The Forgotten Tribe - Bhopa Gypsies, Rajasthan India
The Bhopa gypsies are traditionally a nomadic tribe and hail from north-west India, and in particular from Rajasthan. Throughout their very long history, the gypsies of Rajasthan have travelled along the silk road and settled far afield. Many of the Romany gypsies of Europe have descendant blood lines that hark back to India and the gypsy castes. The Bhopa influence upon the Hindu population has been spiritual and musical.
The Bhopa couple sing the legends of their culture and the God stories whilst the male of the singing couple, plays the ancient ravanhatha stinged instrument. This wood and string instrument has a unique sound and is sometimes called ‘the sympathetic strings’. The ravanhatha is the distant precursor to the modern-day violin. The couple would sing in front of a scroll called a phad and usually are called upon in times of sickness and misfortune. However, due to lockdowns caused by coronavirus in India, gatherings and large events have been cancelled for a long time.
The Bhopa are generally not seen as marketable or colourful in the same way as the Kavelia dancing gypsies with their incredible skill and costumes, moves and balance.
There are allegedly roughly 650 Bhopa left in Rajasthan. This figure would seem to indicate a culture and peoples in decline and possibly in the mere twilight of their existence. It has been the Bhopa villages’ aim to raise awareness and appreciation of the Bhopa way of life. The aim is to bring the Bhopa music and culture to the fore with commercial events at some point. However, until the pandemic is over, the Bhopa are not able to access tech for the digital way the world has changed over the last decade and even more so with the pandemic.