Mr. Weer Rajendra Rishi is a well-known linguist ofIndia and was awarded the honour of 'Padmashri' by the President of India in 1970 for his contributions in the field of linguistics. He was honoured by the Government of the Punjab in '1963. He was an Honorary Fellow of the Punjabi University, Patiala,
Mr. Rishi took voluntary retirement from the Indian Foreign Service in 1973. He has worked in the Indian Embassy at Moscow (1950-52) and the Indian High Commissions at Singapore (1962-65) and London (1969-71). He worked as interpreter to various Soviet dignitaries including Khrushchev, Marshall Bulganin, Voroshilov and Zakharov and the present Prime Minister Kosygin. He accompanied the ex-President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad as his interpreter during his official visit to the Soviet Union in 1960.
Mr. Rishi is now the Director of the Indian Institute of Romani Studies at Chandigarh and is editing Roma-a half-yearly journal on the life, language and culture of Roma. He has travelled widely in Europe, the USSR etc. and lived amongst Roma.
He is the author of (i) Russian-Hindi Dictionary (with foreword by the late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, (ii) Russian Grammar in Hindi, (iii) Russian Folklore in Hindi, (iv) Hindi translation of Push kin's poem GYPSY, (v) Mar- riages of the Orient, (vi) History of Russ.ian literature in Hindi, and (vii) Multilingual Romani Dictionary (Romani/English/Hindi/Russian/ French) .
When I completed the compilation of my Multilingual Romani Dictionary in 1971 in London (I was working as an Attache in the Indian High Commission at that time), few in India knew that the Roma (the so-called Gypsies of Europe etc.) have originated from the Panjab and that they still speak a language which could better be called a dialect of Panjabi. The reason was that the research on the origin of Roma, their language and culture had been done so far only by scholars other than Indians. Naturally, the foreigners, who have not got the correct and intimate knowledge of the Indian languages as spoken by the common man, the traits of the peoples inhabiting the north of India, particularly what I would call the 'Greater Panjab' of Alberuni's description during the Muslim invasions, could not do justice to their research work.
After the World Romani Congress in 1971 when I was able to meet Roma leaders, scholars, dancers and musicians from all over Europe, my interest in the subject continued growing. I established the Indian Institute of Romani Studies at Chandigarh, started publishing ROMA, a half-yearly journal on the subject. I wrote articles on the subject in English and Indian language papers. I gave interviews from Delhi and Amritsar TV stations. I met national leaders of India and personally acquainted them with the result of my research work. Well, the interest of scholars - and national leaders of India in the subject has now been created.
In the meantime, I got a lot of original the and revealing material on the subject from the scholars from the USSR, the Eastern Democracies, particularly from Yugoslavia, and other countries of Western Europe and America. In the summer of 1974, I had the good fortune to visit France, Germany, Italy, Yugoslavia, where I met Roma, lived with them and studied their language, culture and customs from close quarters. At the fair of St. Sarah (the Indian Goddess Kali) at St. Maries- de-la-mer in the South of France, I was able to meet Roma from various countries who come annually to worship and pay homage to their Goddess in the month of May every year.
In the present book, I have tried to present a new look on the subject particularly from the Indian point of view and it is for the readers to say to what extent I have succeeded in my effort.
I am grateful to Dr. Giani Zail Singh, the Chief Minister of Panjab for his keen interest in my research work and for getting me an honorary fellowship of the Punjabi University at Patiala to write this book. I am also grateful to the authorities concerned in the Punjabi University.
I would be failing in my duty if I do not convey my thanks to the world-renowned linguist of India, Prof. Dr. Mohan Singh Uberoi Diwana (whose young and revolutionary spirit continues unabated even at the age of 78), who has helped met to make this research work comprehensive and extensive. His name is synonymous with Panjabi language and literature and he is considered as an authority on the subject by scholars both in India and abroad. I have heavily drawn upon his expert and practical knowledge of the Panjab, Panjabi and the Panjabis.
Thanks are also due to Mr. Vanko Rouda, Mr. Leaulea Rouda, the President and General Secretary of the International Comite Rom and our common friend, Mr. Eynard Gilles of Toulon, France, for kindly showing me around the Roma colonies in Paris and south of France and introducing me to Munouches and Kalderashes (different groups of Roma in France). Mr. Grattan Puxon, the young and energetic Joint Secretary of the World Romani Congress and Mr. Abdi Faik, ex-member of the Macedonian Parliament of Yugoslavia and President of 'Phralipe' (Brotherhood) of Skopje, have been very kind to me from the very beginning when I first met them at the World Romani Congress in London in 1971 and thereafter extended to me their hospitality during my stay in Shuto Orizari at Skopje, and afforded me the opportunity of acquainting myself with the life, culture and customs of Roma - from close quarters. I would also thank Dr. Professor Ian Hancock of Komitia Lumiaki Romani and'e Amerika for his moral support and material on Roma. I also thank Dr. A.E. Mourant, ex-Director Serological Laboratory, London, Professor Heinz Mode of Saale University (GDR), Madam T.V. Venzel of the Institute of the Peoples of Asia, Moscow, Mr. Johan A. Brune of London and Professor Francois de Vaux de Foletier, Paris, for supplying me with material for my research work. In the end I would thank Dr. Donald Kenrick, the Director of Roma Bharati (Institute of Romani Research and Documentation) London who initiated me into this research work and has been helping in my research work throughout.
I am grateful to Mrs. 1. K. Sandhu, the energetic and dynamic Vice-Chancellor of the Punjabi University, Patiala, for arranging publication of this book.
Thus spoke Mr. Abdi Faik, the then a Member of the Macedonian Parliament, Skopje, Yugoslavia, representing Roma, whom I met at the World Romani Congress held in London in April 1971. Mr. Abdi Faik was in fact expressing the convictions of all the Roma (Gypsies)! representatives attending the World Romani Congress from various countries of the world including France, Spain, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Finland, Switzerland, the U.K., the USA, Canada etc., etc. Some of the representatives were professors, scholars, doctors and missionaries. World famous Roma singers, musicians and dancers took part in the Gypsy Festival which was organized on the hillock of Hampstead Heath, London, on that occasion. I was astonished to see their Panjabi features with pointed noses and wheatish colour of their skin. Raya, the famous Romani singer and once a member of the Roma Theatre of Moscow and now living in Scandinavia, loves the Panjab and its culture. She acted as a heroine in the Panjabi play "lachhi" staged at the Moscow Roma Theatre. It may be mentioned that in Romani language laci is a feminine adjective, meaning good, beautiful. In Panjabi language it also has the same meaning. It signifies a beautiful girl. She was full of sentiments and said: "I always remember about India. I have got an Indian heart because my ancestors came from India. I very much like to see India. I always dream to be in India. When I see an Indian man or woman going about in the town, my eyes follow him/her until he/she disappears from my sight, because I consider that he or she is a part of my heart, of my blood".
I found the same sentiments in the hearts of Roma in different countries of Europe in the summer of 1974 when I had the opportunity to meet them at the fair of their Goddess of Fortune, St. Sarah, the Europeanised form of the Indian Goddess Kali. Roma in Skopje, Yugoslavia, worship God Indra on St. George's Day. I was astonished to know the legend connected with St. George's Day which is the same as mentioned in the Rigveda-i.e. God, Indra killing the demon Vritra, Susna or Ahi, the serpent, to bring down rains and heavenly streams. It was revealing to note that even the names of Gods and demons are the same as mentioned in the Vedas.
The material collected from Roma in the USSR is all the more revealing as it contains prayers of Roma to Gods representing natural phenomena viz. Agni (fire) Jandra (Thunder God Indra), Mautia (mother earth) etc. etc. They are still preserving the Hindu belief in the one supreme God with different names according to their functions i.e. Brahma, the creator, Visnu, the sustainer, Siva, the killer of all that is evil.
I visited their beautiful colony 'Hameau Tzigane' in Grasse in the south of France where I met the famous Rom singer, Linck. Looking at his Panjabi features and the wheatish colour of his skin one could not say that this boy born of parents of Indian origin in France had not even seen India. On my request, Linck was kind enough to let me tape-record his song nash, nash ('run away, run away'-in the Romani language 'nash' has the same meaning as in the Panjabi language). The gist of the song is that the boy was caught by a police man on the false charge of stealing. He asks his girl friend to run away and himself promises to return to her one day when he is able to prove his innocence.
In Skopje, a colony inhabited by about 30,000 Roma, I found all Panjabi atmosphere, the boys playing with pebbles in the same way as they do in the villages of the Punjab. Here I tasted the Indian habit of telling a stranger that his destination is 'pas' (near) (it is pas in Romani language and pas in the Panjabi language) when a Roma boy made me take a full round of the whole of the colony saying that the house of my host, Mr. Grattan Puxon, was pas. This is what our village folk in the Panjab tell a stranger who asks them about the distance of his destination, even if the destination is a few miles away. I found the girls wearing sharawars (trousers) also called shalwars in the Panjabi language. The shalwar is the common wear of ladies in the Panjab even today. I attended a few marriage ceremonies there and was astonished to see their ceremonies resembling those in the Panjab; the music played at the mass dances arranged on these occasions completely resembled Indian music, of course with Muslim influence. At Belgrade, I met the famous Romani singer, Esma, and found no difficulty in talking to her in Romani language, which resembled the Panjabi language. She has already been to India and takes pride in wearing the saree which was presented to her by the Mayor of Bombay at a music concert where she was taken to know Hindi language, although she had spoken in the Romani language-so much marked was the similarity between the Romani language and the Indian languages. With her Panjabi features, Esma looks completely Indian in a saree.
And then all the Roma, in whichever countries of Europe they are, respect India and have preserved Indian traditions although they left their original home in the Panjab more than a thousand years ago. They call India as baro than; the great country, the country of their ancestors. In the Panjabi language baro than have the same meanings as in the Romani language.
Let us therefore study the history of the migration of these people from India, their language, their religion and habits in detail and compare them with the language, religion and habits of the people inhabiting the Panjab.
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