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The Gypsies

From India to Persia
In the early 11th century, there lived a Persian poet and chronicler named Firdawsi 935-1020 (born; Abu Ol-Qasem Mansur in Tus, Persia). He tells a tale which is often quoted as the earliest written evidence of the gypsy origins. While I woudn't dare to question the importance of Firdawsi's contribution to Islamic literature, his best known work, 'Shah-nameh' (The Epic of Kings - Hero Tales of Ancient Persia), reads like a mythological fantasy that would make a great subject for the next Disney cartoon. Firdawsi is also known as Ferdowsi, Firdausi or Firdusi. Keep in mind that before the 10th Century, gypsies did not exist by that name. They were known by various names including Zott, Jat, Luri, Nuri, Dom, Sinti, Domarai and Athengani. It may help to get into the legendary mood of this story if you prefix it with the traditional phrase, "Once upon a time"

The often repeated story goes something like this:
The ruler in India at around 420 AD was one King Shangul. At the request of a Sassanide prince, Bahram Gur V (Persian ruler 420-438), 12,000 Luri musicians were sent off to Persia to lighten the life of his hard-working people and charm away their misery. He provided them with grain and agriculture so they should support themselves. This plan was doomed to failure from the start. The Luri used the supplies and made no attempt at farming. Furious at the waste, the prince sent them all away and condemned them to roam and earn a living by smuggling and begging. Ref
Another version refers to Zott rather than Luri musicians and the storyteller was one Hamza of Isfahan. In this version, Firdawsi repeated the story half a century later.

The story is to a large extent legendary, but it informs us that there were many Gypsies from India in Persia; they were already noted as musicians, allergic to agriculture, inclined to nomadism and somewhat given to pilfering. Ref

Since these are the only ancient texts to speak of the wanderings of the Gypsies across Asia; the rest of the story has been be filled out by linguistic evidence with, I dare say, a generous amount of speculation thrown in. The grammar and vocabulary of the language of the Gypsies are close to those of Sanskrit and to such living languages as Kashmiri, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and Nepali. Ref

It seems to me that this Persian poet has a lot to answer for, much like Plato being responsible for the legend of Atlantis.

I'd like to humbly point out that Firdawsi's epic story was never meant to be an historical document, but rather a scholarly attempt to compile and consolidate the inherited tales and folk legends of his people. If I could send Firdawsi a short message by shooting a projectile through a black hole, I would say to him, "Well done, brother. May you have a happy life. God bless you and your family." I'll admit I have only read selected sections of the Epic of Kings, but I have done many word searches of the text.

I might be getting a little old and dim witted or something, but I'll be damned if I can find any reference to words such as Bahram Gur, King Shangul, Luri, Zott, musicians, India or anything else remotely resembling elements of the gypsy origin story quoted above.

(He hangs his head in despair).
Somebody please help me out here.
Exactly where in the text is the reference to gypsy origins that so many scholars happily repeat to each other? The way I see it, an educated researcher can construe and assume only so much from an ancient text. Beyond reasonable qualified limits however, we begin to suspect that researchers are engaging the rich resources of their imagination to fill in the gaps. Firdawsi could be excused for doing this. In fact, one could say he had a literary mandate to imagine things, considering the heroic task he set himself. Excuse me, I'm babbling. I need a strong cup of tea and a good lie down.

Although legends may contain a grain of truth, nobody will ever be really sure how much of it was dreamed up after a smoke of hashish. And I don't mean Firdawsi.

The Hollow Earth theory
If you believe the Firdawsi story, perhaps you should try this one on for size. I'm throwing the Hollow Earth tale into the mix to demonstrate the gullibility of seemingly educated people.

"Certain black tribes of the east also entered Agharta [Capital city of Hollow Earth] and continued to live there for centuries. Later they were expulsed from the Subterranean World and returned to live on the surface of the earth [presumably to settle in Northwest India], bringing with them knowledge of the mystery of prophecy by means of cards and reading the lines of the hand. They were the ancestors of the gypsies."
Excert from "The Hollow Earth" by Raymond Bernard - (Chapter 7 Part 7:4 'Subterranean Cities')

Yet another theory regarding gypsy origins is noted by Hollow Earth devotee Jerry Forster in his essay "The Lost Continent Rediscovered" (page 39). He casually states without further qualification that; "The Andalusians carry much Berber or Moorish blood in their veins, whilst the Gypsies are, in fact, descended from the ancient inhabitants of Turkey."

Makes you stop and think, doesn't it. Don't believe everything you read is all I'm saying. It seems to me that the reason certain academics and pseudo-intellectualls add fancy letters after their names is to make up for the lack of credibility inherant in their writings. My apologies to the well researched scholars, but I just can't help myself when I read some of the drivel that is presented as scholarly works (apparently to astound and amaze the "uneducated" masses). Searching around the Internet reveals that there are a lot of educated people who are more than happy to perpetuate a myth without doing their homework and without reasonable proof. This is what I like to call 'the Firdawsi syndrome'.

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