Raam, Rom and Roma
Dev Bhardwaj (India)
"Although I was born in Bulgaria but I have always felt strongly that my soul must have taken its birth in India. India is the land of my forefathers. I have always been thrusting for the smell of its earth from many years. It seems as if I have come home after a tiring long journey of hundreds of years....." These were the words of Lilyana Kovacheva, a Romani poetess from Bulgaria, as her spontaneous reaction when I first met her in the recent past. At forty, this woman still looks quite young. She tells me that Roma in Europe are also known by the name of Gypsies. When one Rom meets another Rom he introduces himself as "Raam's child."
History is witness to it that these Roma people true to the saying, "we have no home; the whole world is our home", were once residents of north Indian states. About one thousand years back these people fanned out to many parts of Europe through Central Asia under different circumstances.
It was only when a Hungarian priest discovered through some Indian students who visited him for religious study in Europe that the origin of the Roma people got known. He heard Indian people using the word 'Pani' for water and a few more similar words and was wonderstruck that these were the words that Roma-Gypsies used in Europe. Linguists and social anthropologists began their research from this moot point. The great scholars came to the conclusion that the wandering Roma of Europe were once the residents of areas of the north India mainly Punjab & Rajasthan. Their language even nowadays, has many words similar to Punjabi & Rajasthani words for the same objects or expression. Although most Roma are now well-read and are manning important positions in countries of their residence but still many Roma are not well-educated and are engaged in traditional work of a blacksmith, a carpenter, a earthen pot-makers etc. Many of them are engaged in entertaining the people through dance, singing and other performing arts.
Although Roma call themselves as the Raam's children but they know nothing about Raam, the son of king Dasrath. "For us Raam is the name of God. We do not know anything about the epic of Raam (Ramayana)" says Lilyana.
But the great Roma scholar, Dr. Vania de Gila-Kochanowski of France, , who has traveled many times to India and has done two doctoral thesis on the linguistics relationship between Romani, Hindi, Rajasthani and Punjabi languages is not only quite well aware of the epic of Ramayana, but has come with startling discovery. When in the summer of 1998, I had the occasion to spend some days in his residence at Congervilla about 100 miles from Paris, he astonished me with his altogether strange but still convincing theory.
"From some time back I have been studying some rare Persian manuscripts and books. I have come to the conclusion that the events of Mahabharata occurred prior of Ramayana. Ravan had not come to India from Lanka to kidnap Sita but he came from Greece. At that time the descendants of Pandavs (of Mahabharat) were residing in Italy. So, our Raam - the king- thought that since Italy was quite near to Greece, he could safely seek help from his clan brothers residing there. He sought advice of his brothers of Pandav Vansh how to mount an attack on Ravana to free Sita from his lock-up in Greece. During this sojourn Raam fell in love with an Italian girl. They married and thus two sons were born out of this wedlock. His sons were still young when Raam fell seriously ill. Italian doctors could not diagnose his ailment. So he had to return to India. Unfortunately Hakims (experts in herbal medicines) in India cloud not save his life. Raam's two sons in Italy grew up feeding on fond memories of their great father in the lap of their mother. When success met them later on in their life, they founded the city Rome in Italy in the name and fame of their father. This city of Rome is now the capital of Italy. These two children of Raam in turn gave birth to other children and so on. Thus the Raam-family spread far and wide in Europe."
"Very well! Very well!!" I could not help utter these words on hearing this story of Dr. Vania, which is the story of Raam- who was the king of India about more than five thousands years ago. Is it not totally a false story? Is is not a made-up story? Whatever it is... this seems to be quite near the truth. Now the matter rests with linguistics and social scientists to unlock this mystery.
These children of Raam speak Romani. In the process of time the Romani language has grown into a separate full fledged language but still it retains intact hundreds of Punjabi words such as Akh (Eye), Nakk (Nose), Kann (Ear), Dand (Teeth), Ratt (Blood), Baal (Hair) and Ikk (One), Panj (Five)......
Lilyana Kovacheva gave me some of her Romani poems rendered into English. I translated them into Punjabi and then compared them with their original text in Romani. I found that there is too much kinship between them. One of Lilyana's poem is being given below with its Punjabi and Romani versions:
Note : This article was written in 2000 when Lilyana Kovacheva was in India for studying Hindi (Indian) language and was published in March-April 2000 issue of Kafla Intercontinental <www.kaflaintercontinental.com>