The Snake Dance
Replicating the movements of a serpent, a group of Kalbelia gypsy dancers swirls through the streets of Jaipur during Gangaur Festival, in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan.
One of the most sensuous of all Rajasthani folk dances, the ‘Kalbelia’ is performed by a tribe of the same name. A nomadic Hindu community who revere the cobra, the Kalbelia (or Kalbeliya – lit. ‘Snake People’) were once professional snake handlers – an occupation they continue to evoke in music and dance.
Embroidered with mirrors and silver thread, the flowing black skirts worn by Kalbelia dancers is intended to resemble a black snake with white spots or stripes. Integral to the community’s culture, Kalbelia music and dance is inscribed in the UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.