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BANJARAS, THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN OF INDIA (Part 2)

Dr. Tanaji Rathod

Manager (Infrastructure Projects),

Karnataka State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (KSIIDC),

#49, Khanija Bhavan,
4th Floor, Racecourse Road,
BANGALORE – 560001.

Phone: +91 80 22259371,

Mob: 9845381805. 

Email: tanajirathod@gmail.com
 

...Continued from the Page "Dr. Tanaji Rathod (1)

Noticed usually in groups, people of this tribal community earn their daily bread by selling clothes at local markets and on beaches. When the Lambani tribe inhabited the forest region of the southern India, they were also referred to as the bee-keeping caste.People of the Lambani tribal community worship Goddess Shakti.  Most of us might have seen in many parts of our country that caravan of bullock carts loading with belonging of daily household use with ladies and older men are passing through in and around villages, the younger family members trailing behind them with their kids. And they put their tents in the village outskirts for few days and then again pack their belongings and head for a new direction. Who are those people? They are Banjaras, the caravan men.

They move wherever work is available, set up their temporary hamlets and build simple homes of mud and bamboo plaits. They keep very few domestic possessions and make do with earthen vessels, small quilts, bamboo and date mats and some rickety wooden articles. Brass and copper vessels are only recent additions and even these are very few in each family. The tanda (hamlet) members are controlled by a leader who is elected. His word is law on all matters and there was a time when he was credited with supernatural powers and had powers of life and death over his members. It is important here to discuss the formation of the Thanda,hamlet,settlemet,camp etc, which was a crucial element in the operation of the caravan trade. A thanda was a trading group and its chief (Naik) was the agent for the group’s trade and transportation engagements. The main clans were rathod, vadtiya, pawar and chawhan. A karbhari (secretary), who was elected by the clan as a whole, assisted them. This management system is still in tact and visible in every states of India.  It shows that how the community people have developed leadership styles following the same system. They are fond of festivals and domestic celebrations, the Banjaras revel on occasions like the New Year which to them is ugadi celebrated with gaiety. They also celebrate holi and dasara festivals as community affairs when women go from house to house collecting donations for the feast, singing and dancing all the way. Family deities are worshipped on such occasions. Banjaras share some of the religious beliefs of the Hindus and consider Lord Venkateshwara of Tirupati as their family deity. They save money over the years to go to worship the Lord of the Seven Hills whom they call Balaji.

5. CELEBRATIONS AND MARRIAGES

Song and dance come naturally to these tribal women who excel in these arts. Dances and songs also form an integral part of the Banjara wedding which in olden days used to last a whole month and is pruned down to just three days of celebration.Liquor is distributed freely on the first day of the wedding when the bridegroom and his relatives are welcomed at the bride’s tanda. The welcome is accompanied by offering paan-supari (betel leaves and nut) according to custom. A square silver ornament or bottu is tied round the neck of the bride. The boy and girl exchange seven round balls made of rice, ghee (clarified butter) and sugar while a hundred pairs of eyes are focused on them and the assembled women giggle and make merry. The couple then hold hands and do seven rounds of grain pounding with pestles.The whole place echoes to the sound of music sung by the women in chorus. The shy bride is taunted allAll eyes are misted when the bride leaves her parent’s home to go to her husband’s in another tanda. Tears roll down from her eyes as she begins to sing sad yet meaningful melody.

A stunning silence descends on the tanda as the bejewelled bride worships the family cow as a parting customs and walks slowly with her husband to her new home.Now a days Banajara the caravan men are found all over the districts of Maharashtra and other parts of the country. They say they came from Bombay and Karnataka when and why they do not know. In south of the district of Akola (Balapur) are Vanjaries and Banjaras, the two are absolutely distinct. The Vanjari hold Patilki of sixteen villages in the north of Wasim taluka, all bearing a kind of allegiance to a "Naik" or the Patil of Rajpura. In former days, considerable trade between Noth India and the seaboard passed through the district of Ahmednagar. The carriers were a class of Vanjaras called as Lamans, owners of herds of bullocks ,but since the opening of the two lines of the Great Indian Peninsula Railways the course of traffic has changed. The trade is almost entirely carried on by means of permanent market. Lamans or Vanjaries, pass through the district of Ratnagiri (Sawantwadi), along the trade routes between the coast and the Deccan. Carriers of grain and salt on pack-bullocks, they generally pass rains in Deccan and after the early harvest is over, come to the coast. They generally make two trips each fair season. Formerly they were a very large class, but since the opening of the hill-passes fit for the carts, the demand for their services has in great part ceased.

Banjaras of Berar (Vidharb & Varhad) are the same people as the Lambadies of Madras Presidency and the Manaris mentioned by Tavernier. They are supposed to be the people, mentioned by Arrian in the 4th century B.C., as leading wandering life, dwelling in tents and letting out their beasts of burden.With different culture, dress, dialogue, now Banjaras are settled in separate villages named “Tanda”. The history of the Banjaras is as colourful as their dress. They belong to a nomadic tribe whose sojourn in the subcontinent dates back to thousand years. The traditional Banjara man wear a dhoti (loin cloth tied around the waist), a wrinkled coat and turban – looked austere like that of any Indian villager. The Banjara women, however, are holding steadfast to their ancient mode of dress which is perhaps the most colourful and elaborate of any tribal group in India. Undoubtedly, their dress and jewellery sets them apart from all others. Their full length skirt, is blazing red with borders embroidered in mustard and green thread. The odhni (mantle) which covers the head is long enough to drape down their backs almost touching the feet. This also elaborately embroidered and studded with little mirrors which embellish their cholis (blouses). A variety of materials – silver, brass, some gold, cowries, ivory, animal bone and even plastic – are used in the making of a Banjara wardrobe. The women wear pretty silver anklets which clink as they walk barefoot. Long silver earrings are conspicuous and patterned cowries decorate their plaits of hair.

Peter Mundy, an English trader who came to India during the early seventeenth century, has described the Banjaras:“In the morning we met a tanda of Banjaras with 14,000 oxen. They were all laden with grains such as wheat and rice. These Banjaras carry their household – wives and children – along with them. One tanda consists of many families. Their way of life is similar to that of carriers who continuously travel from place to place. They own their oxen. They are sometimes hired by merchants, but most commonly they are themselves merchants. They buy grain where it is cheaply available and carry it to places where it is dearer. From there, they again reload their oxen with anything that can be profitably sold in other places. In a tanda there may be as many as 6 or 7 hundred persons. They do not travel more than 6 or 7 miles a day – that, too, in the cool weather. After unloading their oxen, they turn them free to graze as there is enough land here, and no one there to forbid them.?” Banjaras were a community much more in evidence all over India thousand of years from now. In fact, banjaras were called the "exporters" of grain, salt and other goods to distant provinces and regions of the country. Essentially, banjaras were a numerically larger community, operating on a much larger scale, traversing a much larger geographic area. They are also called as Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes. The social category generally known as the Denotified and Nomadic Tribes (DNTs) covers a population of approximately 6 crores. In the period of Raja and Maharajas they however earn their bread and butter by hard working and doing ladeni work. In British period due to deforestation, industrialization and mammoth constructions work they used to get works of labour and loaders. But in the later stage due to advent of machine age and cutting of jungle and increasing dependency on machines by the British these people became jobless. By working in different areas and settling in those areas they became no longer nomadic and bereft of their earlier occupations, they were suspected of being desperate criminals by the police and public alike, and continue to be hounded as in colonial times. And by the British Government they were notified as criminal tribals.

The Mathura Banjara live in a few villages of Adiladabad and Nizamabad Districts. Lambhani is their synonym. Like the Lambhani, the Mathura Banjara were also nomadic people. Their settlement is known as Tanda and its hereditary leader, Naik. They claim that they migrated to the southern parts along with twin pack bullocks from Mathura in Northern India and hence they are called Mauthra Banjara. According to the census report of Hyderabad State 1921, “the Lambadas are divided into four tribes, viz. Mathura, Lambhani, Charan and Dahia. Members of these sub tribes neither intermarry nor interdine. The Mathura and Lambhani or Lambada are Hindus, while the Charan are mostly animistic in their religious beliefs. The Mathura claim their descend from Mota, the mythical herdsman of Sri Krishna. They profess to be of the highest rank, are fairer and cleaner in their habits than the other Lambadas and also were the sacred thread. They do hot eat flesh and nor food cooked by a person of any community other that their own. They speak a dialect which is a mixture of Hindi and Gujarathi (Hassan 1920). The Mathura and Lambadi are two different communities. There are no commensal or connubial relations between these two groups.

Banjara is a community in India spread in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. They are also spread in other states of India. Locally they are known by different names such as Banjara, Lambadi, Sugali, Ghor etc. They live in settlements called Tandas, They have a unique culture and Dance form. The women wear colorful and beautiful costumes and have tattoes on their hands. A model of a Lambadi Women with her picturesque dress is one of the most attractive exhibits at the chennai museum. They are classified as Scheduled Tribes in Andhra Pradesh. They speak the Lambadi Language. Their traditional occupation is agriculture and trade.The traditional food of Lambadis is Bati which is Roti, Their customs,language and dress indicate they originated from Rajasthan. Their traditional occupation is agriculture and trade. The accurate history of Lambanis or Lambadis or Banjaras is not known but the general opinion among them is that they fought for Prithivi Raj against Mohammad Ghazni. The trail of the Lambadi/Banjara can be verified from their language, Lambadi borrows words from Rajasthani, Gujarathi, Marathi and the Local language of the area they belong to.

6. RESEMBLANCE WITH EUROPEAN GYPSIES

The Roma originally came from the Indian subcontinent, which they left about a thousand years ago. They entered Europe in the 13th Century. When they arrived in Europe they were thought to be from Egypt and were called Egyptians, which is where the word "Gypsy" comes from. There are now substantial Roma/Gypsy populations across the world. Romani culture is diverse with many traditions and all groups have their own individual beliefs and customs. There is no universal culture, but there are attributes common to all Roma, including: loyalty to family; standards and rules; and adaptability to changing conditions. In April 2005 the European Parliament adopted a ‘Resolution on the Situation of Roma in the European Union’, which is a milestone in the recognition of Roma rights concerns as a matter of the highest political concern in Europe. The resolution notes a range of concerns regarding their fundamental human rights and calls on all agencies to act without delay to correct the ongoing Roma rights crisis.

The early history of the Gypsies remains speculative. It is not clear whether they were a pariah group living on the periphery of Indian civilization, were members of one or more Hindu castes, or represented a number of different social classes and tribal groups. They apparently left their original homeland in northern India in several waves, beginning as early as the 5th century. The most important migrations, however, began in the 11th century as the result of Muslim invasions of India. The Gypsies initially traveled westward across Iran into Asia Minor and the Byzantine Empire; from there the majority proceeded into Europe by way of Greece during the early 14th century. Their route into Europe can be traced by vocabulary borrowings found in European Gypsy dialects, all of which contain words from such languages as Persian, Kurdish, and Greek. After a sojourn of about 100 years in Greece, the Gypsies spread all over Europe. By the early 16th century they had reached the most distant areas of the continent, including Russia, Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Spain.

The Gypsies were generally well received in Europe at first, but soon antagonism was aroused by their exotic appearance, deviant life-style, and closed society. In Spain, where the Gypsies had enjoyed freedom under Muslim rule, their situation changed after the Christian reconquest in 1492; between 1499 and 1783 at least a dozen laws were enacted prohibiting Gypsy dress, language, and customs in an attempt to force assimilation. The first official repression of Gypsies in France occurred in 1539 with the order for their expulsion from Paris. Similarly, in 1563, the Gypsies were commanded to leave England under the threat of death. During the 17th century in Hungary and Romania, many Gypsies were forced into bondage as serfs; in Romania, their final liberation did not take place until 1855. The Gypsies were not treated harshly everywhere in Europe. In czarist Russia, for instance, their circumstances differed little from the masses of impoverished peasantry. In the Balkans, during almost 500 years of Turkish rule, many Gypsies enjoyed special privileges by converting to Islam. Today in such countries as Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria their position is similar to that of other ethnic minorities.

Discrimination against Gypsies, however, has persisted in much of Europe to the present time. In the 20th century, persecutions reached their height during World War II, when about 250,000 Gypsies perished in Nazi concentration camps. Present Distribution The total number of Gypsies in the world today is estimated between 3 and 6 million. Census figures are not precise because Gypsies are often not counted. By far the largest concentrations are found in the Balkans, central Europe, and Russia and other successor republics of the USSR, with smaller numbers scattered throughout Western Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and the Americas. Although Gypsies first appeared in America as indentured laborers during the colonial period, they began to migrate in significant numbers from Russia and the Balkans during the late 19th century. Evidence suggests that fewer than 100,000 Gypsies now live in the U.S. and Canada. Although many western European Gypsies are still nomadic, the vast majority elsewhere are sedentary. Of the more than 1 million in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, for example, probably no more than 10 percent are nomads. In the U.S., Gypsies traveled about in rural areas until the Great Depression of the 1930s, when most settled in large cities on both coasts.

Gypsies are fragmented into groups sometimes referred to as nations or tribes, generally defined by geographic area of settlement or recent origin. The European tribes include the Gitanos of Spain, the Manouche of France, the Sinte of Germany and central Europe, the Romnichals of Great Britain, the Boyash of Romania, and the Rom of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The Rom also make up the single largest group in the United States. Under the influence of a growing worldwide nationalist movement that stresses cultural and ethnic unity, the word Rom (the people) is gradually replacing the term Gypsy.

7. NOMADIC LIFE

Before they left India, little is known about the culture which generated the Gypsies, except for their migrations, within and out of India. Linguistics and historians believe that the Gypsies were originally from North Central India. Their first known migration started around 300 BC, when they moved to North Western India. The Persian Book of Kings relates an incident corroborated by independent chronicles that took place in the fifth century, when the Indian King Shankal made a gift of 12.000 musicians to the Shah of Persia. It is assumed that those musicians were the ancestors of the Roma since after a year the Shah sent them away from Persia. Why and when, then, the Roma left India is clouded in uncertainty, yet some scholars state that the Gypsies entered southeastern Europe in the last quarter of the 13th Century. Because they arrived in Europe from the East, they were thought by the first Europeans to be from Turkey, Nubia or Egypt, or any number of non-European places. They were called, among other things, Egyptians or 'Gyptians, which is where the word "Gypsy" comes from. All analysis seem to corroborate the fact that the Roma ancestors are linked to this common lineage in India. As well, the Roma have been known as entertainers and inspired musicians in every country they have traveled, as some of the nomadic groups present in the Thar Desert today.

The Gypsies are a close-knit communal people who have a shared background, but are scattered throughout the world. Their origins have been the subject of controversy throughout the centuries, but in modern times, we have discovered, from research into their language, that the gypsies originated in Northern India, from whence they spread throughout Europe and the Middle East. No one knows when the first gypsies left India or, indeed, why. They seem to have arrived in the Middle East about 1000 AD, some going on into North Africa and others on into Europe. They were an intelligent people, used to living on their wits, who found it easy to impress the uneducated locals by giving themselves unwarranted titles and assuming the importance to go with them. Hence they arrived in Europe as Lords, Dukes, Counts and Earls of Little Egypt, demanding and receiving help and support from those in authority.

Claiming that they had been ejected from their homeland, 'Little Egypt', by the wicked Saracens, or that they were on a pilgrimage, gained them succour from no less than the Pope himself, who demanded that they be given safe passage in the countries over which he had sway. So they were able to travel in relative safety, and could expect food and lodging from religious houses, as the rich of the time felt that it would assist their standing in the eyes of the church if they supported pilgrims. Having been on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land was the ultimate status symbol, but supporting those who had been on one, or were taking part in one was the next best thing. So with their quick wits and silver tongues they were soon under the protection of Kings throughout Europe. This map shows that how the gypsies moved from Indian sub continent to other parts of the world over a period.

They arrived in Europe as Lords, Dukes, Counts and Earls of Little Egypt, demanding and receiving help and support from those in authority. Claiming that they had been ejected from their homeland, 'Little Egypt', by the wicked Saracens, or that they were on a pilgrimage, gained them succour from no less than the Pope himself, who demanded that they be given safe passage in the countries over which he had sway. So they were able to travel in relative safety, and could expect food and lodging from religious houses, as the rich of the time felt that it would assist their standing in the eyes of the church if they supported pilgrims. Having been on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land was the ultimate status symbol, but supporting those who had been on one, or were taking part in one was the next best thing. So with their quick wits and silver tongues they were soon under the protection of Kings throughout Europe

Gypsies presumed that the long-lost children of India, number about 12 million worldwide. In Europe, the 8 million Gypsies constitute its largest minority. Recent films like Tony Gatlif's Latcho Drom: A Musical History of the Gypsies from India to Spain (1994) and books like Isabel Fonseca's Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and their Journey(1996) will help ensure that the Gypsies do not again disappear -- outside the world's consciousness. Over the past seven centuries, the Gypsies have made many contributions to European folk music, dance, and lore. An outstanding example of these contribitions. When Isabel Fonseca, an American journalist and former assistant editor of theTimes Literary Supplement,  she said that the Gypsies were 'the New Jews of Eastern Europe.'" After four years of field work that included living with Gypsy families in many European countries and researching library documents, she concluded that the Gypsies "alongside with the Jews are ancient scapegoats."

Groups of gypsies arrived in most of the countries of Central and Western Europe throughout the 1400's. They are recorded in Italy, France, Germany and Hungary. They roamed far and wide, living the nomadic life, with the men carrying on their trades as horse dealers, musicians amd workers of metal, while the women continued to tell fortunes and to relieve the unwary of their property. Despite their supposed religious nature, they were feared by many, and this built up into movements by governments against them. Countries issued edicts against them, the first being Spain in about 1490, but this just drove them underground. Spain tried, over the next three hundred years, to prohibit their dress, language and customs and so force assimilation and an end to their wanderings. Country after country passed laws to reject and expel them, sometimes to colonies overseas. In 1539, France issued a nationwide expulsion order, England having attempted the same in 1530, under threat of imprisonment, but when that failed, the penalty became death in 1554. In parts of Central Europe they were forced into bondage, and in Romania made to live as chattel slaves - a situation which did not change until they gained their freedom in 1856. In many cases, their answer was to move elsewhere until such times as a law was made expelling them from there also, but, as all unsettled tribes who live among settled communities are open to becoming convenient scapegoats, the increased complaints, genuine or not, by the local populace surely led to official and legal persecution wherever they went.

8. MIGRATION TO THE OTHER REGIONS

The history of the Roma is one of continuous struggle and persecution. Since their entry into Europe, the Roma have been outlawed, enslaved, hunted, tortured, and murdered. From the time of the Slobuzenja (Abolition of Romani Slavery) in 1856, to the present day, the Roma have fought for their just social and human rights, largely to the deaf ears of world governments and an indifferent public. The use of the names Rom, Roma, Romani, or the double 'r' spelling, are used when possible, instead of the names 'Gypsy' and 'Gypsies'. However, it may be necessary to use Gypsy and Gypsies within a cultural or historical context. Romanichal, Gitanos, Kalé, Sinti, Manush, and others do not use Roma when referring to themselves, but to others. For the purpose of this timeline, Roma is used when possible. Rom, Roma, and Romani should not connected or confused with the country of Romania, or Rome the city. These names have separate, distinct etymological origins and are not related. 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.

Traditionally, Gypsies never kept any written records nor sustained an oral history. The research on their origin began with a systematic philological analysis of their language, Romani, which has been firmly established as a Sanskritic language. Words like dand, (tooth), mun, (mouth), lon, (salt), akha (eyes), khel (play) are identical with those in Punjabi spoken in northwest India. Fonseca does not comment on the obvious resemblance with Punjabi, presumably because of her unfamiliarity with it or any other modern Indian language. She has said that the Gypsy habit of shaking head side-to-side to signify yes. This distinctive gesture alone suffices to pinpoint their India origin.  Fonseca seems to think that the current scholarly consensus is that the Gypsies are from the Dom group of tribes, still extant in India, making their living as wandering musicians, smiths, metalworkers, scavengers, and basketmakers. They migrated first from northwest India to Persia in 950 A.D. at the invitation of Shah Behram Gur. As recorded by the contemporary Persian historian Hamza, the Shah "out of solicitude for his subjects, imported 12,000 musicians for their listening pleasure."The Roma appeared in Europe first in 1300 A.D., fleeing from forcible Islamic conversions by the Turks. In Europe, ironically, they were accused of being advance spies for the Turks, and persecuted again. They were also mistaken as Egyptians, whence the folklore origin of the term Gypsy. Fonseca apparently is unaware of yet another etymology: Punjab-say -- from Punjab, which was what the earliest immigrants to Persia replied when asked where they have come from. By the time, they reached Byzantium, the locals heard Punjab-say as Jabsay, Gypsy. The locals took Gypsy to mean from Egypt, a country they had heard of.The history of the Roma in Europe, gleaned, for the most part, from court- and church-records and from rare academic publications, is a horror--Europe's heart of darkness. One of the examples Fonseca cites is the 1783 dissertation published by Heinrich Grellman of Gottingen University. In his book, Grellman describes an event of the previous year in Hont county, Hungary: "The case involved more than 150 Gypsies, forty-one of whom were tortured into confessions of cannibalism. Fifteen men were hanged, six broken on the wheel, two quartered, and eighteen women beheaded -- before an investigation ordered by the Hapsburg monarch Joseph II revealed that all of the supposed victims were still alive."During World War II, the Nazis exterminated 1.5 million Gypsies. At the Nuremberg trials, the Nazis' lawyers argued that the killing of the Gypsies was justified since they had been punished as criminals, not as a race. There was no one to speak for the Gypsies, and the international tribunal accepted this as exonerating defense! Ah, humanity.Although tyrants, bigots, and the misinformed have often stereotyped the Gypsies as congenital criminals, sociological studies show that the Gypsies commit crimes no more than others. A large-scale study cited by Fonseca: In Romania, which has the largest Gypsy population of any country, out of all criminal convictions that of the Gypsies total 11 percent. Their population in the country? Exactly 11 percent. (The Gypsies in Romania do not have equal access to the justice system. Their situation is worse than that of the Blacks and Hispanics in the U.S.A.)

9. THINKERS PROPOSITIONS

In recent decades, a Gypsy intelligentsia has begun to emerge. Fonseca presents detailed profiles of several. Dr. Ian Hancock, an American Gypsy, and the author of The Pariah Syndrome, was instrumental in bringing about, in April 1994, the first-ever Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., on the human-rights abuses of the Gypsies. After prolonged efforts, Hancock also succeeded in the Gypsy inclusion in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Gypsy inclusion had long been opposed by Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize winner! It was only after Wiesel's resignation, writes Fonseca, herself an American Jew, that one Gypsy was allowed onto the museum's 65-member council. (The council comprised more than thirty Jews as well as Poles, Ukranians, and Russians among others but not a single Gypsy.) Saip Jusuf is the author of one of the first Romani grammars and a principal leader in Skopje, Macedonia, which has the largest Gypsy settlement anywhere. Jusuf helped organize the first world Romany Congress in 1971 in London. The conference was financed in part by the Government of India, and at its urging the U.N. agreed first to recognize the Rom as a distinct ethnic group and several years later accorded voting rights to the International Romani Union.In an interview with the author, Jusuf, having converted from Islam to his ancestral Hinduism, joyously displayed his new icon collection of Ganesha, Parvati, and Durga . Ramche Mustupha, a poet, showed his passport. Under "citizenship" it recorded Yugoslav; under "nationality," Hindu. The lost children of India, having found their ancestral land, are very proud of its ancient civilization -- the oldest continuous civilization in the world -- "Amaro Baro Thanh" (Romani for "our big land"). Fonseca observes: "Many of the young women, fed up with the baggy-bottomed Turkish trousers they were supposed to wear, have begun to wear saris."

Unlike other beleaguered and marginalized minorities, the Rom are not seeking a homeland of their own, a Romanistan, in or outside India. The Rom are resisting, as they always have, to maintain the freedom for a life-style of their choosing. "To allow this to the Gypsies," Vaclav Havel, in Prague, said, "is the litmus test of a civil society." However, Havel's is a lonely voice. All over Central and East Europe "Death to the Gypsies" graffiti can be observed. Since the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslavakia, twenty-eight Gypsies have been murdered.Fonseca cites several specific cases of terrorism against the Gypsies during the 90's. "In February 1995, in Oberwart, Austria, a town seventy-five miles south of Vienna, four Gypsy men were murdered. A pipe bomb had been concealed behind a sign that said, in Gothic tombstone lettering, 'Gypsies go back to India'; the bomb exploded in their faces when they tried to take it down. The first response of the Austrian police was to search the victims' own settlement for weapons; 'Gypsies killed by own bomb,' the papers reported." Oberwart, Austria, is in Burgenland, where the Gypsies have been settled for three centuries.The resurging repression of the Gypsies is Europe's continuing crime against humanity. At the Nazi trials in Nuremberg, there was no one to speak on behalf of the Gypsies. Now, the Gypsies have at least this eloquent book exposing Europe's recrudescing genocidal threats to them.

The Romani language is of Indo-Aryan origin and has many spoken dialects, but the root language is ancient Punjabi, or Hindi. The spoken Romani language is varied, but all dialects contain some common words in use by all Roma. Based on language, Roma are divided into three populations. They are the Domari of the Middle East and Eastern Europe (the Dom), the Lomarvren of Central Europe (the Lom), and the Romani of Western Europe (the Rom). There is no universal written Romani language in use by all Roma. However, the codification of a constructed, standardized dialect is currently in progress by members of the Linguistic Commission of the International Romani Union. There are four Rom "tribes", or nations (natsiya), of Roma: the Kalderash, the Machavaya, the Lovari, and the Churari. Other groups include the Romanichal, the Gitanoes (Calé), the Sinti, the Rudari, the Manush, the Boyash, the Ungaritza, the Luri, the Bashaldé, the Romungro, and the Xoraxai. The first European descriptions of the Roma upon their entering Europe emphasized their dark skin and black hair. Through integration with Europeans over the centuries, Roma today can also be found with light skin and hair.

Till 1867, Roma gypsies were part of European slave population. Their crime – a different language, a different religion and they looked different. After living in Europe for 1000 years, they were considered ‘outsiders’ – and did not mix much with ‘native’ Europeans. It is the same Roma Gypsies who have contributed to the Spanish cultural icon – Flamenco! It is the Roma-Gypsies (along with the Arabs) who brought Indian music systems to Europe – based on which the Western music system developed over the last 300-400 years. The iconic guitar is a modified Indian musical instrument – brought to Europe by the Gypsies, which the West tries ‘passing off’ as their own. But, of course, the Hittites, the Indo Aryans of the Middle East, before them had an instrument similar to the guitar. Why am I not surprised when flamenco style, Gypsy music group, Los Del Rio’s Macarena became a big hit in India. Gypsy music burst on the Western main street with Django Reinhardt’s Jazz – and the birth of modern Western music fuelled by Gypsy music traditions remains completely unacknowledged.Where did Roma Gypsies come from – they claimed they came from India. But no one was quite sure. Recent DNA mapping done has confirmed what they always claimed – they were from India. A Russian-Roma poet (born in Latvia) Leksa Manush, wrote a the Roma version of the Indian epic poem, Ramayana as “Ramajanam”. What are we (Indians) doing about these “lost Indian tribe”. Sweet nothing at all!

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, gyptians 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).Gypsies, close-knit, communal people with a common racial, cultural, and linguistic heritage, currently dispersed in small groups throughout the world. Although the Gypsies have been in Europe for more than 500 years, only in the late 18th century was their original homeland definitively identified as northwestern India, through the discovery of the relationship between the Gypsy language, Romany, and the Indo-European dialects of that region. Popular modern stereotypes continue to define the Gypsies in terms of nomadism and an uninhibited, flamboyant life-style rather than as a genuine ethnic group.

10. CULTURE AND CUSTOMS OF GYPSIES  

Because the Gypsies are widely dispersed, their culture and social organization vary considerably. A salient characteristic everywhere, however, is a strong sense of group cohesion and exclusivity stressing the sacredness of Gypsy traditions in opposition to those of the outside world. Contact with non-Gypsies is regarded as potentially ꒣olluting,?a concept probably derived from the religious beliefs of their Hindu ancestors. Another unifying force is the influence of the Gypsy language, Romany, which consists of a number of dialects belonging to the Indic branch of the Indo-European languages. Most Gypsies speak some form of Romany, and others employ dialects of the local languages with extensive Romany borrowings.

Gypsies are perhaps most profoundly differentiated from one another in the area of religion, as they have usually adopted the faiths of the countries in which they live. Among the Gypsies can be found Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, and Muslims. They have little recourse to the clergy, however, preferring to carry out religious rituals in their own homes or in the context of folk observances. The various Gypsy tribes are divided into clans, each composed of a number of families related by common descent or historic association. Clans have nominal leaders, who sometimes adopt the title king or queen. Such titles do not signify positions of generalized political leadership but are simply bestowed as signs of respect or to impress outsiders. The Gypsies are family oriented, with the elderly occupying positions of respect and authority. Marriages are usually arranged and represent the desire to create alliances between families or clans rather than a personal attraction. A strict sexual morality prevails; it is still common for unmarried girls to be chaperoned. A number of groups, including the Rom, maintain the institution of bride-price, a payment made by the family of the groom to that of the bride to indemnify them for the loss of a daughter and to guarantee that she will receive good treatment.

Another important institution is the kris, an informal court that adjudicates disputes and matters of common law and Gypsy custom. In general the Gypsies have little dependence on the formal social structures of the societies in which they live because these functions are replicated within their own communities. Almost everywhere the Gypsies occupy positions of low prestige and tend to engage in economically marginal activities. They generally pursue traditional occupations, including music and entertainment; blacksmithing and metalwork; horse and stock trading; peddling and small-scale commerce; fortune-telling and curing; and basketmaking, wood carving, and other crafts. The Gypsies tend to be most integrated culturally and economically in the less industrialized regions of southern Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East. Almost everywhere, however, they are under pressure to abandon their traditional way of life. In Great Britain, for example, their right to campsites has long been an issue of litigation. Nevertheless, the Gypsies' growing awareness of their common origins, language, and culture suggests that Gypsy society will not disappear.

Bury Me Standing -- the title comes from the Gypsy saying, "Bury me standing, I've been on my knees all my life"-- is a compassionate book about a marginalized and much-maligned people. Nonetheless, over the past seven centuries, the Gypsies have made many contributions to European folk music, dance, and lore. An outstanding example of these contribitions --Flameno-- highlights the Cannes award-winning Latcho Drom .When Isabel Fonseca, an American journalist and former assistant editor of the Times Literary Supplement, set out to write this book in 1991, she "had in mind that the Gypsies were 'the New Jews of Eastern Europe.'" After four years of field work that included living with Gypsy families in many European countries and researching library documents, she concluded that the Gypsies "alongside with the Jews are ancient scapegoats." Fonseca errs in stating that the Gypsy designation for themsleves as Roma is derived from Dom, one of the outcaste tirbes in India. Roma is a variation of "ramante," a Punjabi word meaning moving, wandering. This etymology is cogently discussed in W.R. Rishi's book "ROMA: The Panjabi Emigrants in Europe, second edition" published in 1996 by Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab, India. Rishi traces the origin of the Roma to the 500, 000 prisoners of war taken by Muhamad Ghaznvi in 1001 from the Punjab to Afghanistan and subjected to Islamic conversion by the sword. Many of them resisted by escaping westward to the Christian lands of Armenia and Greece. To this day, the Roma use the word Gajo, derived from Ghazi-- the Koranic title of infidel-killing Muslims-- as a disparaging term. The Roma are from the warrior castes of the Punjab.


This map shows that how the banjara community people are dispersed over the Indian regions. They are thickly populated in Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra, Rajastan, Karnataka, Punjab etc. The Banjaras were a mobile community of central India. Portage of goods and services was their primary occupation. This brought them in contact with a whole spectrum of population from the plains to the hills. It also generated tremendous diversity within the Banjara society in terms of language, customs, beliefs and practices. It developed in them a rather casual, unorthodox and open attitude towards religion, family, and women. Many of the practices which were prohibited in the mainstream orthodox Hindu and Muslim society were freely practised in the Banjara Community. Practices such as courtship and pre-marital sex; late marriage; widow re-marriage and so on, were common social practices much to the suspicion of religious orthodoxy and the colonial state. Since the colonial state was ever suspicious and fearful of the moving people, the Banjaras became the target of colonial wrath. The main aim of the colonial state was to coerce the Banjaras to sedentirise into settled agriculture. The entire colonial police, bureaucracy and legal institution was organized to monitor and force the Banjaras to abandon their traditional lifestyle. This resulted not only in their cultural loss but also in their demographic decline. The Banjaras became the worst victims of colonial persecution and oppression. The famine cycle of 1890s hit the Banjaras the hardest. Even the mainstream Hindu and Muslim orthodoxy joined the colonial state in Banjara persecution. But the Banjaras struggled and resisted all attempts to exterminate their society and culture.

The Banjara tribe in Jharkhand is a recognized part of the tribal community. Unlike the Banjara tribe of Rajasthan, the Banjaras of Jharkhand lead a settled life. They generally live in thatched huts with kuchcha walls. Though they remain unperturbed by the modernization around, recent years has seen far reaching changes in the relationship between the Banjaras and the large society. The literacy rate of the Banjaras is about 12.38%. The colorful lives of the Banjaras now has become the source of entertainment to the entire state. Tribal festivals like Sarhul, Tusu and Sohrai are celebrated throughout the state. Banjara music and dances like Chaw, Natua, Ghatwari and Matha now-a-days has become sources of recreation even to the tourists to Jharkhand. They now seem to plan their visit to Jharkhand in the festive seasons of the tribes in Jharkhand. Banjaras of Jharkhand has become famous particularly for their embroidery works. Influenced by their themes and culture and exploiting the availability of raw materials, the Banjaras embellish their works with ivory beads, shells and colorful threads. The needle crafts of the Banjaras create skirts, jackets, belts, bags, blouses and also different types of room decors.

The time has now come, all Banjaras should think whether they can achieve theire target by the measures which have been taken so far or should think for other alternatives. Through this site you can send your views and comments and schemes which you think will be useful for the betterment The Association support the Government Policy regarding reservation in some States where Banjaras are getting benefit of reservation at per SC/ST. The Association does not want any change in this policy, but urges upon the Central Government that the same should be followed in every States of the country. Recommendations from various State Governments have been sent to Central Government for extending the benefit of reservations for STs to their States, Banjaras demand is that Government should accept those recommendations. Wherever State Government is not in a position to recommend to include the Banjaras in the list of STs they should adopt reservation policy as per Maharashtra Government, by which the DNTs/Banjaras will also get the benefit of reservation. The Central Government should bring a Bill in the next Session of Parliament for giving constitutional safeguard to Banjaras along with Denotified Nomadic Tribes (DNTs) by making a 3rd Schedule in the Constitution so that Banjaras and DNTs can get all benefits, such as reservation in jobs, promotions, etc like SC/ST/OBC and Minorities.

11. CONCLUSION

It is found that banjaras are backward and rehabilatition and reformation are required. No doubt government is already trying to rehabilitate and reform banjaras, however, it is felt  that this improvement is reaching only a few and large sections of the population of banjaras are still backward. It is urgent duty of the government and social service organizations to improve the really poor, weaker and the backword.  Social change is a continuous process and any change in the environment of tribal community will bring in some changes in its social structure. In this process of social change the leadership within the tribal community is also bound to change. Therefore the respective governments have to focus on providing rehabilitations, improving drinking water facilities, housing facilities, primary and secondary education.

Thank god, over a period it has seen some light in some parts of the region. The respective governments have opened their eyes and given some legitimate and constitutional berth in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. But what happened to other parts of the world? This is due  The community is largely insensitive to the suffering caused to the poor by the processes of liberalization and globalization. Their community bonds are loosened and they lose various rights. It is affecting that this massive displacement will affect the politics of identity on democracy .  To improve the hamlets of remote places, the governments have to try to provide infrastructure facilities through the creation of separate thanda development corporations or boards . The respective governments have to identify their basic needs like socio-economic, educational and cultural and provide them reservation facilities based on their populations.

References:  

Dr. M. Krishnamurthy (2000), “Crimes and customs among the lambanis in the Chitradurga district’ A Ph.D. thesis submitted to Karnatak University Dharwad, Pp. 193-234.

Bhangya Bhukya (2010), “Subjugated Nomads; The Lambadas under the rule of the Nizams” published by Orient BlackSwan Pvt. Ltd, Hyderabad, Pp.48-250. This is a Ph.D. thesis submitted to University of Warwick, U.K. Author thanks him and acknowledges the research work done on the history of banjara community.

Isabel Fonseca(1996), “Bury Me Standing The Gypsies and Their Journey”  New York: Vintage,   8-320.

Dr. N. Raju Naik (2006), “Political awareness among the Lambanis: A Study”, It is Ph.D. thesis submitted to Bangalore university. Published by Atmajyothi Prakashan, Bangalore, Pp. 330-332.

Chamanlal(1962), “Gypsies, forgotten children of India,(Government of India publication, New Delhi, Pp-23-86. .

Singh K.S (1996), “People of India, the scheduled caste, National series, Vol. II( Banjara), Pp- 45-67. 

Upadyoy (1991), “Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in India, Anmal publications, New delhi, pp-23-48.

Posted on June 21, 2010-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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