Kalbelia or Kabeliya is one of the most sensuous dance forms of Rajasthan, performed by a tribe of the same name. They are famous for their dance which is an integral part of their culture. Both men and women in the tribe participate in this activity to celebrate joyful occasions.
|Regions with significant populations|
|Alternative names include Sapera, Jogi|
The Kalbelias were known for their frequent movement from one place to another in ancient times. Their main occupation is catching snakes and trading snake venom. Hence, the dance movements and the costumes of their community bear a resemblance to that of the serpents. They are also known as Sapera, Jogira or Jogi. They follow Hinduism. They trace their ancestry from Kanlipar, the 12th disciple of Guru Gorakhnath. The largest number of the population of Kalbelias is in Pali district, then Ajmer, Chittorgarh and Udaipur district. They live a nomadic life and have belonged as members of the untouchable caste, shunned by mainstream society.
Traditionally, Kalbelia men carried cobras in cane baskets from door to door in villages while their women sang and danced and begged for alms. They revere the cobra and advocate non-killing of the reptile. In the villages, if a snake inadvertently entered a home, then a Kalbelia would be summoned to catch the serpent and to take it away without killing it. Kalbelias have traditionally been a fringe group in society living in spaces outside the village where they reside in makeshift camps called deras. The Kalbelias move their deras from one place to another in a circuitous route repeated over time. Over the generations, the Kalbelias acquired a unique understanding of the local flora and fauna, and are aware of herbal remedies for various diseases which is an alternative source of income for them.
Since the enactment of the Wildlife Act of 1972, the Kalbelias have been pushed out of their traditional profession of snake handling. Today, performing arts are a major source of income for them and these have received widespread recognition within and outside India. However, performance opportunities are sporadic and since the whole community is not involved in it on a regular basis, many members of the community work in the fields, or graze cattle to sustain themselves.
The Kalbelia dance, performed to celebrate any joyful moment in the community, is an integral part of Kalbelia culture. Their dances and songs are a matter of pride and a marker of identity for the Kalbelias and they represent the creative adaptation of this community of snake charmers to changing socioeconomic conditions and their own role in rural Rajasthani society.
- Suramnath Kalbelia Sapera
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- Rajasthani people
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- "Kalbelia Folk Dances of Rajasthan".
- Kumar Suresh Singh, B. K. Lavania, D. K. Samanta, S. K. Mandal, N. N. Vyas, Anthropological Survey of India. "Suthar". People of India Vol. XXXVIII. Popular Prakashan. p. 1012.
- Miriam Robertson (1998). Snake Charmers: The Jogi Nath Kalbelias of Rajastan. Illustrated Book Publishers. p. 323. ISBN 81-85683-29-8.
- Nomination File No. 00340 for Inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010. UNESCO 2010.