Kristian Bertel | Photography
Archive story
In this archive story we are meeting a Singing Indian girl in Pushkar, India.
Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
Rajuri is a famous girl and has been photographed by photographers from all over the world in the past decade since she was a child. Rajuri has been singing with such a beautiful voice with her father since very young age. According to herself she likes to sing, but she also would like to go to school, which she cannot because of lack of money.
Rajuri is a famous girl and has been photographed by photographers from all over the world in the past decade since she was a child. Rajuri has been singing with such a beautiful voice with her father since very young age. According to herself she likes to sing, but she also would like to go to school, which she cannot because of lack of money.
Kristian Bertel, Photographer By Kristian Bertel, Photographer
– Updated on July 9, 2024

Pushkar girl portraiture

Rajasthan, the land of kings, is not only known for its grand forts, palaces and desert landscapes but also for its vibrant cultural heritage. Among the many communities that contribute to this rich tapestry, the Bopa subcaste stands out as the guardians of Rajasthan's traditional folk music. This archive story delves into the history, lifestyle and cultural significance of the Bopa subcaste, shedding light on their unique contributions to Indian folklore.

Who are the singing girls in India?

In Rajasthan, India, the singing girls are often referred to as 'Kalbeliya dancers or singers'. The Kalbeliya are a nomadic tribe known for their traditional folk music and dance, which is characterized by energetic and graceful movements. However, the singing girl in this archive is from the Bopa subcaste, who have carved out their niche as accomplished folk musicians, preserving the musical traditions of Rajasthan through generations.

The cultural heritage of Rajasthan
The folk music of Rajasthan, characterized by its soulful melodies and rhythmic beats, is performed using traditional instruments like the 'Dholak', 'Sarangi' and 'Harmonium'. The state boasts a variety of traditional dances, each with its own unique style and significance. The 'Ghoomar dance', performed by women on special occasions and the 'Kalbeliya dance', known for its grace and fluid movements, are particularly renowned.

Rajasthan's festivals are a riot of colors and a celebration of its rich traditions and cultural diversity and the 'Desert Festival' in Jaisalmer showcases the best of Rajasthani culture, including camel races, folk performances and turban-tying competitions. The 'Pushkar Fair', one of the largest cattle fairs in the world, features music, dance and traditional sports. 'Teej', celebrated by women across the state, marks the advent of the monsoon and is characterized by song and dances.

So it is a tapestry woven with threads of history, art, music and tradition. Its architectural wonders, artistic expressions, lively festivals, delectable cuisine and traditional attire all contribute to the state's unique and enduring cultural identity. For anyone looking to experience the richness of India's heritage, Rajasthan offers an unparalleled journey into the heart of its royal legacy.

Pushkar, a magical town in India

Music and dance are integral to the cultural fabric of Rajasthan, often narrating tales of heroism, love and devotion and walking around as a traveling photographer in the pilgrimage town of Pushkar you can really feel that this is a Hindu town. The women of this community traditionally perform the 'Kalbeliya dance', which is a significant part of Rajasthani culture and these women are skilled in singing traditional Rajasthani songs and often accompany their performances with traditional instruments like the 'Pungi', which is a wind instrument and 'Dholak', which is a type of drum. The Kalbeliya songs and dances are an essential part of the cultural heritage of Rajasthan and are often performed at various festivals and cultural events.

"Rajuri is the daughter of Hemaram and Santosh Bhopa. The 'Bopa' is a subcaste whose divine duty or 'Dharma' is to be musicians. The vocal is a retelling of traditional story, story of the gods, of demon such as Ravan, story of men also, who married who and how and everything"

Guardians of Rajasthan's folk music heritage
The Bopa subcaste, primarily found in Rajasthan, belongs to the larger community of nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes. Historically, they have been associated with the Kalbeliya community, renowned for their snake charming and dance. However, the Bopa have carved out their niche as accomplished folk musicians, preserving the musical traditions of Rajasthan through generations.

Lifestyle and social structure
Traditionally, the Bopa have led a nomadic lifestyle, traveling from village to village to perform at various events and festivals. Their music is an integral part of Rajasthani celebrations, including weddings, births and religious ceremonies. Despite the challenges posed by their nomadic existence, the Bopa have maintained a strong sense of community and cultural identity. In recent years, some Bopa families have begun to settle in more permanent locations due to changing socio-economic conditions and government policies aimed at improving the livelihoods of nomadic tribes. Nevertheless, their music remains a vital link to their past and a source of pride for the community.

Musical traditions
The Bopa are masterful musicians, known for their soulful renditions of traditional Rajasthani folk songs and they play a variety of traditional instruments, including the 'Ravanhatta', which is a string instrument, 'Dholak', which is a double-headed drum and 'Kartal', which is a type of castanet. Their music often features themes of love, heroism and devotion, with lyrics that reflect the oral traditions passed down through generations. One of the most distinctive aspects of Bopa music is its improvisational nature. Performers often engage in spontaneous compositions, showcasing their creativity and deep understanding of musical forms. This improvisational skill is highly valued within the community and is a testament to their artistic prowess.

Cultural significance
The Bopa's music is more than just entertainment – it is a vital part of Rajasthan's cultural heritage. Their songs and performances keep alive the stories and traditions of their ancestors, providing a living link to the past. In a rapidly modernizing world, the Bopa's commitment to preserving their musical heritage serves as a reminder of the importance of cultural continuity. Despite their significant contributions to Rajasthani culture, the Bopa face numerous challenges. Economic hardships, lack of access to education and social marginalization are persistent issues that hinder their development. Additionally, the decline in demand for traditional performances due to modern entertainment options poses a threat to their livelihood.

However, there are efforts to support and promote the Bopa's music and cultural organizations, NGOs and government initiatives are working to provide platforms for Bopa performers, ensuring that their music reaches wider audiences. Tourism also plays a crucial role, as visitors to Rajasthan often seek out authentic cultural experiences, providing opportunities for Bopa musicians to showcase their talent.

"The Bopa subcaste of Rajasthan holds a special place in India's cultural mosaic. Their dedication to preserving traditional folk music is a testament to their resilience and artistic spirit. As we continue to celebrate and support their contributions, we ensure that the rich musical heritage of the Bopa remains alive for future generations to enjoy"

See this video about Pushkar in India made by Hindu Rituals.

"- As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a golden hue over the bustling streets of Pushkar, I found myself drawn to the melodic strains of traditional music wafting through the air. My journey as a photographer often takes me to hidden corners of the world, but this evening, I was about to witness something truly extraordinary. The Bopa subcaste, known for their rich musical heritage, was performing and I was eager to capture the essence of their art through my lens", the Photographer says.

"- Walking through the narrow alleys, I finally reached a small courtyard where a group of Bopa musicians had gathered. The air was filled with the rhythmic beats of the dholak and the haunting tunes of the ravanhatta. Among them was a young girl, her vibrant yellow veil catching the light, making her look like a ray of sunshine amidst the earthy tones of her surroundings. She was the heart of the performance, her voice weaving stories of love, loss, and the endless sands of Rajasthan", the Photographer says again.

"- As I focused my camera on her, she looked up and our eyes met. There was a spark of curiosity in her gaze, mingled with a hint of shyness. Despite her youth, she sang with a depth and emotion that belied her age. Her earrings swayed with every movement and her delicate hands moved gracefully, emphasizing the lyrics of the songs she sang. It was clear that she was not just singing – she was living each word, each note"
, the Photographer says again.

"- The other musicians, all members of her extended family, supported her with their instruments and occasional harmonies. They played with an ease that only comes from years of practice and a deep-seated love for their craft. The girl's father, who played the 'Dholak', beamed with pride as he watched his daughter mesmerize the audience. Through my camera, I tried to capture not just the images, but the spirit of the Bopa community. The girl's bright eyes, her confident stance and the intricate details of her attire told a story of resilience and pride. Every click of the shutter was an attempt to freeze a moment of cultural significance, a glimpse into a world where tradition and artistry intertwine seamlessly", the Photographer says again.

"- Photographing the Bopa subcaste in Pushkar was more than just a professional endeavor – it was a journey into the soul of Rajasthan, a testament to the enduring legacy of its people. Through the lens, I witnessed the timeless dance of tradition and modernity, embodied in the voice of a young girl who sang not just with her lips, but with her heart", the Photographer says again.

Read also:  Pushkar Lake in India

Pushkar Lake in India

Read also:  Pushkar Lake in India

More archive stories

India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of an Indian girl in Pushkar. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.