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What is Kalbelia Dance?

What is Kalbelia dance? Where it comes from? what is its story? Let me explain you some stories about the snake charmers tribe…

Kalbelia dance is intrinsically integrated in Rajasthan’s culture and lifestyle. Originally, it is rooted in Northern India, in the state of Rajasthan, and characteristic to the tribes of the desert of Thar. The first places where Kalbelia people settled were the cities of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, in Rajasthan.

Kalbelia is an expressive art form of improvised and matristic character.

“As a woman and a dancer who travels often to India this really attracted my attention: a dance exclusively performed by women. They perform, teach and dance for the audience. A caste which, unfortunately, is not given many opportunities to get and education, in a place where the chances to meet women and build a friendship with them is not so common”.  Elizabeth Medina

The Kalbelia Women

Kalbelia women portray cobras with their movements and their costumes. This tribe is used to sharing their space and being around this snake in the community. They are actually known as “snake charmers”, due to a fact that a long time ago they used to perform as entertainers for the Maharaja, and later on for the tourists. 

They emulate snake’s sinuous movements by performing pelvic movements, for an instance, which is rarely seen in any other Indian dance. 

The improvised character of this dance is closely related to the idea of “lineage”, intimately associated with Indian classical and folkloric arts: the knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation.

So, the eldest dancer would normally be the leader and the rest of the dancers will follow her in a live performance with movements they already know, but with the nuances, paces and rhythms the leading dancer dictates. This is what makes Kalbelia live performance so fresh and versatile.

Kalbelia dance was founded as a professional and known dance during the 80´. Nowadays the first Kalbelia professional dancer is known to be Gulabo Sapera

Now that you know WHAT IS KALBELIA DANCE… can I explain you some history?

We have go back to 850 years ago to find the origins of the Kalbelia people. It was a caste (an extended family), of Sadhus. Sadhus are monks who follow the path of penance and austerity to reach the enlightenment. They abandon all the earthly ties; they live out of people’s donations and pray for the society. Sadhus express India’s scale of values.

It is said that the current Kalbelia descendants come from one Guru who got too close to the dark side of the Tantra.

Gorak Nath“, a Guru who was involved in esoteric practices, started a new lineage or caste. He transmitted the following ideas to his people:

  • To live in the outskirts of the cities.
  • Not to have material belongings (houses, cars…)
  • To take care of the animals.
  • To entertain the rest of the society. 


  • Yogi “the one who practices yoga”
  • Nath “descendant of…lineage”
  • Sapeera “snake charmers”
  • Kal “Black and Death”
  • Belia “people who belong to”

“Descendants of a magical lineage, who practices yoga and black magic. People who belong to the tribe of snake charmers”.

Do you know that you can study this wonderful and powerful online with me? Check on my Online Classroom here.

I want to do a special mention after many years studying this art form to my beloved teachers for sharing with me their passion and knowledge. Raki and Susheela Kalbelia, Gulabo Sapeera and Colleena Shakti.



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