Like most Indian states, Rajasthan has a number of “tribal” peoples who live outside the social mainstream. Many are nomadic, and often called “Gypsies” – indeed the Romanies of Europe are thought to have originated among these Rajasthani Gypsy tribes. The most prominent are the Kalbeliyas, found largely in Pushkar. The Kalbeliyas discovered how to charm snakes, and they used to sing and dance for royalty, as they now do for tourists, but living on the margins of society, they suffer similar discriminations as their brethren in Europe.

The Bhopas are a green-eyed tribe of nomads who used to work as entertainers to the maharajas, and to this day they make a living as itinerant poets and storytellers. They are asked to perform particularly where someone is sick, as their songs are believed to aid recovery.

In the Jodhpur region, many tourists take an excursion into the countryside to visit the Bishnoi, a religious rather than strictly ethnic group, whose tree-hugging beliefs chime with those of hippies in the West. Living in close proximity to them, though with a very different lifestyle, are the Bhils, great hunters who used to hire themselves out as soldiers in the armies of the Rajput kingdoms. They have their own language and religion, and their dances have become very popular, especially at Holi.

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