Sue attended Sej Saraiya’s talk on zoom about her documentary about Kalbeliya. Sue did a great job summarizing the event and the documentary. Sue resides in Spokane, Washington.
The presentation starts with a story of how Sej Saraiya, the woman creating the documentary, has a chance meeting with a Kalbeliya woman who has been begging in the market in Rajasthan and talks about how she has traveled the world … and then, 6 years later, has a second chance meeting when the woman again!
Kalbeliya are wanderers and followers of tantric Shaivism and were considered “non-people”. “Kal means snake. Because we catch snakes, they call us Kalbeliya.” From a culture that made their living with the men playing the been as snake charmers, catching snakes, and using herbs to heal snake bite, and the women singing - one day, “one woman’s dance … her innocent dancing … changed their lives forever”.
As the tribe traveled nomadically, lived in jungles, and ate wild animals to survive, they did not have the resources to support female children and would bury them alive once born. Golabu Sapera’s father rescued her shortly after she was buried. From the age of 6 months, he would take her with him to his performances, charming the snakes for spectators. One day, she started dancing while her father was performing, dancing to the been and performing with the snakes, wrapping them around her neck.
At age 7, she was dancing at a fair in Pushkar and was discovered by Tripti Pandey, an officer of the Tourism Department, and invited to dance on stage …
“The story originates from the snakes …
… and the girls took the place of the snakes” … in black costumes that mimicked the cobra.
Once while dancing at the Diwali Festival in Dehli, Golabu was invited to go to America. After returning, she was being interviewed based on her dancing and experiences and happened to blurt out in an interview that “we just didn’t keep girls in the family. We buried them alive.” Instead of the story based on her family, they story of killing the female babies was published.
With Golabu’s success, everyone in the tribe wanted a girl dancing like Gulabu in their house! And in 1985, the “tribe never killed another girl child again”. The women of the tribe have gone on to train thousands of dancers around the world.
“It is a really big deal to us that God gave us such a beautiful craft … “
Join the Rajasthani Folk Dance Certification Program CID - UNESCO here: HTTP://KatrinaJi.com/certification