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The That Desert Kalbelyia's beads work is like a chant: it brings peace to the creator and also to the wearer.


Known for their exuberant dance and festive ways, the Kalbeliya are counted among the Gypsy Tribes of India - usually from the Thar Desert (northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent forming a natural boundary between India and Pakistan).

Traditionally, the Kalbeliya were the designated snake-catchers of India, called upon to remove snakes without killing them.

They are a joyous people known for their frequent festivities and exuberant dancing, which is said resemble the sinuous movements of the serpents they catch. They make their own Bead Jewellery and costumes with a lot of decorations.


1000 years ago, when the Beads were considered to be of high monetary value, they would be transported by tribal people, from one place to another, in the form of necklaces, for easy transport.

Traditionally, the tribes used Beads as money, talismans and for decoration purposes, but later the Beads start to be used for making ornaments, handbags, table runners and other accessories. The technique is believed to have evolved as a craft after embroidery.

In some tribal regions, the status of a woman is only decided through Bead Work: the more efficient and elaborated Bead Work she makes and wears, the higher the status she is given.

This handcraft also lends a sort of hierarchy for a woman in the family structure, once the craft tradition is passed through the generations from mothers to daughters.


When a woman plans to make Bead ornaments, she first cleans the floor and spreads out a Sadalo (an old rag). She takes out the Beads and sorts them in different heaps according to their colors.

To sort out the threads, she unwinds the sling of the thread and loops it around her toe. With the ends of the threads still in her hand she goes on picking individual threads one by one.

Certain colors are specifically worn to mark certain occasions: white is used for marriages while green is worn for engagements.

The designs are unique and mostly inspired from inherited tribal art with slight changes made to suit contemporary tastes. They are verbally pre-decided by the women, and never previously studied or sketched.

Once the design is complete, the woman adorns it in her community and gets praises for her beautiful creation.

The whole process of putting each individual Bead into a pattern is a sort of meditation for the artisan. The work in itself is a chant: bringing peace to the creator and also to the wearer.