COBRA GYPSIES - full documentary

Source:- Raphael Treza,

Aug 15, 2021 - 09:41

In Northern India live a nomadic people made of dancers and musicians Their name means « those who love snakes » They are the most emblematic tribe of the Rajasthan Gypsies the Kalbeliya My name is Raphael Treza, I'm a musician and filmmaker I'm going to spend the next 3 months with the Gypsies of Rajasthan My Journey begins in Mumbai With a 15 hour train trip in a second class sleeper I arrive in Rajasthan and the Thaar desert An arid land on the border of pakistan Punctuated by oasis, with generous and fertile land Pushkar will be my basecamp a holy city appreciated by the travelers for its hippie atmosphere

They come in order to discover Indian culture like the Bollywood dance On the road, I meet Biram, a kalbeliya gypsy He agrees to introduce me to his people, and will be my translator Biram's family is setting up a camp in their new workplace

They're going to make charcoal Biram has settled here with his children and wife Santos In order to make charcoal they use the Kata tree, A shrub that is prevalent around the fields, and whose long thorns can burst tires. Its branches are mostly used to build walls In order to protect the village from wild animals, like panthers

The tractor's stuck Straw has to be placed under the sand in order to remove the trailer from the fields Krishma is a sedentary Kalbeliya She makes henna for a living, she sells it to the tourists She's part of the first generation of gypsies who goes to school She also teaches kalbeliya dance to travelers who come from all over the world to improve their technic Like Luna a Mexican dancer Krishna's family performs shows in hotels Krishma's cousin, Sadu, is a horse trainer I'm on my way to discover the nomad Kalbeliya's camps Kalbeliyas are nomadic agricultural workers

They're also sheppards they are hindus and were considered untouchable until this discriminatory practice was abolished in 1950 Biram invites me to a Kalbeliya music concert It is the day of Holi, celebrated in the name of Krishna Before entering any village, the way is blocked by locals who are asking for a fee in order to continue. Two days a year, castes don't matter, the whole country lives in a joyful anarchy. Holi is also a celebration of colors Hindus of all ages are getting involved in water and colored pigment battles The youth then discovers night parties and sometimes alcohol

A police car comes and everybody escapes Kalbeliyas are quite astonished when they discover my presence I'll come to understand later that they have never met a foreigner before The musicians are on the way to rock the audience until sunrise On the way back, we stop to drink chai Tea with milk and spices Biram wants to show me pets in a gipsy village There's a rabbit And a cobra

They assure me that its venom is often extracted, but its bite remains dangerous When it's handled, cobra adopts a peaceful behavior Kalbelyas gypsies have it as a symbol dancers learned since childhood how to handle it while dancing Biram's father in law Surumnat, is a sedentary Kalbelya, he sometimes catches cobras and exhibits them in the villages around, in order to make money

We leave with his son, johornat They're going to show me their way to catch a cobra Surumnat glimpsed at something A Nil Gai , or "Blue Cow" an Asian antelope Once considered a nuisance because of their appetite for farming products some gipsy castes were then in charge of hunting them Prohibition of hunting in India in 1972 ended this habit Surumnat finds a sleeping little python He also finds a sand snake, the bogi ,

quite common in Rajashan Potentially dangerous snakes often cross the village Biram finds a cobra's molt And his father in law finds a nest He catches a monitor lizard Its bite can start septicemia, a life threating infection Being too small to have its skin used as a drum, he'll be freed These reptiles can reach a surprising speed relatives of Biram are going to show me the most dangerous lizard from Thaar's desert Its Venom is said to be as powerful as a Cobra's Scientists only recently discovered that poison glands exist in some lizards Yet not one Indian lizard species has been indexed as poisonous

This animal, the fucan looks like a Bengali's monitor lizard But it produces a blow as strong as a Cobras This gives credit to the Kalbaliya's belief that these lizards are dangerous On the way back, we meet women in a haircut session And others who are digging a well A part of the team leaves to mourn around graves in contrast to other hindus the kalbeliya don't cremate their deads With the Kalbeliyas, funerals are celebrated with music and dancing the most appreciated dancers receive bills Kalbeliyas may be at the origin of castagnets the kartals , simple pieces of wood or stones Second day looking for cobras with Rakesh, another son of Surumnat Cobras' tracks can be seen in the sand

A nest and leftovers from a meal A Turtle And a swarm of very aggressive wild bees In Rajasthan, bees are all over the place At every water spot where they bear the presence of other species On buildings' walls

In temples Rumal lives in a nomad Kalbeliya camp and takes me honey hunting For safety reasons, children under ten years old are not allowed Rumal founded a swarm in a tree He’s gonna try to smoke them out with a bidi, a eucalyptus cigarette Bees believe that fire begins and start adopting an escape behaviour Back on the hunt for Cobras with Rakesh and his young son More tracks in the sand

We meet a shepherdess Rakesh finds a hedgehog and after an entire day of walking we give up hope of finding a cobra In Biram's camp, after bringing wood, we need to chop it to pieces After stacking the wood, we have a charcoal pile that needs to be covered with cloth Then with soil however, Kalbeliyas mainly wish for daughters because their dancing shows are the most lucrative and valorised activity Couples are often arranged from childhood starting at the age of five and Kalbeliyas couples stay together for their entire lives.

The Wedding occurs during adolescence Women are preparing a paste with flour and spices The future groom is covered with it His mother is performing ritual gestures Gifts are offered to the family Men of the family play gabu gabu, an instrument made with lizard's skin

The young man is dressed with a rupee necklace A mobile DJ has been hired, and brings guests to the bride's house On this day, two weddings will be celebrated The girls are blessed by the families and the intended spouses finally meet There are several nomadic tribes in Rajasthan One of those is composed of travelling musicians The Bhopas and their violins with so called sympathetic strings , the rawanhattal And the Bagriya nomadic seasonal workers who have an extremely close relationship with their camels Bagriyas were a tribe of hunters until this practice was forbidden

They have a peculiar practice amongst the gypsies Binu, a Kalbeliya gypsy will help by translating for me However, Bagrias do not smell bad Extreme worship practices are widespread and respected in India The kids have untied their camels and are letting them graze for too long Raj and his little brother have to go search for them Raj found his camel On the way, we meet their mother who didn't appreciate that the animals were left without a watch Night falls on Surumnat's village

The family is watching TV when screams start to be heard A snake is going across the village, Kalbeliyas are called in order to catch it It's a cobra Surumnat puts a cloth into its mouth, in order to avoid being bitten while putting him into the basket Dawn approaches the village During the night, puppies were born We're on our way to release the cobra, far from the village The cobra must absorb sun's heat in order to move Kalbeliyas also sell cobra's venom for a living It's used in ayurvedic medicine in order to prevent sight problems Kanipav Natji, their main god, is pictured using this venom This practice is confirmed to me by an Indian doctor I accept that he applies dried venom on my eyes It burns during a couple seconds, then the pain blurs At Biram camp, it's time to start burning the charcoal piles

The minimum oxygen content helps the partial combustion of the wood that turns it into coal Three days later, the charcoal piles have lost half of their bulk we can then open them European Gypsies would come from rajasthan thousands of Indians composed of castes of artisans and mysterious musicians were deported in the middle ages by the persian then the ottoman army nomadic indian tribes might also have migrated voluntarily into the country now known as Turkey,

then Romania. After being Enlisted in the Egyptian army they came back to Europe introducing themselves as Egyptians where the word "gypsy" takes its origins The family then sells its production to a wholesaler, who will sell the charcoal on the market Mira, Biram's sister, is getting ready for the biggest Kalbeliya festival of the year Four days of celebrations, with concerts and dancing gathering about 2000 gypsies Festivals are the occasion to unveil your style Kalbeliyas are very careful about the uniqueness of their clothing they design it themselves and have it made by local tailors

They have developed a unique fashion which is perpetually evolving Every evening, families join eachother for a concert During the night, youths engage in dance battles Once again, the audience gives bills to their favorite dancer In the morning's cold, every family lights a fire chai is offered to me Utensils are washed with ashes In June the temperature can reach 50 degrees Celsius or 120 degrees farenheit the central tent is air-conditioned with humid cloths

The day proceeds in the tempo of dancing shows Young girls invite me to join a makeup session The Time has come for me to leave the Kalbeliyas People for whom art is a lifestyle their knowledge of desert, their peculiar style, their history, and their worldwide influence towards music makes them a unique people India might lose part of its culture on the way to development but i believe in the Kalbeliyas' future they will adapt, and improvise as they always have

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