Do you remember the snake charmer in the village or movie? With a colorful turban, round cane box with a snake inside and a pungi(musical instrument). That snake charmer probably belonged to the Kabelia tribe of Rajasthan. This Indian tribe’s dance is so popular that it has got a place in UNESCO world intangible heritage list. The kalbelia dance or more popularly as “The Indian Gypsy” dance is a sensuous form of dance.

kalbelia dancer

kalbelia dancer

 
Kalbelia and its heritage

kalbeliaNot only monuments and buildings are a part of our culture but also certain practices, way of life etc. In this age of Information Technology we have all started following a way of life which differs from our ancestors. And this will keep changing. How many of us know what games our grandparents used to play when they were kids? This intangible heritage aims at preserving customs, practices and culture. Let us take the case of Kalbelia Indian tribe. The government brought out the Wildlife Protection Act in 1972 which also includes snakes. The Kalbelia Indian tribe did not know any other profession. The only other thing they could do for a living was perform the Kalbelia dance. And now that UNESCO has given them recognition their art is patronized and has received attention worldwide. This dance is not documented anywhere. It has been transmitted orally through generations. Now we wouldn’t want that to be lost right?

What is different about the dance of this Indian tribe?

Kalbelia Indian tribe performs this dance to celebrate happy occasions but now in addition they also let the tourists from different parts of the world enjoy watching them dance. They do not practice the dance movements before hand, they highlight is that the men who are in charge of the music can play any tune they want and the dancers go with it. The woman of this Indian tribe who dances tries to replicate a serpent in her movements.


She wears a black dress which contains patterns of many colors, small mirrors and shining thread. The head dress is known as Odhani, the skirt Lehenga and the top Angrakhi. And lots of accessories to go with the dress. The dance includes fast movements and also acrobatic movements. The tempo of the music increases with time which entices the spectatorswhose energy level rises and cannot help but tap their feet or clap their hands to go with the rhythm.kalbelia

The men sit in a circle around the performing girl. They play various instruments which range from their traditional pungi to the dholak, harmonium, dhulfi etc. No, they don’t practice either. It is all impromptu. The songs are usually based on folklore and mythology. The men of this Indian tribe wear their usual attire of kurta with a colorful turban. The girl moves inside the circle just like the snake in the cane basket which dance to their tune.

It is really a visual treat to watch the long black skirt and headgear swirl according to the tune. I strongly recommend you go see the dance anytime you visit Rajasthan. You can also watch videos of this dance online. It is an important part of the Indian culture and heritage. We can play a small part in keeping it alive by being the lively audience.

Nandhitha

Nandhitha

Love to read write and explore new avenues. Would like to raise awareness through my writings.

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