The History of the Sinti and Roma people (The India Gypsy Connection)

Origins of the Romani People
by Ian Hancock

 

It was not until the second half of the 18th century that scholars in Europe began to realize that the Romani language, in fact, came from India. Basic words, such as some numerals and kinship terms, and names for body parts, actions, and so on, were demonstrably Indian. So—they concluded—if the language were originally Indian, its speakers very likely must be as well. Once they realized this, their next questions were the obvious ones: if Roma were indeed from India, when did they leave, and why, and are there still Roma in that country?

At the very beginning of the 11th century, India came under attack by the Muslim general Mahmud of Ghazni, who was trying to push Islam eastwards into India, which was mainly Hindu territory. The Indian rulers had been assembling troops to hold back the Muslim army for several centuries already, deliberately drawing their warriors from various populations who were not Aryan. The Aryans had moved into India many centuries before, and had pushed the original population down into the south, or else had absorbed them into the lowest strata of their own society, which began to separate into different social levels or castes, called varnas (“colors”) in Sanskrit.

The Aryans regarded Aryan life as being more precious than non-Aryan life, and would not risk losing it in battle. So the troops that were assembled to fight the armies of Mahmud of Ghazni were all taken from non-Aryan populations, and made honorary members of the Kshattriya, or warrior caste, and allowed to wear their battledress and emblems.

They were taken from many different ethnic groups who spoke many different languages and dialects. Some were Lohars and Gujjars, some were Tandas, some were Rajputs, non-Indian peoples who had come to live in India some centuries before, and some may also have been Siddhis, Africans from the East African coast who fought as mercenaries for both the Hindus and the Muslims. This composite army moved out of India through the mountain passes and west into Persia, battling with Muslim forces all along the eastern limit of Islam. While this is to an extent speculative, it is based upon sound linguistic and historical evidence, and provides the best-supported scenario to date. Because Islam was not only making inroads into India to the east, but was also being spread westwards into Europe, this conflict carried the Indian troops—the early Roma—further and further in that direction, until they eventually crossed over into southeastern Europe about the year 1300.

 

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Photobucket

The spoked-wheel image above represents a sixteen-spoked chakra, adopted at the First World Romani Congress in London in 1971 as the international Romani symbol. The chakra is a link to the Roma’s Indian origins (the 24-spoked Ashok Chakra is in the center of the national flag of India, the Tiranga) and represents movement and the original Creation. The green and blue flag with a red chakra in the center was adopted as the Romani flag, as well as the motto “Opré Roma” (Roma Arise). The song “Gelem, gelem,” also known as “Djelem, djelem” and “Opré Roma,” was selected as the Romani anthem. April 8 was proclaimed International Romani Day. There have been four World Romani Congresses to date. Among the chief goals of these meetings are the standardization of the Romanes language, reparations from World War II, improvements in civil rights and education, preserving Romani culture, and international recognition of the Roma as a national minority of Indian origin. Among the chief Roma organisations, the International Romani Union has consultative status to the United Nations Social and Economic Council.

 

Retrieved from: http://thegypsyconnection.blogspot.com/2007/12/history-of-sinti-and-roma-people.html on August 31, 2011

 

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