Tribal Belly dance of India: colorful Banjara clothes, snake charmers and jars


Banjara: the tribal gypsies of India, a source of nomadic tribal bellydance.

India is a vast country with many different tribes, dances and music.
Specially the dances of the Punjab, the Sind region, Rajastan and Madhya Pradesh are close to the origins of bellydance. Done by wandering gypsy tribes, the dances and costumes tell of their islamic influence or in other words: the Mughal culture.


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Aruna-Irani (32K)

The ancient art of middle eastern dance has a long and colorful history. It began with the many fertility cults of the ancient world, and in the temples of ancient India. The existence of various nomadic groups of professional entertainers, and groups specifically identified with Gypsies (Rom), provided for the cross-culturation and transmission of these dances.
The history of middle eastern dance is intertwined with that of Gypsies, in their various guises in each country they travelled through. They came from India and spread through Persia, Turkey, Arabia, Egypt, Greece, and through much of Europe. To this day, many nomadic women in the Near East bear hand and ankle tattoos thought to be Gypsy in design, often a universal symbol meaning a traveler. This intense tribal pride is significant in maintaining their cultural identity throughout their travels, and is characteristic of true Gypsies.



The sophisticated art of the Hindustani gypsy dancing girls did inspire the modern-day Bollywood music and dance. Here bollywood star Aruna Irani in typical gypsy dress as Nisha, a gypsy dancer, in a movie of the sixties about a band of gypsies moving and living in a Caravan.

Banjara Tribe


The Banjara tribe is the most colorful of any tribal group in India, the original habitants of Rajastan. Banjaras have an unique costume and embroidery style. As nomads of the Thar desert, they live in Central and of Western India. One of the dances of these tribe in Rajasthan is dancing with a jar on the head. The colorful dances of Garbha or Garbi and the Dandia are danced on the occasion of the festival of Dussehra in honour of Durga. The Mother-Godess Durga stands for the good in the world and the femininity or shakti. The dresses are ornamented with mirrors called shishador. Red is the dominant color. The costumes on the picture are pretty old as the use of large and irregular mirrors reflects.
The clothes and the jewelery of this particular tribe is now very popular amongst tribal bellydance style troupes. Their beautiful silver jewellery and embroidered costumes and colorful choly are a feast for the eyes. Every part of the body is ornamented with jewellery, with it's own symbolic significane. Silver is considered more precious than gold. Banjara dances differ from occasion to occasion. On the Rakhi festival, the Banjara's perform the Lehangi.
Cholis are significantly more used in Tribal belly dance as coined bras. Cholis organically come from India and became very popular among the American Tribal Style and middle eastern tribal style costuming.


Mohiniyattam dance or dance of the enchantress, is a traditional dance from Kerala, South Indian. With hip movements and ritual expressions by the hand palm and fingers (also called mudras) it is an ancient dance done by tge Devadasis in temples

Banjara dancer

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