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Indian Africa

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Adam Michel

Glossary and Inventory of Main Places1

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  • 1 This glossary brings together proper nouns, toponyms and lexical terms from different languages use (...)
Ahmadiyya: schismatic Muslim sect from north west of India
Ahmedabad: capital of the Indian State of Gujarat
Ajlaf (a, u): social category corresponding to “common people” among Muslims of the Indian sub continent (see Ashraf and Arzal)
Ajlaf (a, u): social category corresponding to “common people” among Muslims of the Indian sub continent (see Ashraf and Arzal)
Amba Devi (s): god mother
Amba (s): mother
Ambika (s): the “Mother”
Amil (a): Dai’s religious representative in anjuman
Amin (a): Dai’s civil representative
Anjuman (h): religious province among the Bohra
Anuloma (h): type of asymmetrical marriage between a male
Ego and a spouse of inferior status
Arati (s): sacred song
Arya Samaj (h): Hinduism’s reformed movement
Arzal (a, u): inferior statutory group, equivalent to that of “Untouchables” among Muslims of the Indian sub continent.
Ashraf (a, u): social category corresponding to the “nobility” among Muslims of the Indian sub continent (see
Ajlaf and Arzal)
Atman (s): soul
Baba (h): name given to holy people, especially the Sikh ascets
Badhala or sailors caste living on the coast of the Kathiawar
Badala (g): peninsula (Kachch)
Bahen (h, g): sister
Bahu (h, g): daughter in law
Balutchi: inhabitant of Balutchistan, a former province of
North Western India, currently part of Pakistan; the Balutchi of East Africa form a caste of former soldiers whose religion is Sunni Muslim; Balutchi also refers to the language spoken in the region
Banyan: trader, Anglo-Indian term coined from Gujarati banya or vaniya and used in reference to
Hindu and especially Jain traders
Banya ou
Baniya (g):
trader
Bapuji (h): patriarch, a very respected father
Bapu (h, g): father
Baroda or
Vadodara:
important town situated in the east of Gujarat state
Batin (a): among the Nizarite Ismailia and the Bohra, it is an esoteric and comprehensive reading of founding texts of Islam. See zahir.
Bhagavan (s): “blessed”
Bhajan (s): litany
Bhakti (s): devotion that allows one to establish close relations with divinity
Bhatia (g): sub caste of traders from Sindh and Kutch (sea
traders)
Bhatt (s): caste of bards and astrologists among the Brahma
Bhavan (s): Brahman divinity
Bhavnagar: small region situated in the east of the Kathiawar peninsula, in the Indian state of Gujarat.
Bhay (h, g): brothers in the model of a joint family (kutumba)
Bha (h, g): mother
Bhoi (g): transporters’ caste
Bihar: north eastern state of India
Bindi (s): coloured spot on the face
Brahman or
Brahmin (s):
member of the highest order (varna), in charge of religious functions
Brahma (s): Hinduism’s highest divinity
Çadaqa (a): voluntary alms among the Ismaili (also see Zakat)
Chakra (s): in Hindu religion, it is a time wheel driven by
Krishna’s flute
Choti jat (h): lower castes belonging to Sudra
Cutchi or Kutchi: inhabitant of Cutch or Kutch, a province on the western part of Gujarat which borders Sindh (current Pakistan); it is also the language spoken in the region (Gujarati dialect)
Dai (a): imam’s “delegate” among the Bohra
Darji or Darzi (g): weavers and tailors caste
Darkhana (h): administrative province placed under the authority of the Ismaili “government”
Daskina or daskshina (s): Brahman’s fees; offerings
Dasond (p): tithe for the Ismaili
Derani (g): last born brother’s wife
Deravasi: major movement among Jains, especially among the Oshwal
Der (g): husband’s last born brother
Desh (h, g): country
Deva, devi (s): god or goddess in general
Dev (s): secondary divinity, good animal spirit
Dharma (s): in Hindu religion, it is law or order; a fair action in respect of law
Dharma Smriti (s): collection of traditions regulating life in society
Dhobi (g): dry cleaners caste
Dhoti (h): peplos without a seam
Dilwara: site of mount Abu (Rajasthan) known for its famous Jain temples
Diwali, contracted form of Dipa Wali (h): celebration of light; New Year among Hindus, very popular in East Africa
Dukawallah: shopkeeper (composite word formed from a
Swahili root and a Gujarati suffix)
Durga (s): Parvati’s reincarnation, Vishnu’s sister and Shiva’s wife, nature and fertility’s goddess, celebrated on the occasion of Navrati festival
Dvija (s): “born twice”; qualifier used in reference to members of the first three varna (brahma, kshatriya, vaishya)
Dwaraka or
Dwarka:
holy town on the west of Gujarat known for its
Bhagavan Krishna Hindu temple
Fundi (sw): artisan
Gande (g): unclean
Gandharva (s): passion marriage by fictitious kidnapping of the fiancée
Ganesh (s): god of travellers and traders, symbol of wisdom, represented by an elephant head
Ginan (u): Ismaili religious poem
Gnati (g): caste in Gujarati language (see also jati)
Gotra (s): patrisib (clan of paternal descent without territory ties) referring to an apical ancestor (generally a rsi: prophet veda)
Gujarati: inhabitant of Gujarat, north western state of India.
Also the language spoken in the region
Gurdwara (u): Sikh temple
Gurjar (g): carpenters caste
Guru Nanak: founder of the Sikh religion
Guru ou gourou (s): spiritual master
Haqiq (g): happiness ring
Hare or Hari (s): form of Vishnu or Krishna
himsa (s): non-violence
Hindi: lingua franca of the Indian union from a group of languages of northern India
Holi (s): Hindu festival of fertility celebrated at the fall of spring (March)
Hunda (h): dowry
Hyderabad: 1) capital of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, in the centre of Dekkan; 2) important town in Sindh province, on the south–east of Pakistan
Jaman (h, g): food
Jamatkhana territorial assembly of the Ismaili within the darkhana (administrative provinces)
Jama’a or jamaat (a): assembly of the faithful among Muslims
Jamnagar: Gujarat town situated next to the Kutch golf
Jati (s): caste (see also gnati)
Jetani (g): elder brother’s wife
Jet (g): husband’s elder brother
Jgnan or jnan (s): spiritual knowledge
Jotawa (h): child born from an Indo-African couple
Jutha (s): food’s ritual purity (not to be touched by others)
Jyotisi (h): Brahman astrologer
Kaira: town in the Indian state of Gujarat
Kakkar (u): for the Sikhs, prescriptions that decorate the male body: Kesha (beard), Kangha (comb), Kara (aluminium bracelet), Kashha (boxer shorts),
Kirpan (sword)
Kakka (s): raw food (unclean); as opposed to cooked food (clean): Pakka
Kala pani (s): “black water”, name given to the ocean by hard-line Hindus
Kala (s): black
Kali (s): “the Black”
Kalpa (s): reincarnation cycles in the Hindu religion
Kamaria (u): among the Ismaili, assistant of the religious leader of the local community (mukhi)
Kamiz (u): tunic
Kankani or
Konkani:
vernacular language from south western India, spoken by Goan catholics
Karan: (distortion of “Koran”) name given to people of
Indian origin in Madagascar
Karma (s): important course (including different reincarnations) depending on the individuals’ code of conduct in the Hindu religion
Kashmiri: inhabitant of Kashmir state
Kaskazi (sw): name given to the winter monsoon characterized by the formation of trade winds blowing from north east to south west (see Kuzi)
Kathiawar: peninsula region situated on the south of the
Indian state of Gujarat
Kerala: south western state of India
Khalsa: community of Sikhs
Khamsi or khums (a): “fifth”; among the Bohra, tax deducted from entreprise profits
Khandan or khandam (h): patrilineage (see Kutumb); also: family of a high rank in northern India
Khoja: from
Gujarati khwaja:
“lord”; another name of Nizarite Ismaili and sometimes the Bohra
Kokni or Kankoni: sailors caste of Sunni Muslim faith from
Maharashtra
Krishna (s): Hindu divinity, Vishnu’s eighth reincarnation
Kshatryia (s): member of second order (varna); in charge of military and government functions
Kuladevata (s): tutelary divinity in the prayers of Hindus
Kumbhar (g): potters caste
Kundali (s): personal horoscope established by certain pandits seers
Kurta (u): long shirt
Kutumba (h): joint extended family
Kutumb (h): patrilineage (see Khandan)
Kuzi (sw): name given to the summer monsoon characterized by the formation of winds known as “counter trade winds” blowing from the south west to the north east (see Kaskazi)
Lakshmi or
Laxmi (s):
Vishnu’s companion and divinity of riches and beauty
Leva Patel: socio regional group belonging to the Patel caste
Kaskazi (sw): name given to the winter monsoon characterized by the formation of trade winds blowing from north east to south west (see Kuzi)
Kathiawar: peninsula region situated on the south of the
Indian state of Gujarat
Kerala: south western state of India
Khalsa: community of Sikhs
Khamsi or khums (a): “fifth”; among the Bohra, tax deducted from entreprise profits
Khandan or khandam (h): patrilineage (see Kutumb); also: family of a high rank in northern India
Khoja: from
Gujarati khwaja:
“lord”; another name of Nizarite Ismaili and sometimes the Bohra
Kokni or Kankoni: sailors caste of Sunni Muslim faith from
Maharashtra
Krishna (s): Hindu divinity, Vishnu’s eighth reincarnation
Kshatryia (s): member of second order (varna); in charge of military and government functions
Kuladevata (s): tutelary divinity in the prayers of Hindus
Kumbhar (g): potters caste
Kundali (s): personal horoscope established by certain pandits seers
Kurta (u): long shirt
Kutumba (h): joint extended family
Kutumb (h): patrilineage (see Khandan)
Kuzi (sw): name given to the summer monsoon characterized by the formation of winds known as “counter trade winds” blowing from the south west to the north east (see Kaskazi)
Lakshmi or
Laxmi (s):
Vishnu’s companion and divinity of riches and beauty
Leva Patel: socio regional group belonging to the Patel caste
Lisan ud dawat (a): liturgical language of the Bohra
Lohana (h): vaishya caste that is widespread in northern India
Lohar or Luhar (g): blacksmiths caste
Lotha (s): bell shaped container meant for ritual ablutions
Maharashtra: western state of India (capital: Bombay or
Mumbai)
Mahavir,
Mahavira (s):
“great hero”; nickname given to Vardhamana, founding hero of the Jains religion
Mahila (s): female wing
Mandal (s): association
Mandir (s): temple
Mangal sutra (s): necklace made of beads and golden pearls and golden glass offered by the husband to his spouse on the wedding day
Mantra (s): sacred expressions of the Hindu prayer, many of them trace their origin in the syllabic radical om, but can form various syllabic chains. Constant repetition of the same mantra corresponds to a litany of recited psalms on the occasion of different Hindu prayers
Manu (s): man; first man in the Hindu mythology
Marathi: language spoken in the Indian state of
Maharashtrah
Math (s): monastery
Medrassa or medressa (a): Muslim religious school
Memon: Sunni Muslim caste of traders in materials and fabrics of Sindh origin (currently Pakistan)
Mitakshara (h): collective family appropriation mode specific to north west of India
Mithaq (a): fidelity oath to Dai among the Bohra
Moksa (s): self-accomplishment; liberation in nirvana
Muci or Mochi (g): cobblers and leather artisans caste
Muhabbat (s): marriage through sheer sexual attraction
Muhindi (pl. Wahindi, sw): “Indian” in Swahili
Mukhi (a): among the Ismaili, religious leader of the local community (jama’a)
Mutlaq (a): “his holiness”; title of respect given to the Dai among the Bohra
Namaskar: traditional greeting (literally: “honour to you”; meaning hello or goodbye)
Namdhari: religious minority within the Ramgarhia (Sikhs)
Nar (s): bad animal spirit
Nath or jath (h, g): lineage segment in northern India
Navnat (g): group of Jains from Jamnagar (region of Gujarat)
Navratri or
Navaratri (s):
“nine days festival”; celebrated by Hindus in
September and October in Durga’s honour
Nayi or Nayee (g): barbers caste
Nevroz: Ismaili New Year
Nikah: marriage among the Bohra
Nirvana (s): absorption of a being in cosmic ether, corresponding to the state of non-reincarnation.
Niyoga (h): inheriting the brother’s widow
Nizarite: disciple of Nizar; synonym of Ismaili agakhanist
Noorani (a): “luminous”; respectful nickname given to the Aga
Khan
Ordeni (u): female veil
Oshwal: group of Jains largely found in East Africa, whose distant origin is the town of Oshia (Rajasthan)
Pajama (u): tunic and matching trousers; traditional dress of northern India
Pakka (s): cooked food (clean); as opposed to raw food (unclean): Kakka
Palitana: holy town of the Jains on the east of Bhavnagar (Gujarat), well known for the splendour of its temples
Panchayat (s, h): corporation
Pandit (s): title given to Brahma religious scholars
Parvati: see Durga
Patel: vaishya caste that is widespread in the north and north west of India
Patidar: synonym of Patel
Pir (p): Ismaili spiritual guide
Porbandar: port town of Gujarat, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace
Prajapati (h): heavenly being; also autonym of Kumbhar, potters caste from Gujarat
Prasad (s): food distributed during worship
Pratuloma (s): form of asymmetrical marriage between a male
Ego and a spouse from a superior status
Pritibhoj (g): community festival
Puja (or Pooja) ghar (s). altar or domestic temple
Pujari (s): priest
Puja (s): prayer, often accompanied by a sacrifice or ritual offering (rice, fruits, flowers, etc.), especially in front of domestic altars
Punjabi: inhabitant of Punjab, north western state of
India, currently split in two parts, one of them belonging to Pakistan. Also, language spoken by the inhabitants of the region
Purana (s): collection of Sanskrit traditions
Purdah (h) or dupatta: veil of a female head; also a protective curtain in the house
Purohita (s): preacher, scholar
Qaum (a): “tribe” in Arabic; term used sometimes by
Muslims in reference to jati
Rajasthan: north western state of India, bordering the current
Pakistan
Rajput: inhabitant of Rajasthan; in East Africa, member of varna belonging to the kshatriya
Raj (s): literally: “king”; lord, aristocrat
Rakhsha Bandha (or Bandhan): celebration of a brother-sister relation in the
Hindu tradition
Raksasa (s): form of marriage through abduction
Ramayana (s): Brahma’s epic great poem from India
Rama (s): solar divinity, Vishnu’s seventh reincarnation.
Ramgarhia: commoners among the Sikhs
Rangoli (h): tapestry
Riba (a): interest loans
Ridha or rida, also known as bui bui: Bohra women’s hood
Roca (g): engagement ( “arrest”)
Saasu (g): mother in law
Sabha (s): association
Sadhu (s): ascetic person who lives on alms
Safai chitthi: community identity card among the Bohra
Sahib (s): master
Sahj or Sahaja: one of Shiva’s names; among the Sikhs, divine grace
Samaj (h): society
Sanathana
Dharma (s):
“eternal perfection”; autonym in reference to orthodox Hinduism
Sanathan (s): “eternal”
Sangh (s): congregation
Sannyasi (s): monk
Sanstha (h): association
Sapinda (h): direct lineage male ascendants and descendants in the Indian patrilineal model
Sardar (p, u): respectable man among the Sikhs
Sari (h): peplos worn by women from the Indian sub continent
Sari (g): jewel that is inserted in women’s nose on the wedding day
Sati (s): widows suicide, forbidden by British authorities in
1829
Satpanh: path of salvation for the Ismaili
Satsang (s): religious reunion or on the pretext of religion, which takes place in a private place or in one’s house
Sayyed (a): statutory group of aristocratic rank among Indian and Pakistani muslims
Shastri (s): preacher, officiant
Shiva (s): god of fertility, one of the three main Hindu divinities, mainly venerated in Gujarat
Shree or Shri (s): honourable, sir, madam
Sindhi: inhabitant of Sindh, former Indian province, currently incorporated in Pakistan (south east); also, language close to Hindi spoken in the region and comprising elements from former Dravidian languages
Sindhor (g): coloured spot on the lower part of the face
Singh (s): from simha, “lion”, family name of many Sikhs and certain kshatriya
Soni (g): goldsmith and jewellers caste
Sthanakvasi: minority movement among the Jains, mainly among the Navnat
Stree ou Stri (g): woman; by extension: “female”
Sudra or
Shudra (s):
member of the fourth order (varna); in charge of services; excluded from the category of the “born twice” (dvija)
Sulka (h): marriage compensation, bride wealth
Sunar (u): goldsmiths caste among Muslims
Surat: historic town of south eastern Gujarat, well known for its business port; also the Bohra religious capital
Surya namaskar (s) : in the Hindu prayers, song in praise of the sun, also meant to chase the demons which disturb the night. Celebrated in the morning and in the evening, at sunrise and sunset. The prayer done on this occasion (gayatri or “triple song”) wipes mistakes out
Surya (s): sun
Sutar or suthar (g): carpenters caste
Sva dharma (s): individual’s mode of conduct, based on the particular caste
Svetambara or
Swetamber:
religious movement among the Jains
Swaminarayana: reformed Hindu movement
Swastika (s): cross potent symbolising the time wheel
Talika or Tariqah: among the Ismaili, esoteric reading (batin) of the shar’ia; comments given on the law by the Aga
Khan; in reality, instructions given to disciples
Tamil Nadu: south eastern state of India
Tirthanker (s): spiritual guide among the Jains
Upadheya: scribes caste among the Brahma
Urdu: language, close to Hindi, spoken in north western
India and in Pakistan
Uttar Pradesh: northern state of India at the heart of the Indian
Ganges plains
Vaishya (s): member of the third (varna); in charge of production and business functions
Valmik: inferior caste assimilated to “the Untouchables” among the Sikhs
Vanik (g): regional group
Vanza or Wanza
Darji (g):
tailors caste from Gujarat (see Darji)
Varna (s): social orders or ranks ( “colours”), which are subdivided in many castes (jati)
Vastu or vastu puja (s): among the Hindus, consecration rite of a building before its erection or occupation
Visa: figure 20; in reference to twenty small towns of
Jain Oshwal origin on the south western border of
Rajasthan
Vishnu or
Vichnu (s):
second major divinity of the Brahma trinity
Wahindi (sw): name referring to “Indians” in Swahili (sing. Muhindi)
Yajna (s): sacrifice, usually done using ghee (melted butter)
Yuvuk mandal (s): youth association
Zakat ou zaka (a): legal alms among the Shia; see çadaqa
Zamindar (p, h): aristocratic group within the Sikhs; generally “land owners”

Notes

1 This glossary brings together proper nouns, toponyms and lexical terms from different languages used by members of the Indian diaspora in East Africa: mainly hindi (h), gujarati (g), urdu (u) and sanscrit (s), including arabic (a), persian (p) and swahili (sw).

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