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Gypsy of Rajasthan|
Gypsy of RajasthanA Brief Note about Gypsies
The Gypsies, Roma, the ethnic minority who brought to the
West the spark of a vibrant culture, left the Indian subcontinent about a thousand
years ago embarking on a migration that scattered them all over the world. The
culture they left behind remained unscathed throughout the centuries,isolated
within the barriers of their hostile habitat: the Thar Desert of Rajasthan.
Still nomadic, with their unique gift for artistic self-expression, these
independent spirits roam freely throughout the desert today as their ancestors
did at the time of the migrations. "Once the Gypsies" will attempt to
capture the dramatic, colorful and personal story of the current nomadic tribes
in the region, following the travels of carts and camel caravans on the open roads
of the Thar Desert.
Brief History of the Gypsies
Before they left India,
little is known about the culture which generated the Gypsies, except for their
migrations, within and out of India. Linguistics and historians believe that the
Gypsies were originally from North Central India. Their first known migration
started around 300 BC, when they moved to North Western India. The Persian Book
of Kings relates an incident corroborated by independent chronicles that took
place in the fifth century, when the Indian King Shankal made a gift of 12.000
musicians to the Shah of Persia. It is assumed that those musicians were the ancestors
of the Roma since after a year the Shah sent them away from Persia.
Why and when, then, the Roma left India
is clouded in uncertainty, yet some scholars state that the Gypsies entered southeastern
Europe in the last quarter of the 13th Century. Because they arrived in Europe
from the East, they were thought by the first Europeans to be from Turkey, Nubia
or Egypt, or any number of non-European places. They were called, among other
things, Egyptians or 'Gyptians, which is where the word "Gypsy" comes
from. All analysis seem to corroborate the fact that the Roma ancestors are linked
to this common lineage in India. As well, the Roma have been known as entertainers
and inspired musicians in every country they have traveled, as some of the nomadic
groups present in the Thar Desert today.
In Rajasthan it
is not uncommon to see people with green eyes. Among the lowest castes are the
Bopa and Kalbeliya Gypsies. In spite of their low status, these beautiful people
are proud of their roots. Both Kalbeliya and Bopa people make a living by performing
songs and dances. In recent decades, the Maharajahs have gone and Indian and foreign
tourists have replaced the royal audiences.
The Kalbeliya Gypsy people are known as the snake charmer caste. The women
are skilled dancers and are accompanied by men playing percussion and wind instruments.
The Kalbeliya were once hired to entertain great kings and maharajahs. Today they
are sadly considered to be squatters and experience much discrimination. They
struggle to preserve their culture and dances. They follow Indian fairs and festivals
hoping to get hired to perform dances in hotels and private resorts.
The Kuna are known for their fierce pride and
serious composure but they have a warm sense of humor in relaxed situations. This
young woman is amused at the attention she receives from visitors. Perhaps she
smiles because she knows she is about to be paid. The Kuna know the value of their
faces as subjects for photos and expect compensation for each shot.
The Bhils - The Bow Men of Rajasthan
The Bhils form an important
group, which inhabits mainly the southern districts of Rajasthan and the surrounding
regions of Udaipur and Chittaurgarh. The generic term, which describes their tribe
apparently, derives its name from bil, meaning bow, which describes their original
talent and strength.
The Bhils practice endogamy, marrying with a narrow kinship.
Their Gods like Pantha and Vina, hold a special sway over their minds.Their other
deities honor the primeval needs of the pastoral society. Nandevro is worshipped
as the presiding deity of corn, while Gwali is the goddess of milk. The god of
agriculture is Heer Kulyo.
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