Gypsies in Pushkar / 2009

 

The Bopa and Kalbeliya are very different tribes but both are called “gypsy” in the local languages. They are amongst the lowest level in the Hindu caste system and they share the bad reputation of gypsies the world over.

 

In spite of their low status, these beautiful people are proud of their roots. Traditionally nomadic, Gypsies possess a rich heritage of music and dance which made them welcomed artists to the court of kings and maharajas, who hired them to provide exotic entertainment to their guests. As royal audiences disappeared and due to the changing socio-economic face of society, goods and services traded by them have become antiquated.

 

Nowadays, the Bopa and Kalbeliya gypsies subsist as semi-nomadic street performers, traveling between fairs and festivals that draw large crowds of Indian and foreign tourists. They are known as talented musicians, snake charmers and the women are famous for being skilled dancers.

 

Pushkar in Rajasthan is one of the spots, teeming with Gypsies selling hand-made beaded jewelry, cajoling foreigners henna designs, playing traditional music or performing snake charming. The beautiful women are real eye catchers with their vibrant floor-length dresses and colorful head scarves. In general they are fully bejeweled with silver glimmering on fingers, ears, and around their necks, wrists and ankles. They also decorate their skin with tattoos on hands or arms which will often also be embellished with elaborate henna designs.

 

Familiar with the charm of their beauty, they discovered in the last years, that posing for photographers is an interesting source of income. So it was very easy to convince a group of young women to pose for a shooting and with their flirtatious manners they easily convinced me, to pay for the pleasure of their presence. I was fascinated by their expressive eyes and their striking facial features and so the portrait photo shoot continued for several days.