Introduction / History
The Kalbelia live a nomadic life and have belonged as members of the lower castes, shunned by mainstream society. Their main occupation has been catching snakes and trading snake venom. Hence, the dance movements and the costumes of their community bear a resemblance to that of serpents. Traditionally, Kalbelia men carried cobras in cane baskets from door to door in villages while their women sang and danced and begged for alms. Kalbelias have traditionally been a fringe group in society, living in spaces outside the village where they reside in makeshift camps called deras. The Wildlife Act of 1972 greatly curtailed their snake charming activities. They are still searching for a better way to live.
What Are Their Lives Like?
They move from one place to another in a circuitous route. More recently, performing arts are a major source of income for them, and others are employed in agriculture.
What Are Their Beliefs?
They revere the cobra. The Kalbelia people practice Hinduism, the ancient religion of India. Hinduism is a catch-all phrase for the local religions of South Asia, so it is very diverse. At the popular level, Hindus worship and serve the gods of the Hindu pantheon. They visit Hindu temples and offer prayers, food, flowers, and incense to their gods in hopes of gaining protection and benefits. They do not have a personal or familial relationship with their gods like Christians or Jews. There are other Hindus who are much more philosophical, especially among the Brahmins.
What Are Their Needs?
Almost all Hindus participate in yearly celebrations like Holi, the festival of colors and the start of spring / Diwali, the festival of lights / Navratri, the celebration of autumn / and Rama Navami, Rama's birthday.
Spiritual opposition can be expected as Jesus is presented to this Hindu community. Workers need to prayerfully prepare for this.
Perhaps some of the Kalbelia will discover the Jesus film and Gospel recordings on the Internet, as well as scripture. Pray the Lord will prompt them to listen, view and download, and that he will give them understanding.
None of the Kalbelia community have reported themselves as Christians to the Indian census. There probably are no followers of Jesus among them today. Perhaps the Lord will soon call many to himself, and they will need prayer support. Please pray this low caste community will find ways to improve their standard of living. They need better education for their children, and they need employment opportunities.
Scripture Prayers for the Kalbelia in India.