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Roma and The Steel Route

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Item Code: NAV003
Author: Lokesh Chandra
Publisher: International Academy of Indian Culture and Aditya Prakashan
Language: English
Edition: 2019
ISBN: 9788194085041
Pages: 162 (17 B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 11.50 X 9.00 inch
Weight 750 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

It is a comprehensive work on the history, language, Atharvanic rituals and human rights of the Roma across countries and centuries. It discusses various opinions about the romance of the Roma who left India either in the pre- Christian era as steel-smiths manufacturing arms across ancient Iran and Greece, or they left after the battle of Tarain. The Roma have preserved magical cures which go back to the rituals of Atharva Veda. Prof. R.L. Turner has proved that Romani language is closest to Hindi. Its dialect of Wales preserves earlier forms of Hindi and as such is of great significance for the evolution of India's national language. The book deals with Romani writers, their heart- rending poems like Papushka's "My Land I am your daughter", and India's Prime Minister welcoming the Gaduliya Lohars back to Chittorgarh as their Land had gained freedom. It supports the theory that Roma left after the Battle of Tarain in the 12th century. Roma songs from Romani, Roma Conference at Chandigarh in 1991, identity of Roma and Banjaras, celebration of the Kali Devi as St. Sarah, the recognition of their Indian origin around 1750, Vania's I am a Rajput, Kovacheva's history of the Roma in Europe, invite a new look into their heritage and life, their poignant literature and struggle for dignity as equal members of society, human rights and representation in economic and political fora.


About the Author

Lokesh Chandra is Director of the International Academy of Indian Culture, a premier research institution for Asian cultures. He is President of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and has been Chairman, Indian Council for Historical Research. He is a well- known historian and renowned scholar of Tibetan, Mongolian, SE Asian, and Sino- Japanese Buddhism. He has also served as a member of the Indian Parliament. In 2006, he was honored with the Padma Bhushan. He was born in 1927, obtained his Master's degree in 1947 from Punjab University (Lahore) and followed it with a Doctorate from the State University of Utrecht (Netherlands). Starting with an understanding of the most ancient of India's spiritual expression enshrined in the Vedic tradition, he has moved on to the interlocution between India, Tibet, Mongolia, China, Korea, Japan, South-East Asia, Indonesia and the Indo-European languages. He has studied over twenty languages, and has 602 works and text editions to his credit.


I would like to begin the preface with the 'sorcery and magic' constantly misunderstood for the last two centuries. The Roma have been discriminated against their sallow complexion acquired in timeless trek across Iranian, Greek, Byzantine and Turkish lands by mixing with them. Their Romani Cib has been despised in spite of the fact that it is cognate to basic Indo-European vocabulary. The Roma are children of a majestic linguistic culture with trans-logical mantrayana paradigms. We call it the manodharma where creativity and adversity with its physical responses come from the inner landscape. Reading works on the Roma has always reminded me of their ideational mindscape whereby impending mishaps and bodily ailments are cured by mantric lore to restore the lyricism of life. To really understand the mind of Roma one has to have an Indian heart with its aristocratic allure of centuries sweetened by the dance of Nataraja or the nayika berating Lord Padmanabha for his mischief in teasing her.

The Roma have inherited the romance of divination and have been selling enchantment as fortune-tellers. When the West had lost its beautiful nature worship and symbolism of charms, the Roma brought to them incantations and conjurations. They would cure the eyes with a wash made of water from the well and saffron. They would recite the following:


Oh dukh andral yakha Oh, pain from the eyes
Ja andre pani Go into the water.
Ja andral pani Go out of the water
Andre safrane Into the saffron.
Andre pcuv, Go out of the saffron
Ja andral pcuv Into the earth,
Kiya Pcuvusheske. To the Earth-Spirit,
Odoy hin cerca, There's thy home,
Odoy ja to ca. There go and eat.

Saffron is one of the earliest flowers of spring and has been consecrated to magic and love. In Christian symbolism, it meant love. Saffron and orange colours are symbols of the divine. In Greece, Eos (Skt. Usas) 'Goddess of the Dawn' has a saffron garment. Roma mothers trained their daughters from infancy to become a gule romni 'sweet charming Romni' to sing charms. In Roma lore, a cocoanut brings luck, which is the Indian tradition till today. The Roma rites in the 19th century were a part of European life with living pagan values.

The incantations of the Roma remind of the spells and magical rites in the Atharvaveda and in the Atharvavedic lore. There are two kinds of rites of the (i) atharvanas for the positive welfare (pusti) or pacification (santi) of evil influences, and (ii) the rites of the angirasah directed against inimical powers. The English word angel is cognate to angiras. They are the supernatural powers for the weals and woes of beings. The so-called sorcery or magic of the Roma goes back to very ancient Indian traditions. A voluminous literature in Sanskrit and Indian languages exists on the rites of protection (santi) and aggression (abhicara). The six rites are subjugation (vasikarana), a immobilization (stambhana), eradication (ucciuana), causing dissension (vidvesana), liquidation (mantra) , and pacification (Santi). The use of saffron (kunkuma) has to be studied in the medical texts termed nighantu. In 1956 I fell seriously ill for two months. Everyday my wife would recite mantras and bring ayurvedic medicines in which saffron was an esoteric component. She would read out the healing qualities of saffron from classical Sanskrit nighantus. India's traditions have an esoteric component whose vibrations have the curative qualities of auto-suggestion. The mind and body are interdependent and interactive. The Roma inherit this tradition of the vibrations of the subconscious.

A persistent tradition is that the nails used at the crucifixion were made by Roma, and they became accursed in consequence. The Roma assert that a Roma woman tried to steal the nails. She succeeded in stealing one so that only three nails were left: two were used for the hands of Christ and the remaining third was driven through the feet crossed one above the other. Did the Roma possess a metallurgical monopoly at such an early date. This folk fantasy is an important indicator that the Roma were primarily masters of iron technology.

The Roma know the symmetry of irregularities and every turn of time is a communication of hearts. They have travelled for centuries in the colour of music and the cadence of their freedom of movements. Living in the energies of nature, they have participated in the joy and glory of their inherited ideals.

This is a collection of essays written over the last eight decades on several aspects of the language, life and legends, dance and magic, origins and professions, world-view and assimilation of the Roma. It begins with my write up on the Roma as carrying the technology of steel to the regions West of India and how their dialects have NIA nominal forms and tadbhava words earlier than Hindi. Thus the Romani language is of historic value for India to understand the evolution of Hindi spoken or understood by 60% of Indians. As holders of steel technology, they have adored Lord Siva and His consort Kali, still treasured in their word trusul and the annual carnival of Sarala-kali.

In the next chapter, I have highlighted their love for language, their poignant poems, the origin of the word Roma and the legend of a Dombi queen. On arrival in Europe the Roma claimed royal origins. Kalhana's chronicle of Kashmir affirms that Kings of Kashmir were infatuated by Dombi beauties. This chapter ends with my wife Dr. Sharada Rani writing a Romani poem in the Devanagari script. The Roma children went wild with self-pride of having a literate heritage. "We have a script (lil)." They sang aloud, whirled and twirled in dance. To silence them, Milena narrated a story in Romani. The third chapter continues our visit to the Roma school in Borislav village in Czech. Years later, Jan Kochanowski stayed at our home for two years to study under my father Prof. Raghu Vira who guided his linguistic research that appeared as Gypsy Studies, vols.I, 2 in 1961. We used to address Kochanowski as Vania. We would often request him to recite the poem of Papusha in Romani: "My Land I am your daughter. The heart-rending poignancy and pathos of Vania's voice would bring tears to our eyes. The fourth chapter is in Hindi to bring the Romani language to our masses to tell them that Hindi is the deeper consciousness of ourselves.

The fifth chapter is by Prof. Raghu Vira on Indian words in the Welsh dialect of Romani that he had collected in 1928 under Prof. R.L. Turner in London. Decades later, Prof. Raghu Vira was invited by the Government of Romania as a Member of Parliament. The Deputy Prime Minister said that he had Indian blood through the Roma. He gave two gramophone records of Roma songs, with their transcripts and translation in Romanian. They form the sixth chapter.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ended her speech (ch.7) at the International Roma Festival on 29th Oct 1983 at Chandigarh: "Theirs is an example of nationalism within internationalism". Nirupama Dutt (ch.8) reports about their travails in history, 40 million of them living below the poverty line, and their dismay at the conference at Chandigarh.

The ninth chapter relates how the Roma have asserted their right by filing a suit against an encyclopaedia issued by the culture ministry of Turkey, that calls them "polygamists, prostitutes and thieves", at the European Court of Human Rights.

Godwin (ch.10) gives a moving account of the Kali Carnival on 24 May in France every year to honour their patron saint. He also mentions Florin Cioaba the 'International King of the Gypsies' wearing a heavy gold crown and clutching a gold scepter. His black Mercedes has the vanity plate bearing RGE for Rege the Romanian word for king.

Prof. S. Harmatta (ch.l1) relates the history of Gypsy research as well as their social history in Hungary. Under King Sigismund they had princes and a king, who were termed thagar, cognate to thakur in Hindi.

**Contents and Sample Pages**


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