Mr. Dev Bhardwaj is an author of more than one dozen books of short-stories, plays and children literature in Punjabi. His work has been translated in manu languages. Editor of Kafla Intercontinental, a triannual journal of Art, Literature and Culture, he is also Director of India Intercontinental Cultural Association, a non-profit organisation, engaged in promoting Literature, Art and Culture at International level. He is actively connected with Roma people in Europe and has participated in many Roma Literary and Cultural Festivals/Conference held in France, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Latvia etc. Every-year he organises International Writers Festival in India in which Roma poets and scholars are also invited and some participate. He is Commioner for Culture in India of World Roma Organisation, headed by Mr. Jovan Damjanovic of Serbia. <>; <>


Raam, Rome and Roma

- Dev Bhardwaj


“Although I was born in Bulgaria but I have always felt strongly that my soul must have taken its birth in India. India is the land of my forefathers. I have always been thirsting for the smell of its earth from many years. It seems as if I have come home after a tiring long journey of hundreds of years.....” These were the words of Lilyana Kovacheva, a Romani scholar and poetess from Bulgaria, as her spontaneous reaction when I first met her in 2000 when she visited my home in Chandigarh. She told me that Roma in Europe are also known by the name of Gypsies, the name given by English people.. When one Rom meets another Rom he introduces himself as “Romano chava”

History is witness to it that these Roma people true to the saying, “We have no home; the whole world is our home”, were once residents of north Indian states. About one thousand years back these people fanned out to many parts of Europe through Central Asia under different circumstances.

It was only when a Hungarian priest discovered through some Indian students who visited him for religious study in Europe that the origin of the Roma people got known. He heard Indian people using the word ‘Paani’ for water and a few more similar words and was wonderstruck that these were the words that Roma-Gypsies used in Europe. Linguists and social anthropologists began their research from this moot point. The great scholars came to the conclusion that the wandering Roma of Europe were once the residents of areas of the north India mainly Punjab, Haryana & Rajasthan. Their language even nowadays, has many words similar to Punjabi & Rajasthani words for the same objects or expression. Although most Roma are now well-read and are manning important positions in countries of their residence but still many Roma are not well-educated and are engaged in traditional work of a blacksmith, a carpenter, a earthen pot-makers etc. Many of them are engaged in entertaining the people through dance, singing and other performing arts.

Although Roma call themselves as the Romane Chave (Children of Rama), they know nothing about Raam, the son of king Dasrath. “For us Raam is the name of God. We do not know anything about the epic of Raam (Ramayana)” they tell.

But the great Roma scholar, Dr. Vania de Gila-Kochanowski of France, who had traveled many times to India and had done two doctoral thesis on the linguistics relationship between Romani, Hindi, Rajasthani and Punjabi languages was not only quite well aware of the epic of Ramayana, but has come with startling discovery. When in the summer of 1998, I had the occasion to spend some days in his residence at Congervilla about 100 miles from Paris, he astonished me with his altogether strange but still convincing theory.

“From some time back I have been studying some rare Persian manuscripts and books. I have come to the conclusion that the events of Mahabharata occurred prior of Ramayana. Yavans (not Ravan) had come to India from Greece to kidnap Sita, wife of King Raam. At that time the descendants of Pandavs (of Mahabharat) were residing in Italy. So, our Raam - the king- thought, he could safely seek help from his clan brothers residing in Italy. He sought advice of his brothers of Pandav Vansh how to mount an attack on Yavans to free Sita from his lock-up in Greece. So he succeeded. Accordingly while staying in Italy Raam and Sita were blessed with two sons.

When success met them later on in their life, the sons of Raam founded the city Rome in Italy in the name and fame of their father- Raam. This city of Rome is now the capital of Italy. These two children of Raam in turn gave birth to other children and so on. Thus the Raam-family spread far and wide in Europe.”

“Very well! Very well!!” I could not help utter these words on hearing this story of Dr. Vania, which is the story of Raam- who was the king of India about more than five thousands years ago. Is it not totally a false story? Is is not a made-up story? Whatever it is... this seems to be quite near the truth. Now the matter rests with linguistics and social scientists to unlock this mystery.

These children of Raam speak Romani. In the process of time the Romani language has grown into a separate full fledged language but still it retains intact hundreds of Punjabi words such as Akh (Eye), Nakk (Nose), Kann (Ear), Dand (Teeth), Ratt (Blood), Baal (Hair) and Ikk (One), Panj (Five)......etc. etc.

Lilyana Kovacheva (Romani poet from Bulgaria) gave me some of her Romani poems rendered into English by herself. I translated them into Punjabi and then compared them with their original text in Romani. I found that there is too much kinship between them. One of Lilyana’s poem is being given below with its Punjabi and Romani versions:

Lilyana’s poem in English Version


I lost my peace
Since I met you
I can neither eat,
Or sleep
Day in day out,
I dream of you
I blossom into another person.
My eyes are finding you
My lips are alive with your name
My heart is aflutter
When I behold you
What have you done to me?
You are a piece of my heart
The seeds of whatever
I grow within me
Come from the ground
Touched by your feet
I do not know how to
Manage my feelings
You have changed
The colour of my being
In everything around me
There is a touch of your
Elusive presence
You have weathered
The feet of my journey
Now life looks like a garden walk
From my childhood
To your youth.

Romani version by Lilyana Kovacheva


Sar me tut resliom
Me nasiom sajekhto
Me nashti te hav khancik
Nito ashti te sovav
Erat o divas to sian me gogiate
Akhana me achiliom aver manuish
Mere akha roden tut
Mire voshta izran tiro anav
Miro ilo tak tak kere
Kana me dolav tut
So tu kerdam mange
Tu sian kotur mire ilestar
O giv savo tu echivgian
Mande bariol katar i phuv
Sosi doprime tire pirendar
Me na zanav sar te
Kabulinav miro gudipe
Tu iringian mire sunengiri boja
Tu avilian krujal mande
Tu sian othethe

Tu mire dromeseke
Tikno dromoro kirgian
Akana o Zivdipe achilosar
Phiraijbe maskar o lulugia
Savo ahtargias katar miro

Punjabi version by Dev Bhardwaj


Jadon da toon mainu miliya
Main apni sudh kho baithee han
Main na kujh khaa sakdi haan
Te na soun sakdi han
Raat din toon mere khialan vich rehnda ein
Main hor do kujh hor ho gai haan.
Merian akhaan teno labhdian ne
Mere honth tere naan naal jinda ne
Mera dil dhak dhak karda e
Jadon main tenu chhonhdi han,
Toon menu ki kar dita ee
Toon mere hi dil da ikk tukra ein
Mere andar jihre vi beej ugde ne
Oh us mitti ‘chon ne
Jis noo tere pairan di chhoh hasal e
Main nahin jandi
Main apne te kiven kabu pavan
Toon mere supniyan de rang
Hi badal ditte ne
Mere aas paas di har cheez
Vich toon sama giya ein.
Toon mere safar lai
Rah banaya e
Hun jindgi ikk sairgah ban gai e
Jo mere bachpan ton shuroo hundi e
Te teri jwani tak jandi e.

© Author
(Published in Kafla Intercontinental - Spring 2016)