The Thar Desert covers about 77,000 square miles in northwestern India and serves as a natural border with Pakistan. It’s also been a pathway for nomadic Gypsies for centuries.
The essence of these Gypsy clans, which originate in the northern state of Rajasthan, lies within their nomadic nature. They live a life of constantly questioning and searching for the unknown, crossing boundaries and transcending borders on a lifelong quest for new beginnings and prosperity.
"Transient" describes these people best. Every few months they settle into a new home, moving sometimes up to four times each year. “We pile up wood in sacks and together we build the house out of wood,” one of the travelers told Circa. “In the end it takes nearly 5 days to finish building a house.”
Due to government land rights issues, most Gypsies travel to subsidized land designated to tribal communities when they are preparing to relocate.
There are currently an estimated 1 million nomadic people in India.
During the country’s royal era, the kings of Rajasthan often hired the Gypsy people. They garnered prestige and respect from the royal families through music and dance.
Today, that legacy lives on with the Bopa and Kalbeliya tribes — two of India’s remaining Gypsy clans. The Bopa are mostly musicians, while the Kalbeliya are snake charmers and dancers. They earn money performing for domestic and international tourists.
Over the years, due to financial instability and rising temperatures in the Thar desert settlement camps, many Gypsy tribal members have switched to a semi-nomadic lifestyle or opt to plant permanent roots.
There are many Gypsies, however, that want to hold on to tradition and remain nomadic. “Hopefully my tribe will continue to travel from place to place harvesting crops and playing music, so that we are able to feed ourselves and our families for generations to come," one Gypsy said.