Saturday, May 14, 2011

Roma People - A Gypsy Tale

     Gypsies are known as nomads, traveling from one place to another across large areas in many parts of the world. They were likely called "gypsy" first by Europeans. Gypsies are also called Roma people, an ethnic group living mostly in Europe. Significant Roma or Romani populations are found in the Balkan Peninsula, in some Central European states, in Spain, France, Russia, and Ukraine. Several more million Romanies may live out of Europe, in particular in the Middle East and in the Americas. Now Romani can be found all over the world, but the majority in central and Eastern Europe.

It is said that Gypsies, have lived in Egypt from the year 200 B.C. and that they were Pharaohs' slaves. The Gypsies were traditional craftsmen and made shields, swords and knives for soldiers. As slaves the Gypsies also had to row the big war ships. They were also fortune-tellers for Pharaohs women. They were housed in tents like most of the people in those days.

In the 8th century a group of gypsies lived in the town of Male in India. They migrated across Asia to Europe in 14 century. When the Romani people arrived in Europe, the initial curiosity of its residents soon changed to hostility against the newcomers. The Romani were enslaved for five centuries in Wallachia and Moldavia, until abolition in 1856. Elsewhere in Europe, they were subject to ethnic cleansing, abduction of their children, and forced labor. Starting the year 1637 a new law was past in Sweden that all Gipsies were to be executed without trial. This executions continued until the 19th century. In England, Romani were sometimes hung or expelled from small communities; in France, they were branded and their heads were shaved; in Moravia and Bohemia, the women were marked by their ears being severed. As a result, large groups of the Romani moved to the East, toward Poland, and Russia which was more tolerant. Between the years 1939-1945 nearly 1 million Gypsies were executed in the concentration camps by the Nazis all around Europe during the second World war. The total number of victims has been variously estimated at 220,000 to 1,500,000; even the lowest number would count as one of the largest mass murders in history.

In Eastern Europe, Romanies experienced assimilation schemes and restrictions of cultural freedom. The Romani language and Romani music were banned from public performance in Bulgaria. Even Czechoslovakia carried out a policy of sterilization of Romani women from 1973 to 2001. In the summer of 2010 French authorities demolished at least 51 illegal Roma camps and began the process of repatriating their residents to their countries of origin.

Their culture, trades, and language are passed down from one person to the next. Most do not read or write. Caravans are formed of related families. Each band is led by a Kris, a tribunal leader who passes judgment based of their religious beliefs and customs. A common feature of gypsies in fiction is their magic: fortune-telling, curses, and the like. The specific beliefs and cultures vary from group to group, as they have spread far and wide without a collective location. Romani social behavior is strictly regulated by Hindu purity laws. The genital organs, as well as the rest of the lower body. Clothes for the lower body, as well as the clothes of menstruating women, are washed separately. Childbirth is considered impure, and must occur outside the dwelling place. The mother is considered impure for forty days after giving birth. Death is considered impure, and affects the whole family of the dead, who remain impure for a period of time. In contrast to the practice of cremating the dead, Romani dead must be buried.

Migrant Romani populations have adopted the dominant religion of their country of residence, while often preserving aspects of older belief systems and forms of worship. Most Eastern European Romanies are Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christian, or Muslim. Those in western Europe and the United States are mostly Roman Catholic or Protestant. In Turkey, Egypt, and the Balkans, the Romanies are split into Christian and Muslim populations.

The Gypsies are noted musicians. They may even have introduced the violin in Europe, a splendid gift to bring with them if this is so. The Gypsies excel in handicrafts such as basket making, copper work, and the mending of chinaware. The women are often good herbalists, and the men are sometimes capable animal doctors. Most of the women also engage in fortune telling, a practice that they pursue with a great deal of pomp and ceremony. As these skills aren't as needed in modern day, many Roma live in poverty.
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1 comment:

  1. What a good blog which provides so interesting information. I tried to find about Romani history in Wikipedia web but not much. Your blog definitely gives me so much I am looking for. Thank you very much.