Roma and Hindu Common Customs &
Ranging from Birth to Death
- Janardhan Singh Pathania
I have heard from varioua Roma/Gypsy people about the Roma people’s way
of life from the birth of a child to his journey into old age and death.
I have compared all these old Roma customs and traditions with the north
Indian Hindu customs and traditions.
1. When a Romni (Gypsy-woman) delivers a child she does so in a separate
room or tent. She is also declared as a polluted woman for forty days by
the Roma/Gypsy society and she is prohibited to touch anybody. She is
confined with her infant to live in a separate -tent or room. In
comparison to this Roma custom, the Indian Hindu woman also delivers the
baby in a separate place and is declared polluted for twenty days and
she too is not allowed to touch anybody.
2. Then after forty days the Romni (Gyp-woman) takes a cleansing bath
wherein she puts on clean clothes and her infant too is cleaned. After
this ceremony they Molisaren i.e. pray to God and following which the
senior Gypsy women tie a Red-thread on the wrist of the mother and
child. Similarly the Hindu woman after twenty days of giving birth too
bathes and cleans herself and her infant. Thereafter she prays to God
and a red-thread which is called ‘Mauli’ is tied to her wrist and that
of the infant.
3. Gypsy women at night keep a burning candle or a lamp near the bed of
the sleeping mother and child. The Indian Hindu women also do just the
same as the Gypsy women do to ward off the evil spirits from mother and
4. The Gypsy women consider a weeping infant to be under an evil spell
when it cries incessantly and immediately she takes to tending it. When
the child suddenly starts weeping and crying loudly, the Indian Hindu
women too jump to the conclusion that their infant has been attacked by
an Evil spirit.
5. The Gypsy women use amulets and other Magical objects to keep away
Ghosts and other Evil spirits from the mother and child for they believe
that both are susceptible to their evil spells. The Indian Hindu women
also use amulets and magical objects and charms to ward off the same.
6. The Gypsy woman puts a Kalakh/black-soot on her child’s fore-head to
ward off the evil eye and evil spirits. The Hindu Indian women also
apply ‘Kalakh’ in a similar fashion on the fore-head of her child.
7. The Gypsy woman always holds her child to her breast and never to the
back , which is familiar with the Indian Hindu woman’s way.
Roma /Gypsy Life
1. The Roma life is full of travelling from place to place with
their wagons/vordona and tentage. The Indian nomads like Banjaras and
Gaddi-Lohars and some others tribes also move the same way from place to
place with their carts and tentage.
2. The Gypsy people do odd small jobs such as those of Black-smiths,
Copper-smiths, Wooden-tool makers, Carpenters, Herbal medicine men,
Horse Trainers and traders. They are Bear and Monkey handlers/trainers,
Peddlers, tinkers, Magicians, Musicians, Singers, Dancers, etc.etc. The
Indian people also do such jobs like the Gypsy people.
3. For marriage the Roma/Gypsy use a middle man to look for a match for
their child’s marriage. If the matchmaking is successful the gypsy call
it ‘Xanamika’, which signifies the meeting and agreeing of the boy’s and
the girl’s family for marriage. Thereafter they immediately declare that
their children are engaged known as ‘Mangipi’, which is called ‘Mangni’
in Indian Hindustani language. They pay money to the girl’s father i.e.
bride price and purchase the girl. Earlier the Indian people also used
to pay money for the bride like the Gypsy people. However now this
practice exists in India only among the illiterate people, in far off
remote areas and more often among the tribals.
4. The Roma/Gypsy marriage is celebrated with all the pomp and show,
even they borrow money and sell their land for celebrating the marriage
of their sons. The Hindus in India also do the same way.
5. The Roma people on the wedding -night have the verginity-test. In
past the Indian nomadic tribal people also used to have this custom but
it is no more now.
6. When a Gypsy man and woman become old, their social status is
elevated whereby they become more important and command a lot of social
respect. They head their big joint families and social groups. All the
major decisions are taken by this Head of the family i.e. the old man
and woman. A similar practice like those of the Gypsy people of Europe
also exists among the Indian nomadic and other tribal people.
Romano Meripe / Gypsy Death
1. When a Roma-Gypsy man dies, his dead body is left alone in a room or
a small tent. The children of the deceased family are taken either to
their uncles, cousins, or neighbour’s house away from the deceased
person’s body. Indian village Hindu people too have similar practices.
2. The Roma dead body is left alone in the room and the window of the
room is kept a little open. They keep a tumbler full of water in the
window inside the room for the dead man’s soul to drink. A belief that
it is the last drinking of water by the departed soul and thereafter the
door of the room is shut. The Hindu people also do like this they too
put a Jug (Garhvi) full of water near the dead body, for his soul to
have the last drinking of water.
3. The Roma give to the dead man’s soul, his last food, for his onward
journey to God. They keep a plate full of flour near the dead body. The
Indian Hindu people also put a plate full of flour and some other
eatables near the dead body like the Roma people for his onward journey
4. The whole night Roma people sit near the dead body and maintain a
night vigil. They talk all good things in praise of the deceased and
sing a dirge with his eldest son. They weep loudly and bitterly to show
that they are in mourning and feel the loss of the deceased. Indian
Hindus also do the same but in their case the women weep loudly and
bitterly. In the past they would sing dirge and only women used to beat
their breasts but Hindu men will not do any such thing, they will only
5. In the morning the Roma people like Hindus see if the water in the
tumbler is a little empty or the plate of flour kept near by the
deceased has some finger or some other prints on it. They feel that
these signs show whether the soul of the deceased has taken his last
food and water and has, thus, left for his last journey to God.
6. In case of Roma in the morning wagon i.e. ‘vordon’ comes to take the
dead body to the cemetery for burial in the grave yard. Whence the dead
body is put in the grave, little splinter pieces of wood are put into
the grave atop the deceased person’s body and thereafter, he is buried.
The Indian Hindu people also have corresponding customs of death
rites.The Hindus don’t bury their dead but cremate their dead. They set
the dead body on a heap of woods and add bits and splinter pieces of
wood to it, thereafter, they alight the pyre to finally cremate the
deceased. All this is done so as per the old Hindu-custom.
7. The Roma of Romania also put wooden-bits on the dead body like the
Hindus of India, then they burry their dead for now they have converted
to Islam and Christianity and they follow the customs of these religions
but have stuck on to their old and original rite of putting wooden -bits
on the deceased person. However, the Hindus in India still continue with
this age old practice of putting wooden splinters on the dead body and
then setting it alight.
8. After the burial of the dead, the Roma people light a match stick
over their head and then don’t look back to the grave the Hindus also do
the same way but instead of burning match-stick, they throw a wooden
-splinter over their head and don’t look back.
9. Then the Roma people before going back to their home, they do dusting
of their clothes by slaping their own hands on their dress. The Hindus
of India also do the same, but instead of dusting of their clothes, they
take a bath or wash their hands and faces and sprinkle water on their
heads and then go back to their home.
10. In the end I would say that Roma/Gypsies in the alien western lands
converted to the local religions, which, were alien to their
original-religion, whence they departed from India. Even now centuries
later, away from their original homeland the Gypsies knowingly or
unknowingly have retained their cultural-ties with centuries old Hindu
customs and traditions.
11. Roma people give annually a big-feast in honour of their dead called
“Pomana” and the Indian-Hindus also do the same way and call this annual
feast as “Sharadh”.
12. There is no doubt that Roma still have their very old Indian
Hindu-customs and traditions and this is a big proof with us that the
fore-fathers of Roma were Hindus and their mother country was INDIA.
13. The mother-tongue of Roma is called Romani - Jib which is an
oral-language for the communication purposes and it is from the old
Indian “Prakrit-Group of languages”. Now in India all the Prakrits have
died and there is only one living Prakrit in the whole world and that is
“Romani-Jib” which is now spoken in far off alien -lands and where it is
gasping for its survival.
The actual-name of the Romani language was “Ramni-Bhasha”, which later
changed in alien-lands from “Ramni-Bhasha” to “Romani-jib” and then the
word “Jibh” / language took many forms in many countries such as :
Jivah, Jibh, Jib, Chib, Chhib, Chip, Shib, Ship, Kip…etc.
(Note: Tongue=Jivah [skt] <(Jibh <Jib <Chib <Chhib <Chip <Shib <Ship
I personally feel it is the duty of all the Romani-Linguists of INDIA
and alien -lands to voluntarily come forward without looking for any
Award & Reward, Name & Fame, and save this an old India’s only living
Prakrit language called “Romani-Jib” from its extinction, with which all
the Indo-Aryan group of languages and Dialects of Indian-Sub-Continent
are directly or indirectly connected.
(Published in Kafla
Intercontinental - Spring 2016)