Saturday, December 29, 2007

The History of the Sinti and Roma people

There are more than twelve million Roma located in many countries around the world. There is no way to obtain an exact number since they are not recorded on most official census counts. Many Roma themselves do not admit to their true ethnic origins for economic and social reasons. The Roma are a distinct ethnic minority, distinguished at least by Rom blood and the Romani, or Romanes, language, whose origins began on the Indian subcontinent over one thousand years ago. No one knows for certain why the original Roma began their great wandering from India to Europe and beyond, but they have dispersed worldwide, despite persecution and oppression through the centuries.

There have been several great migrations, or diaspora, in Romani history. The first was the initial dispersal from India about a thousand years ago. Some scholars suggest there may have been several migrations from India. The second great migration, known as the Aresajipe, was from southwest Asia into Europe in the 14th century. The third migration was from Europe to the Americas in the 19th and early 20th centuries after the abolition of Romani slavery in Europe in 1856-1864. Some scholars contend there is a great migration occurring today since the fall of the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe.

Origins of the Romani People
by Ian Hancock

The Roma have been made up of many different groups of people from the very beginning, and have absorbed outsiders throughout their history. Because they arrived in Europe from the East, they were thought by the first Europeans to be from Turkey or Nubia or Egypt, or any number of vaguely acknowledged non-European places, and they were called, among other things, Egyptians or ‘Gyptians, which is where the word "Gypsy" comes from. In some places, this Egyptian identity was taken entirely seriously, and was no doubt borrowed by the early Roma themselves. In the 15th century, James the Fifth of Scotland concluded a treaty with a local Romani leader pledging the support of his armies to help recover "Little Egypt" (an old name for Epirus, on the Greek-Albanian coast) for them.

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.

From the very beginning, then, the Romani population has been made up of various different peoples who have come together for different reasons. As the ethnically and linguistically mixed occupational population from India moved further and further away from its land of origin (beginning in the 11th century), so it began to acquire its own ethnic identity, and it was at this time that the Romani language also began to take shape. But the mixture of peoples and languages didn’t stop there, for as the warriors moved northwestwards through Persia, they took words and grammar from Persian, and no doubt absorbed new members too; and the same thing happened in Armenia and in the Byzantine Empire, and has continued to happen in Europe. In some instances, the mingling of small groups of Roma with other peoples has resulted in such groups being absorbed into them and losing their Romani identity; the Jenisch are perhaps such an example. In others, it has been the outsiders who have been absorbed, and who, in the course of time, have become one with the Romani group.

In Europe, Roma were either kept in slavery in the Balkans (in territory that is today Romania), or else were able to move on and up into the rest of the continent, reaching every northern and western country by about 1500. In the course of time, as a result of having interacted with various European populations, and being fragmented into widely-separated groups, Roma have emerged as a collection of distinct ethnic groups within the larger whole.


The Honorable Ian F. Hancock, of British Romani and Hungarian Romani descent, represents Roma on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. He is professor of Romani Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and has authored nearly 300 publications. In 1997, he was awarded the international Rafto Human Rights Prize (Norway), and in 1998 was recipient of the Gamaliel Chair in Peace and Justice (USA).


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.
The Romani people have been known by many names, including Gypsies (or Gipsies), Tsigani, Tzigane, Cigano, Zigeuner, and others. Most Roma have always referred to themselves by their tribal names, or as Rom or Roma, meaning "Man" or "People." (Rom, Roma, Romani, and Romaniya should not be confused with the country of Romania, or the city of Rome. These names have separate, distinct etymological origins and are not related.) The use of Rom, Roma, Romani, or the double "r" spelling, is preferred in all official communications and legal documents. In response to the recommendations put forth by Roma associations, the Council of Europe has approved the use of "Rroma (Gypsies)" in its official documents (CLRAE Recommendation 11 - June 1995). The trend is to eliminate the use of derogatory, pejorative and offensive names, such as Gypsies, and to be given proper respect by the use of the self-appelation of Roma, or Rroma.



To read more get These 2 books which are available on ebay at:

Information provided by the Patrin Web Journal. To read more go to:

Romani Life Society:
Romani Literature:

My family:


My grandfather, rest in peace, shows the numbers on his arm from the concentration camps to my brother.



Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Interesting to know.

Bryce Wesley Merkl said...

This is a very interesting and informative blog.

Here is a great site in Romani that I think you may find interesting and enjoyable:

Romani wiki browser

Anonymous said...

I have been led to your site today when I googled sinti history and will explore more of it.

Thank you for your fascinating insight and openness.

I have been horrified to discover the amount of prejudice and hatred history has piled on travellers, it seems that fear of the unknown has grown through the history of mankind.
It's about time we gave up such infantile behaviour and learned to love one another.
Blessings on you and yours

Unknown said...

Thank you for all who have found this blog and who are finding it useful. Please, help spread the word so that we can stop the injustice globally!! - Dani

Anonymous said...

To learn more about Sinti, please visit the following link:

Anonymous said...

Peace to all the Roma people.

- Dale Phillip, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Anonymous said...

wow, this is amazing! I've always loved Romani people. I just don't understand why many people are prejudiced, it doesn't make sense. The only thing that bothers me is the slight sexism, though I realize every culture has this. I'm happy you took the time to write all this and included personal stories. Very Good!

Anonymous said...

I saw drag me to hell, and was very disappointed with the implications that the old woman was 'gypsy'. Curses, Gruges, all of those stereotypical elements were included, even the music choice which there was a lot of violin. I'm sure it made many ignorant people think romani people are like the old woman.

mohaimeen said...

I have only come to know about the Romani people very recently (actually just today as I write this). It perplexes me why even after a thousand years of dwelling in their current lands they still have not been given basic human rights to exist with dignity and honour.It truly is sad.

Anonymous said...

hi cool webpage about my nation me san paulo dre london
peace 4 all roma:)

Jennifer Carter said...

Dani, I've been researching the Romani people for a few years off and on. My grandfather was the son of gypsies and I know very little about them. There is very little info available to me and it's hard to know what's true when you're on the Internet. Your blog seems to be very informative. But there are so many things I still don't understand...I'm going to continue reading your blog in hopes of learning more.

If you wouldn't mind, could you email me? I'd like to ask you a few questions. And I'm interested in the items you were selling on eBay!


yessar said...

Everywhere in the world the gypsy,Romani or lamani/lambani have few things common like food, practices during the spl occassions (family traditions) and some words they use in the language. There are connection of Indian Gypsy with the rest of the world and vice versa .. one is that their cloths and affinity to the particular colours , some dishes of food are common.

anirudh said...

I am an India brahmin man, I am really intrigued by the history and appearance of the ROMA people while some are just like the europeans some others look like US!

Really great blog, support to all roma people like my brothers and sisters!


Sumeet said...

I think there should be more cultural exchange between the Indians and Romani people......for the two were are the same !

You are always welcome to your homeland !

Regards from India

Sumeet chandra

TheGypsyConnection said...

Agreed Sumeet and very nice of you to day!

MrMaranatha said...

I love reading these histories.. In truth I am reading them for specific information and confirmation. The Romani and Sinti are often confused with an unrelated people of similar lifestyle called the Irish Tinkers... also called Irish Gypsies. Here is an article I wrote some time back... < > I need to go back in and clarify some of the more important separations between these distinct people groups... thank you for writing this.. keep up the good work!!! Jim

Rick said...

I can surely say that Romany people are not of Indian ancestry as there is not enough prove to support this. Their language can be traced to Indian but also to Persian languages and Greek. It only proves that these people used to live in these territories but does not proves that their ancestors were of Indian stock as there are no traces of Hinduism in the Romany religion. When the Romany people arrived to Byzantine territories they were already Christians not Hinduists nor Muslims. These people knew the bible in the Muslim territories as they were Jewish of Hebrew ancestry. Romany culture and traditions are very similar to these of Jewish such as the Romany Marihme and the purity in their everyday life. The Jewish word for non Jew is Ghoidzim same as the Romany word for a non Romany is Ghadzo. And there is even more similarities if u will study this topic which is very interesting. Yet there is enough prove that these people are the Israelites from the northern Kingdom of Israel. This nation was deported by Nebbuchadnesar in the Median empire of today's Iran and Iraq in 721 and 722 bc and after that they spread easterly reaching Sindh valley India and Afghanistan but they kept an acceptable amount of traditions which can be traced to that of pre- talmudic law of Hebrews.

George Vasilev said...

Of course, it will take time, much time these so-called gypsies to be recognized as authentic Jews. Gypsies have nothing to do Indians. Of course, some linguistic similarity - and their language is not only of some Indian dialect but Persian, Armenian and Greek, as well -sometimes might mislead scholars. The be found Gypsies origin is to be researched not only some linguistic elements but also their customs, mentality,characteristics which undoubtedly lead towards Hebrew origin. Sure these facts are unacceptable by many people simply because of being prejudiced against Gypsies.

Unknown said...

I was always fascinated by "Gypsy" music, dance and costume. When I learned I might have a Gypsy/Rom ancestor, I became even more fascinated and started reading.(I have 96 percent Ashkenazi Jewish DNA and a snippet of "South Asian". That's why I theorize the Gypsy connection. They were in the same area of Russia and played in bands together...) I was saddened to learn of their persecution, just like what my Jewish ancestors suffered. I wonder if anyone has more information about Gypsy/Jewish connections.

Anonymous said...

I think I can fill in the blanks for you and others here--
and here--
and here--
You can believe the lies of your forefathers, trust in your own amnesia, or hear the truth-free will.

Anonymous said...

To those commentators above who would insist on attempting to link the Romani to "Lost Tribes of Israel", I heartily recommend that you revisit the most recent population genetics studies, which thoroughly support the linguistic evidence for Northern Indian origins.

Unknown said...

Hi all, This is Naresh singh Bhati ,, belongs to warrior caste Gurjar in India.. It is always taught to us that we are from aryan clan and all the time we fought with either they are Muslim invader or any other. So its bit confusing that who are Aryan ,if we are not?.
Secondly my Grand father used to say that we are the purest breed of aryans and found all across the globe with different names. ex. Gurjars, Gurjars, Gojar, khizar Guzar Gurgar Gurugar and likewise so many...
This post confirms that and I am proud to be a Gurjar..

Petr Gina said...

Roma Gypsies are Samaritans from North Israel! persian Elamites dále to Samaria in 724 BC. Thay brought sanskrit and dna (similar to Hindu) to North Israel! se na ve done domě dna tests, all Roma came aronite DNA! Aronite (COHAMIN) DNA IS COMBINATION OD MORE THAN 10 HAOLOTYPES THERE IS NO WAY THAT ROMA NA VE THIS FROM EUROPEANS! ALSO ROMA HAVE HAOLOTYPE H WHICH IS FROM PERSIAN ELAMITES! THAT IS DNA BY FATHER SIDE, BY MOTHER SIDE ROMA GYPSIES HAVE M35 AND M5. M35 IS VERY JEWISH, M5 IS ELAMITE, ALSO PLENTY OF J2 AND J1 WHICH IS JEWISH!

Petr Gina said...

Samaritan lived in Samaria till 6th century and after Arabs took the country! Many our ancestors moved to north India, Sindh region, specialty in Multan city, they stayed there till 11 century! And that's the reason why Roma came to India as Christians!