Meva Devi, also known as Meva Sapera, is a 51-year-old singer and dancer from Jaipur who has expertise in folk singing, Kalbelia, Bhavai and Chari dance. Meva Sapera’s journey into the world of dance and music began at a tender age, as she recalls, “Bachpan se gaane ka bahut shauk tha. Kalbelia dance 14-15 saal se shuru kiya.” Her passion for singing and dancing has been her guiding light, leading her to master various dance forms, including the mesmerising Kalbelia, Chari dance- the welcome dance , and the enchanting Bhavai dance. Meva Sapera belongs to the Kalbelia community of Rajasthan, which is a widely known nomadic tribe in India with strong associations with snakes. Women from the Kalbelia community perform a dance form of the same name, which is an integral part of their cultural identity and highlights the enduring existence of this nomadic tribe throughout history.
In addition to Kalbelia, Bhavai dance, another captivating dance form that Meva Sapera’s daughter Poonam Sapera excels in, holds a rich historical significance. It is believed that the origins of Bhavai dance can be traced to the land of Gujarat. This graceful dance form, once exclusive to Gujarat, found its way into the hearts of Rajasthan’s tribal communities who gave it a touch of their own giving rise to the Bhavai we know and love today. Over time, it became more popular in Rajasthan than its place of origin. While it was traditionally an art performed by the men of the Bhavai caste in Gujarat, it gracefully transcended not only geographical borders but also gender boundaries, with women now taking center stage in its performance. This type of folk dance is not the same as the Gujarati Bhavai, a popular folk theater form of western India.
Meva Sapera enchants the audience with her extraordinary singing, while her daughter, Poonam Sapera and daughter-in-law Radha Sapera, gracefully dance to the tunes of her songs. Accompanying this trio are the talented musicians who provide the soulful backdrop to their performance, Gori Shankar on Harmonium, Ugam Nath on Pungi or Been, Ravinder Nath on Dholak and Pawan on Dhol. The soulful beats of the “dholak” serve as the heart and soul of this dance form.
This dance form involves dancers gracefully moving while concurrently balancing an impressive array of up to nine pitchers on their heads.The genesis of this dance can be traced back to the remarkable balancing skills developed by these women as they carried pots of water over long distances through the arid desert terrain. The next part of the dance which requires the dancer to balance themselves (with the pots) on the edge of the sword, on top of glass or on the rim of a brass plate is one of the most awe inspiring things that you will see. This is said to depict the hardships these women go through in order to maintain and ensure the communal well-being of their village and household.
In the realm of cultural preservation, Meva Sapera and her group’s dedication towards their artforms shines as a radiant example. She carries forward a legacy that traverses generations and bridges cultures. In her nimble footwork and melodious tunes, we witness the beauty of Rajasthan’s traditions and the enduring power of artistic expression.