rivalry with the Marathas especially with the Angrias, a Maratha Koli family with forts and ships. In 1733, the Maratha Empire took aggressive action and embarked on a campaign against the siddis of Janjira. They couldn’t take the Janjira fort but captured much of the surrounding area.

Most of the attacks on Janjira by the Marathas ceased with the introduction of the British rule. Janjira became a part of the Bombay Presidency around 1799.

The head of the state was called Wazir as at that time. British Raj officially recognized the title “Nawab” in 1803. Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb conferred the title of Nawab. The siddhis were the royal family of that state. They are also known as ‘Habshi.’ A majority of the African rulers of this state were Muslim. Janjira was a Muslim state at that time.

Wazirs of Janjira

Nawab Sidi Amber Sanak (1612 – 1642)

Sidi Amber Sanak was the Nawab of Janjira from 1621 to 1642. He declared independence in 1621. Issue:

  • Nawab Sidi Yusuf Khan (Son)

Nawab Sidi Amber Sanak died in 1642.

Nawab Sidi Yusuf Khan (1642 – 1648)

Sidi YUSUF KHAN was the Nawab of Janjira from 1642 to 1648. He was the son of Sidi Amber Sanak.

  • Nawab Sidi Fateh Khan

Nawab Sidi Fateh Khan (1648)

Sidi Fateh Khan was the Nawab of Janjira in 1648.

Nawab Sidi Surul Khan (Rasul Khan) (1706 – 1732)

Surul khan was the Nawab of Janjira from 1706 to 1732. He had eight sons, some including:

  • Nawab Sidi Abdurrahman Khan (2nd son)
  • Nawab Sidi Abdurrahim Khan (7th son)
  • Nawab Sidi Hasan Khan (Little son)
  • Nawab Sidi Ibrahim Khan I
  • Nawab Sidi Muhammed Khan

 He died in 1733.

Nawab Sidi Qasim Yaqut Khan II (1676 – 1703)

Yakut Khan was the administrator of Janjira. Qasim Yakut Khan was the real name of him, but Emperor Alamgir was given the title of Yakut Khan.

In 1672 Yakut khan attacked the Marathas and after destroying the towns of Pen and Nagothane, he returned on 10 October 1673. In 1689, He attacked Bombay for the third time. Nawab Qasim Yakut Khan died in 1733

Nawab Sidi Hasan Khan (1st time) (1732 – 1734)

He was the Nawab of Janjira from 1732 to 1734 and for the second time from 1740 to 1746.

Nawab Sidi Sumbul Khan (1734 – 1737)

He was the Nawab of Janjira from 1734 to 1737. Sumbul Khan died in 1737.

Nawab Sidi Abdur Rahman Khan (1737 – 1740)

He was the Nawab of Janjira from 1727 to 1740. Abdur Rahman Khan died in 1740.

Nawab Sidi Ibrahim Khan I (1st time) (1745 – 1757)

Sidi Ibrahim Khan I was the Nawab of Janjira from 1746 to 1757 for the 1st time and from 1757 to 1759 for the 2nd time. 

Nawab Sidi Mohammad Khan I (1757) 

Sidi Muhammed Khan was the Nawab of Janjira in 1757. He died in 1757. He could not rule Janjira for a long time.

Nawab Sidi Ibrahim Khan I (1762 – 1770) (s.a.)

Sidi Ibrahim Khan I was the Nawab of Janjira from 1762 to 1770. He ruled Janjira for almost eight years. He died in 1770.

Nawab Sidi Yaqut Khan (1761 – 1772)

Nawab Sidi Yaqut Khan was the Nawab of Janjira in 1772. In 1759, on the coast of Kathiawar, he obtained possession of Jafrabad, and on his behalf, he was appointed officials to manage its affairs.

 Nawab Sidi Abdur Rahim Khan (1772 – 1784) 

Sidi Abdur Rahim Khan was the Nawab of Janjira from 1772 to 1784. He was forced into a treaty with the Peshwa around 1776 by which he had to surrender five and a half of eleven mahals. Issue:

  • Nawab zadi (unknown) she was married to Nawab Sidi Jauhar Khan
  • He died in 1784.

Nawab Sidi Jauhar Khan (1784 – 1789)

Sidi Jauhar Khan was the Nawab of Janjira from 1784 to 1789, and he died in 1789.

He ruled Janjira for five years.

Nawab Sidi Ibrahim Khan II (1789 – 1794)

 Sidi Ibrahim Khan II was the Nawab of Janjira from 1789 to 1794 and 1803. He died in 1826.

Nawab Sidi Jumrud Khan (1794 – 1803)

Sidi Jamrud Khan was the Nawab of Janjira from 1794 to 1803. He died in 1803.

Nawab Sidi Ibrahim Khan II (1803 – 1826) (s.a.)

 Sidi Ibrahim Khan II was the Nawab of Janjira from 1803 to 1826. Issue:

  • Nawab Sidi Muhammed Khan I
  • Sidi Hasan Khan
  • Sidi Abdurrahman Khan
  • Sidi Abdurrahim Khan

He died in 1826.

Nawab Sidi Muhammed Khan I (1826 – 1848)

Sidi Muhammed Khan I was the Nawab of Janjira from 1826 to 1848, he got the title of Nawab in 1840. Nawab Sidi Ibrahim Khan II was his father. Issue:

  • Nawab Sidi Ibrahim Khan III
  • Sidi Abdurrahman Khan
  • Sidi Yusuf Khan
  • Sidi Kasim Khan
  • Sidi Muhammed Khan

Nawab Sidi Ibrahim Khan III (1848 – 1879)

Nawab Sidi Ibrahim Khan III was the Nawab of Janjira from 1848 to 1879. In 1870, several Sidi Sardars of Janjira revolted and deposed him, placing his minor son on the throne. However, he was reinstated by the Government provided he fulfilled certain conditions, his Sardars submitted to him in 1873. He died in 1879. Issue:

  • Nawab Zada Sidi Muhammed Buxi Khan, a son of a Nika wife of inferior rank, he was selected as Nawab by some nobles of the state, but his younger brother was selected instead as he was a legitimate son by a lady of equal rank.
  • Sahibzada Sidi Dawood Khan was born 21st May 1873, and he also had studied in Marathi and Urdu.
  • Nawab Zada Sidi Abdurrahman Khan.
  • Sahib Zada Sidi Ibrahim Khan was born in 1884, and he also had studied in Marathi and Urdu. He was appointed as a Customs Inspector of Janjira.

HH Nawab Sidi Sir Ahmed Khan Sidi Ibrahim Khan (1879 – 1922)

HH Nawab Sidi Sir Ahmed Khan Sidi Ibrahim Khan G.C.I.E. was the Nawab of Janjira from 1879 to 1922. He was born in 1862. He was Educated at Rajkumar College, Rajkot.

He succeeded to the Gadi on 28th January 1879, his salute was raised from 9 to 11 guns in 1903, and for his services during WW1 a personal salute of 13 guns was granted on 1st January 1918, and a local salute of 13 guns was granted on 1st January 1921, Firstly he married with Ahmedbibi . But Ahmedbibi died in 1885, and then he married Nazli Begum at 1886. In 1913, he got married to HH Nawab Kulsum Begum Sahiba. (Kulsumbibi).

She was appointed Regent of Janjira during her son’s minority. He had one son. He died 2nd May 1922. Issue:

  • HH Nawab Sidi Muhammed Khan II Sidi Ahmad Khan

 HH Nawab Sidi Muhammed Khan II Sidi Ahmad Khan (1922 – 1972)

HH Nawab Sidi Muhammed Khan II Sidi Ahmad Khan was the Nawab Saheb of Janjira from 1922 to 1972. He was born on 7th March 1914. He was the son of Sidi Sir Ahmed Khan Sidi Ibrahim Khan

On 2nd May 1922, He succeeded to the Gadi (meaning “throne” in India). He reigned until the 9th November of 1933, and he was invested with full ruling powers. In 1930, he completed his diploma education at Rajkumar College, Rajkot and the Deccan College, Poona.

In Mysore State, he undertook administrative training. He also had a permanent local salute of 13 guns.

He was married to Nawab zadi Rabia Sultan Jaha Begum Sahiba (HH Nawab Pari Bano Begum Sahiba of Janjira) on 14 November 1933. She was born in Jaora on 23rd December 1913. Also, Mumtaz Mahal Begum Sahiba was his 2nd wife. He had four daughters and one son.

He died First April 1972. Issue:

  • HH Nawab Sidi Shah Mahmood Khan, Nawab of Janjira
  • Nawab zadi Fatima Jaha Begum Sahiba, (b 1934.)
  • Nawab zadi Ahmadi Jaha Begum Sahiba, (b 1935.)
  • Nawab zadi Mumtaz Jaha Begum Sahiba, (b 1939.)
  • Nawab zadi Qamar-uz-Zamani Sultan Begum Sahiba,( b 1943.)

Nawab Sidi Shah Mahmood Khan(1972)

Nawab Sidi Shah Mahmood Khan was the nawab of Janjira since 1972. He was born on 1952.

Styles of the ruling prince and ruling family

The ruling prince and his consort were respectively referred to with the styles His Highness and Her Highness. While the ruling prince held the title Nawab Sidi, his consort held the title Nawab Begum. Male descendants of the ruling prince were called Khan, while female descendants of either Begum for daughters or Begum Sahiba for granddaughters and other female descendants.

Concluding Remarks

African rulers were the Wazirs or Nawabs of Janjira. They have ruled Janjira since 1622 AD. They also played a very important role in the history of India. This is a history of African rulers of Janjira.

Books on Janjira

Annual administration report of the Janjira State. 1872-73/-1874/75, 1880/81-1884/85. IOR/V/10. Oriental & India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.

Lewis Bentham Bowring. Bowring Collection. MSS. Eur. G.38, Oriental India Office Collection, British Library, London.

Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, Volume XI, Kolaba and Janjira. Government Central Press, Bombay, 1883.

Report on the Administration of the Janjira State. 1886/87-1897/98, 1909/10-1942/43. IOR/V/10. Oriental & India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.

G.B. Seton Karr and R.H. Showell. Rough Notes Connected with the petty Principality of Junjeera, Selections from the Records of the Bombay Government. No. XXVI – New Series, Political Department, Government of Bombay, 1856.

List of Ruling Princes and Chiefs in Political Relations with the Government of Bombay and their Leading Officials, Nobles and Personages. Government of India Central Publication Branch, Calcutta, 1931.

Memoranda on The Indian States 1940 (Corrected up to the 1st January 1940). Manager of Publication, Government of India, Delhi, 1940.

Kenneth X. Robbins and John McLeod (eds.). Habshi Amarat. African Elites in India. Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd., Ahmedabad, India, 2006.

Wright, P.T. “Muslim Kinship and Modernization: The Tyabji Clan of Bombay”, in I. Ahmad (ed.), Family, Kinship and Marriage among the Muslims in India. Manohar, New Delhi, 1976.

Thacker’s Indian Directory, Thacker’s Press & Directories, Ltd., Calcutta 1863-1956.

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