The Kalbelia folk songs and dances of Rajasthan are a part of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in India. Energetic, elegant, flexuous and martial, the skillful art is one of the most cherished experiences of the desert state of Rajasthan.
Origin of Kalbelia Dance
The Kalbelia Dance marks a joyful event and is a vital part of the Kalbelia culture. Kalbelia community is the nomadic tribe of Rajasthan. Their occupation of trading snake venom and catching snake has bestowed them with the title of Jogira, Sapera or Jogi.
Earlier, the Kalbelia men used to carry cobras in cane baskets and move from door to door. Their women however, used to accompany them while dancing, singing and earning a livelihood from their beautiful performances. It was from there that the Kalbelia Dance came into picture. The sensuous form of dancing mimics the movements of snakes in some ways.
Kalbelia Dance is usually performed to celebrate a happy occasion. However, special traditional dances are performed during Holi.
Folk Songs and Dance Performances
Kalbelia is not only a dance form but a matter of pride for the Kalbelia community. The Kalbelia women feel immense pleasure in performing the dance while men accompany them with musical instruments specially ‘Poongi”. The songs and dances form part of an oral tradition which is inherited by generations to generations. The dance form is the community’s effort to revive their cultural heritage.
The women of Kalbelia tribe, twist, sway and spin to the music played by their male counterparts. The moves made by them replicates that of the serpent. Glimpses of acrobatics are also evident in the dance which highlight the litheness and flexibility of the dancer.
The pace of the dance gradually increases with time and presents a sight to behold. While the women master in the art of dancing, the men play the musical instruments skillfully. A number of traditional instruments are played like dholak, khanjari, sarangi and most importantly the poongi or the ‘been’. Been is a traditional musical instrument which is used to charm the snakes and thus is an important part of the dance and the heritage of the tribe.
Attire worn during Kalbelia Dance
Exhibiting the vibrancy of Rajasthan and connection to the snakes, the attire of Kalbelia dance are very impressive though always in black. The widely flared long skirt compliment well with the Angrakhi and the Odhani. A beautiful canvas of colors is created when the women dance to the impromptu lyrics and music.
Tattoos, jewelry and clothes embroidered with small mirrors and silver threads are other important parts of the Kalbelia Folk Dance.
Where is Kalbelia Dance performed?
To be enamored by a performances of Kalbelia Folk Songs and Dance, head towards the Thar Desert. The timeless desert is where it originated and is till date a cherished part of the culture. Attend a performance at Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Barmer, Jalore, Pushkar or Jaipur. The folk dance have gained international recognition and now is an integral part of the heritage of Rajasthan.