NEW DELHI: At a five-star hotel earlier this month, Professor Marcel Courthiade from the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Cultures, Universite Paris-Sorbonne, France had come straight from the airport to attend the International Roma Conference. He listened to many theories of Romas leaving India and how they eventually reached Europe and became known as gypysies.
The 62-year-old professor who speaks 11 languages, shook his head vigorously. His instinctive gesture was not surprising, as he is the leading proponent of the theory which has a simple explanation of the origin of Romas, different from the multiple migration wave hypothesis.
“It was one big exodus, which took place in the 11th century when Mahmud Ghazni invaded Kannauj,” the professor said.
A similar view was echoed by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in her inaugural speech. She alluded to Courthiade’ theory, but also mentioned the wave theory of migration during subsequent time periods.
Albanian-born Courthiade has been an ‘activist-scholar’ who has been pushing for acceptance of his hypothesis, which has been based on Kitab-i-Yamini. It was written by Abu Naser al-Utbi, chronicler of Mahmud Ghazni, which apparently listed the annals of the Afghan invader to India. Courthiade had first come across the book in 1998, where al-Utbi chronicled the raid on Kannauj in 1026 AD.
The book mentions that “the entire population, rich and poor, light and dark … most of them ‘eminent persons’, artists and craftsmen ... entire families” of around 53,000 prisoners were then deported to Ghazni’s homeland, present Afghanistan.
Courthiade asserts that there was a linguistic basis for his theory too. “If there was not a single exodus, why is there such similarity between the languages of Romas. If they had left India in waves during various times, there would have been greater difference in the language between groups,” he said. He has plans to hold a festival in Kannauj to mark 1,000 years of the deportation.