The Kalbelia Dance is one of the famous dances of Rajasthan. The dance is performed by the local Kalbelia tribe who are known for this dance. While women are dressed resplendently in stunning traditional attires, men play the musical instruments and compose lyrics on the spot. This dance forms an important part of their culture, and is a must-watch in your ‘To Do’ list for Rajasthan.
WORDS BY- SANGEETA S
KALBELIA, which is one of the most famous folk dances of Rajasthan, is also called the ‘snake charmer dance’ or the ‘sapera dance’ as it is popularly known locally. Originating from the Kalebalia tribe, this dance is a form of their expression.
For them, no occasion or celebration is complete without this dance which is a part of their pride, identity and culture. The theme of the dance is based on mythology and folktales.
While there are no institutes or books to teach this art, the art is passed from one generation to another whilst amalgamating the sequences of the present. The dance is spontaneous and often lyrics are composed on the spot during performances.
This is also a sensuous dance wherein men play instruments and women dance in beautiful colourful attires. Different musical instruments used by men include pungi, which is mainly played to capture snakes, dufli, dholak, khanjari, jhanjhar, sarangi etc.
Men keep increasing the beat as the dance progresses and women make faster and faster movements.
Watching this dance is a wonderful experience, and the steps used in the dance displays the agility, flexibility and high energy levels of the dancers.
The whole attire of dancers is a treat for the audience. The dress is mainly black combined with red laces and silver threads. The whole outfit is combined with mirrors that gives the effect of a twirling black snake. The long, colourful skirt with wide circumference looks divine when the women swirl around replicating the movement of a serpent. And the best part is that women make the dress themselves. The accessories which go with their dresses are worth noticing. The traditional jewellery they wear consists of beads, necklace, bangles and armlets. The bangles go up to their elbow and make them look stunning. One can even see beautiful elaborate tattoo designs on their bodies.
The dance has been added to UNESCO’s representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity from the year 2010. The combination of music, colours and dance movements is beautiful to watch.
THE KALEBELIA TRIBE
The Kalebelia tribe is a nomadic tribe who live in makeshift camps in the outskirts of villages or cities in Rajasthan. They follow Hinduism and are known as snake charmers also. They have expertise in snake catching and are often called upon by locals to catch snakes. Their connection with snakes is evident in their dance movements and costumes too.
After the Wildlife Act of 1972, the tribe had to stop handling snakes as a profession and since then they have moved on to performing this splendid art for their living. Though they have received recognition worldwide but performance opportunities are limited which has led to many moving out of the trade to look for alternate sources of income. The India and State Government is making efforts to keep this tradition alive by providing opportunities to them in national festivals and fairs which attract global audience.
WHERE TO SEE KALEBELIA?
Kalebelia dance can be seen all across Rajasthan. Since the dance is performed only by Kalebelia tribe who are nomads and who move all across the state, this dance is popular all through the state. Whenever you visit Rajasthan, find out where you can watch this beautiful dance. Many hotels organize shows in their premises for their guests which include these dancers. Check with them or your travel agent about this show. You may even contact them directly or talk to them if you find them roaming in the market place or desert area. Your visit to Rajasthan cannot be complete without attending a show of Kalebelia dance.
TPOPULAR RAJASTHANI FOLK DANCES:
GHOOMAR – It originated from the indigenous Bhil community and was mainly performed as entertainment for Kings in ancient times.
CHANG – Also called Dhamal, it is a fast paced dance on the rhythm of Chang – a musical instrument that resembles a tambourine.
BHAVAI – In this dance, women balance many pots on their head and twirl to traditional moves. With up to eight pots on their head, they move around on a plate or glass.
KATHPUTLI (PUPPET SHOW) – Mythological stories are narrated through this dance form where puppets are held by the strings. The beauty lies in the way the artists control the strings.
CHARI – In this dance, stunt balancing is done with brass pots on the head.
KACHCHHI GHODI – This dance indicates bravery where men ride on a puppet horse in traditional costumes.
GAIR – The origin of this dance can be traced to Bhil community where both men and women dance in attractive and colourful attire.