My latest research into the origins of the Gypsies started with a post at Transpontine’s South East London Blog, where I learned a little bit of South London Gyspy history, along with the fact that over in the UK, June has actually been Gypsy Traveller Roma History Month. Back on Transpontine’s blog, there was some discussion about the origins of the Gypsies, in terms of both time and place. I participated, but a little late in the game, to the effect that I was probably at that point only talking to myself. However, in the process, I got some very nice and succinct history of the Gypsies over at a Rajasthani tourism page. Here it tells us that:
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 page then goes on to describe several tribes of Rajasthani Gypsies, which is very interesting information that I haven’t seen before.
One of those tribes is the Kalbeliya, or “snake charmer caste.”
And it just so happens that are a lot of very nice current-day Kalbeliya dance clips available. Here’s one with a song that I’ve known well for over a decade, because it was on Musafir’s Gypsies of Rajasthan LP: