Gypsies come from India
Kalbeliya: snake charmers

According to legend, Bahram Gur, King of Persia, asked the King of North India to send him ten thousand musicians and their wives for parties. Delighted and impressed by the talent of the musicians, Bharam Gur invited them to stay in his kingdom forever, offering them land, grain, and livestock. The musicians knew nothing about being farmers, and soon they were left without grain, without livestock, and the land without crops. The King could not bear it and enraged he expelled the ten thousand gypsy musicians from his country.

Although there is no agreement on the origin of the gypsy people (also called Roma or Rom), all linguistic, anthropological and genomic studies place it as originally from northern India (which today it shares with Pakistan) and that for uncertain reasons began its On the way to Europe, where they arrived around 1400, after an intergenerational journey that took them through Central Asia, the Middle East and the Caucasus lands, hardly mixing with the indigenous populations.

There are many Gypsy tribes in present-day India, although perhaps the most emblematic of them is the Kalbeliyas of the Thar Desert, in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan, on the border with Pakistan. Here I present them:

Kalbeliya means "those who love snakes." "Kal" means death and the name suggests the tribe's dominance over poisonous snakes and the fear of death.

The identity of the Roma people is deeply rooted in their religion and beliefs. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva offered a bowl of all the poison in the universe to Kanipa, who consumed it all at once to show his total trust and dedication. Impressed, Lord Shiva promised Kanipa that the world would take care of him and his descendants. This promise included dominion over poison and poisonous creatures. This mythological fact explains the traditional occupation of the Kalbeliya, followers of Kanipa, as snake charmers, snake hunters, and poison traders. They are also healers capable of curing poisonous snake bites. Through the generations, the Kalbeliya have acquired a unique knowledge of the local flora and fauna and know the herbal remedies for various diseases, which is an alternative source of income for them.

Photo by Varun Verma on Unsplash

The women's dance has movements that recreate the undulations of the serpent, which is accentuated by the sound of the anklets of bells that is part of their traditional costume. Their songs are inspired by stories from the folklore of Rajasthan, and this gypsy music is passed down from generation to generation as a form of inheritance.

Until 1950, when the Indian constitution abolished the caste system, Gypsies were considered "untouchable." However, and despite the fact that the law protects them, in practice they continue to be discriminated against.

The gypsy people are unique in that they have never identified with a territory or country, nor do they yearn for a distant homeland. Their origins and history are transmitted orally from generation to generation to give them identity and the idea of freedom as a people gives them a unity that goes beyond territorial limits.

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