Dr. David Nemeth
Gypsies & Travelers WAC
December 4, 2012
As the semester began, I knew what courses were on my list. I had picked a course Gypsies & Travelers, which I supposedly assumed will be a course for me to learn about another group. Before this I had no knowledge about Gypsies, I heard the term Gypsy but never seemed to draw any interest. However time has past and now I gained some knowledge about Gypsies. One thing I picked up through readings and outside readings; is their thing about purity. Gypsies try to maintain purity in their lives in different ways. Before discussing about their purity lifestyles, it would be worth knowing about Gypsies. Their history and how their lives have transformed as time pass. Gypsies are said to have migrated from India, Pakistan and South Asia. In India they are discussed as being close to the Rajputs whose names means “Sons of Princes” and Banjara, who supposedly left India around the time Romanies’ of now left India. Thus because of Ghanzavid invasions through the spread of Islam. Their language is believed to be similar to Urdu which means “army camps” this grew out as a mixture of languages, this was the language spoken at battlefields.
The Persian language was introduced to the Romani during this period. The Romani people share language with both the Persians and Romani since it was the language of the administration and the militia, and widely spoken throughout the area. Persian was the military language of the Seljuks who had invaded Northern India, so it served as the lingua franca amongst the Romanies’ who were captives of war. They migrated to first to Eastern Europe and other areas such as North Africa and Asia. They were characterized as people who were in the lower caste according to Indian tradition who lived as military people. These are the Romani people however to the outside world they were known as the Gypsies. Which they consider to be two different identities as Ian Hancock said in his book “We are the Romani People”, “Here are a people with two identities their own actual Romani identity and the one that is familiar to most non-Romanies and which is reflected by those many other names” (xvii).
Since their migration to Europe which began around AD 1000, they isolated themselves from outsiders, for purity reasons moreover because of outsiders attitude towards them. As in Ian Hancock’s We are the Romani people he discuss how the Romani people arrived in Europe, a period when the Ottoman Turks were taking over the Christian Byzantine Empire. Nobody knew who they were but the assumed them as Turks. They stayed towards the Adriatic coast called Little Egypt, this developed the name of them being known as Egyptian because people referred to them by the name of the town and some Romani’s also called themselves Egyptians which led to the name Gypsies as they travelled across the continent and different parts of the world. They picked up new words and change in tongue as they migrated; “There are more than 250 Greek words in the European Romani dialects taken together, second only in number to the Indian vocabulary” (Hancock 14). However throughout their travels they avoid contact with (gadzé) outsiders. Their journey began from India as stated because of military tensions, the journey of Gypsies arriving in Europe took about 3 centuries. “Perhaps as captives of Seljuk, or perhaps traveling quickly to avoid
the north-easterly spread of Islam and advancing in a series of confrontations
with non-Muslim Huns, the Romanies’ move out of India and through the
Middle East would seem to have taken place comparatively rapidly in fifty
years or less” (Hancock 14).
“But it took so little time to reach Anatolia it was another two and half centuries
before the Romanies moved to Europe” (Hancock 14).
Through their migrations, which was associated with the spread of Islam, Romanies have been held...
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