From observation to theory 



Roma are called by different names of which “Gypsies”, “Cigani”, and “Gitanos”, are the most common. The representatives of this population call themselves Rom, Roma, and Sinti.

The name is an indication of ethnic belonging, but it is also means “husband” or “man”. With this the name “Rom-Roma” bears similarities with the names of the other primitive populations.

Bonaventura Vulkanijus, professor for Greek language in Leiden, is considered as the first researcher doing research on the Roma. Albert Kranc, Sebastijan Minster, and others have written about Roma.

In 1652, Jacob Tomazijus (1622-1684), who is well known as a teacher of Leibniz and author of the different studies in the field of history of the philosophy, classical literature and history of the Church, defended his doctoral dissertation on Roma called ” Dissertatio philosophica de Cingaris”.

However, none of these scientists succeeded in explaining the identity of Roma. This was done by Jakob Karl Christof Rüdiger, whose book was published in Leipzig in 1782. His discovery is partly attributed to Stefan Vali, a Hungarian priest, who was in contact with Indian students during his studies, and pointed out at similarities between the Indian and Romani language.

Heinrich Moritz Gotlieb Grelman has definitely refuted any doubts as regards to the identity of the Roma. In his book, which was published under the name “Cigani” in 1783, he irrefutably proves that Roma come from India, and that the Romani language is very close to Hindi.

After this, many other books were written without providing any major new findings. One of these books is a book by the August Fredrik Pot called “Gypsies in the Europe and Asia”. Pot was a student of Franz Bop, who was considered as the most knowlegable person on Sanskrit at that time. Pot’s book was written in memory of his teacher.

In his book, Pot refers to Lorenz Diefenbach and Grafunder whose knowledge of the Romani language helped him and demonstrates that the dialects have a common base. Since his discovery of the relationship between the Romani language and Sanskrit, Pot concluded that the Roma language, or “romani chib”, one of the youngest Indian dialects, is close to the Hindi and Urdu languages.

Franc Mikloshic, a famous linguist, worked on the “Indian origin of the gypsies and their emigration from India”. Mikloshic’s research, which was published by the Vienna academy between 1872-1881, occupies a central place in the literature on Roma.

In the conclusion to his work, which were published in 1881,Mikloshic wrote: “Reach, already to reach material from the all countries which the Gypsies inhabited, enables me to be closer to this (Roma) language …” He concluded that the Romani language must be “situated” in North Western India, the Indian Kaukasus (Kafiristan, Dardistan, Kashmir, Little Tibet), and that the Romani language belongs to the Dardu language group. The native land of Roma must be considered in the North Western part of India, where we must take into account the changes which have taken place in the meantime.

Comparing the Romani and Indian languages, Mikloshic concluded that the Roma left this language group very early, at the time when the vocal groups “st” (from the old Indian) had not yet changed to “ht, the”. According to Mikloshic these changes did not affect all Indian languages and dialects, which motivates the need for deeper analysis.

Analysing the Romani language, Mikloshic made assumptions about the migration of Roma. According to his thinking, the Roma travelled trough Kabulistan, Iran, and Armenia. From there, they arrived in Byzantium. Some of the groups established in the Arab lands, whereas others travelled trough Syria and arrived in Egypt and Northern Africa.

The Roma stayed a longer period of time in Armenia which is proven by the large number Armenian words which have been preserved in the Romani language until today. Other elements prove that Roma lived long time, eventually several centuries, in Greece, before moving to the heart of Europe.

Michael Jan de Goje (1862-1909), who is well-known for his knowledge of Arabian people, asserts that the Roma are descendant of the Gjats. Who are the Gjats? In India, the Gjats are big village castes. In Pakistan, several villages groups and breeding people are called by that name. In Afghanistan, Gjat is the name for six groups of Roma and it is similar to the name “Cigani” or “Gypsies” which are used in Europe.

De Goje’s hypothesis has been accepted by some Indian researchers, who went further making assumptions as regards to the descendants of the Gjats. M.S.I. Divana for instance believes that the Gjats are descendants of the Jadavas, who are mentionned in the Mahabharata. Others believe that the Gjats originate from the intermarriages between Brahmas and other groups which explains there different outlook and physiognomy.

Still others believe that the Gjats came to India during the VIth century before the new era and that they assimilated into the Indian society. Modern Indian linguists and researchers such as V.R. Rishi, Gj. S. Patania, Pjer Lar Sharma and others base their opinion about the Roma on the same basis with some differences. The Pakistani researcher Kurshid A. Kan believes that the Romani language is closely liked with the Maravari dialect which is spoken in Rajasthan.

Linguistic research was followed by anthropological research. It is characteristic that the mistakes or same thinking of linguistics divide from the anthropological too. The famous German anthropologist, Johann Fridrich Blumenbach, for instance, assures that the skull of the Roma “ressembles much more the bone head one of the Egyptian mummies”.

Vajbah, in his physyonomic research about the Roma said: “If we can judge from the first glance I can say that Roma are similar to Egyptians; and the skull of the Roma is closer to Egyptians than to Indus.” Isidor Kopernichki, on the basis of the comparative research, asserted the existence of relations between Roma and Indus and went even further: “The head of the Roma in its constitution is hardly different from the Indian type”.

A similar opinion was expressed by A. Olevak. The Indian anthropologist Babu Ragjentral la Mitra believes: “Roma are in the relation with the Bengal people called Bedia-Bedya”. Ezen Pitard, who was professor of Anthropology at the university of Geneva, and whose book “Les Tsiganes ou Bohémiens” occupies an important place in anthropological research about Roma, conducted much more important research on the basis of which he concluded that the Roma are of dolioceohalic type. On the basis of comparisions he concluded that the Roma are an ethnic group with Indian background.

The Indian origin of Roma, which nobody raises in doubt, is confirmed by other research, including ethnographic, mythological, sociological studies. But until today, we are unable to provide a correct answer to the question where the Roma lived in India and when, why and how they left India.

Besides it is not yet clear who belongs to the Roma and who to the Sinti and Kale. When looking at old historical sources and literature there are for instance a lot of questions as regards to the names, Sinti, Singini, Luri, Kuri, Ashkali, which are similar to Romani castes.

If the Roma are of Indian origin it is logical that they are part of the history of India, Iran (Persia), and Arabic, Byzantium and Otoman empire. In that way, it is necessary to trace back the history of India and highlight events which may have been important for the destiny of European Roma.