The Vadodara Bohras of Gujarat

The Vadodara Bohras are a community of Bohra Muslims tracing their origins to Yemen. They belong to the Alavi Bohras, a Tayyibi Musta’lavi Isma’ili Shi’i Muslim community from Gujarat, India. The Alavi Bohras trace their roots to missionaries sent from Yemen during the time of the 18th Fatimid Imam Al-Mustansir Billah in the 11th century AD. These missionaries established a religious mission in Khambhat, Gujarat. Following the division of the Musta’lid community, the Yemenite Da’wah continued to follow their 21st imam, At-Tayyib Abu’l-Qasim, as their Imam of seclusion.

The Bohras are descendants of the Tayyibi Da’wah established in Gujarat in the 11th century AD and include immigrants from Yemen.

In the 11th century AD, Yemeni missionaries were sent to Gujarat, India, by the 18th Fatimid Imam, Al-Mustansir Billah, to establish the Isma’ili-Tayyibi Da’wat. This led to the formation of the Bohra community in Gujarat, with designated individuals called Wulaat ul-Hind serving as deputies of the Yemeni missionaries.

The Alavi Bohras emerged as a prominent group among the Bohras, known for their role as traders and merchants. They are described as patriotic, peace-loving, and harmonious, with a strong emphasis on maintaining positive relationships. The term ‘Bohra’ is derived from a Gujarati word meaning ‘to trade’. It should be noted that there are Sunni groups in Gujarat who adopted the name ‘Vohra’ or ‘Vora’ but do not follow the beliefs and customs of the Isma’ili-Tayyibi Bohras.

Throughout history, the mainstream Bohra community experienced divisions regarding the spiritual succession of the representative of the Imam, known as Da’i, in Ahmedabad between the 15th and 17th centuries. These divisions led to the formation of three major Bohra groups: Alavis, Dawoodis, and Sulaymanis. The Alavi Bohras, as one of these groups, have their own spiritual leadership and practices within the broader framework of Tayyibi Musta’lavi Isma’ili Shi’ism. They maintain distinct traditions, customs, and religious rituals that differentiate them from other Bohra groups.

Initially, the Yemeni migrants faced challenges in adapting to a new culture and way of life. However, they gradually found their footing and began to integrate into the local society while preserving their unique customs and traditions.

Over time, the Yemeni community formed close-knit networks and established mosques, cultural centres, and Yemeni associations to maintain their cultural heritage. One significant aspect of the Yemeni community in Vadodara is their contribution to the local economy. Yemeni migrants have been involved in various businesses, including textiles, spices, and retail trade. They have established themselves as successful entrepreneurs and traders, adding to the economic growth of the city.

Culturally, the Yemeni community in Vadodara has played a vital role in enriching the city’s diversity. Yemeni traditions, cuisine, and clothing have become part of the multicultural tapestry of Vadodara.

The Yemeni community celebrates their religious festivals, such as Eid and Ramadan, with great enthusiasm, creating a vibrant atmosphere of cultural exchange. Education has been a priority for the Yemeni community in Vadodara. Many Yemeni families have emphasised the importance of education and have encouraged their children to pursue higher studies. As a result, several Yemeni individuals have excelled academically and professionally, becoming doctors, engineers, and professionals in various fields.

The Yemeni community has also made efforts to preserve their language and heritage. They teach their children the Arabic language and Quranic studies, ensuring a connection to their roots. Yemeni cultural programmes, language classes, and events are organised regularly, allowing for the transmission of Yemeni traditions and values to the younger generation.

The Yemeni migrants in Vadodara have experienced both acceptance and challenges in their integration process. The local community has generally been receptive and welcoming, fostering a sense of inclusivity. However, like many migrant communities, they have also faced occasional discrimination and social barriers, which they have worked to overcome.

The Yemeni community in Vadodara has found support from local authorities, non-governmental organisations, and interfaith groups, which have played a role in creating an environment of cultural harmony and understanding. Efforts to promote cultural exchange, intercommunity dialogues, and initiatives to address common social issues have further strengthened the bond between the Yemeni community and the larger Vadodara community.

In conclusion, the Yemeni migrants who settled in Vadodara, Gujarat, have left a lasting impact on the city’s social, cultural, and economic landscape. Despite the challenges they faced during their journey of integration, they have thrived and become an integral part of the diverse tapestry of Vadodara.

The Yemeni community’s contributions to the city’s economy, culture, and educational sphere are noteworthy, and their presence enriches the multicultural fabric of Vadodara.



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