Kalbelia is one of the most sensual dance forms of India. The dance form today has a global outreach and recognition. The dance form took its name after the tribe of Rajasthan which conceive this culturally rich dance form.
The native occupation of the nomadic tribe of Kalbelia was snake charming. Up until some 50 years ago, the tribe was nomadic.
The Birth of Kalbelia Dance
The Kalbelia dance form is predominantly performed by females. This mesmerising dance found its origin back in the 1980’s where some women of the Kalbelia tribe took to representing their tribe dance on a transnational platform and it found nationwide appreciation.
The Kalbelia dance is also popularly known as the snake Dance as the dance history revolves around the snake charmers tribe of Rajasthan. The kalbelia dance form through its many moves gives a peek into what the royal life of the Rajputanas of Rajasthan was and also the regular everyday life of the locals out there.
Clothing and Jewellery
The traditional Kalbelia costume for the women comprises a typical angrakhi, an odhni and a ghaghra. The angrakhi is of variations- either with full sleeves or half sleeves. Worn as the upper body garment, the angrakhi is invariably in black color with attractive lace work done over it. However, some modern Kalbelia dance forms also see the dancers sporting colored angrakhis and ghaghras.
The ghaghras worn by the dancers have a characteristic accentuated circumference to it that majestically adds to the twirl when the dancers move to the rhythm of the beats. The ghaghras also have a pattern of mirror work woven onto them. The dancers also wear heavy ghunghrros and at times anklets with the figure of a snake embossed on them.
An enchanting set of traditional jewellery accompanies the kalbelia dance costume- a heavy necklace set with a maang tikka adorning the head is the signature Kalbelia jewellery. The traditional jewellery is made of beads. The dancers also sport bangles reaching up till their elbow and beautifully designed armlets. The costume of the dance is crafted by the Kalbelia dancers.
Kalbelia Dance Exponent- Gulabo
Blonging to a traditional family of the Kalbelia tribe, Gulabo Sapera is an extremely talented and a globally recognized Kalbelia dancer. With an outstanding spanning over 30 years now, she has many accolades to her credit- the Padma Shri, Sangeet Natak Academy and Rajasthan Gaurav Awards.
Kalunath Jogi of Jodhpur is another highly popular dancing group of Kalbelia folk dance.
Originally performed to celebrate special occasions, the Kalbelia dance was incepted as a very sensual and erotic dance form by the tribe. Even today, this dance form leaves the viewers awestruck and hypnotized. With many beautiful steps, the dancers move flawlessly like snakes to the music of been, khanjari and poongi.
There are no institutes to train beginners- the children of the tribe grow up observing the elders dance and inculcate the steps- it is a legacy they carry forward with immense pride.
The Kalbelia dancers sport surma which they believe wards off any evil that may have fallen on their tribe and also protects their eyesight in the old age and against the venom of the snake.
The music of the dance is improvised live and that adds an element of newness to every dance performance of the Kalbelia tribe.
The traditional Kalbelia dance has very beautifully infused some elements of modernity into it by adding contemporary beats to it yet not forgoing the traditional essence that has always encompassed it.
The Kalbelia dance form has found a backing by the UNESCO as a heritage art since 2010. A representative of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, this dance today has a widespread global recognition. This traditional dance form that beautifully encapsulates the celebrated culture of India is taught by one generation of the tribe to another as an extremely valuable legacy.