Gulabo Sapera: Woman with a Heart of Gold

Women, the womb of all creation, the source of all inspiration, and the beholder of all the power that runs the universe. Despite all the boundations that have been forced on them, they continue to cross each of them and inspire the world to be more courageous and to strive hard each day. 


One such woman of strength is Gulabo Sapera. She is a dancer by profession and rose to fame with her feature in the popular TV show Bigg Boss. The woman has been inspiring people from across the world with her story of struggle and how she combated every hurdle that came her way.


Gulabo Sapera, originally named Dhanvantri, hails from Rajasthan. She was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri award in the year 2016, by the Indian government for taking the folk dance of Rajasthan to places, one couldn’t even count. She is a celebrity, an icon, a role model for people of her Kalbelia community.


Well, life always wasn’t as smooth and such a cakewalk for her. She had her share of struggles and quite harsh ones. Her story is one of the most heart-touching narratives you could ever be told and looking at someone who’s arrived after escaping such dark corners in life, automatically brings in the respect that she commands. She belonged to a community that was extremely backward by their thoughts and considered women as liabilities. Thus, the birth of a daughter was highly mourned. Gulabo was just 1 day old when her family members buried her alive. Her parents were unaware of the same, and as soon as her mother came to know about it, she dug the land where she was buried and saved her, seven hours after the incident. Seems like the lady was born a warrior. Life was a rocky road for her and she came over every obstacle that came in her way.  


Gulabo’s father was a snake charmer by profession and Gulabo was his seventh child. Society was completely against letting his daughter stay alive and abandoned him when he refused to kill her. He remained boycotted by the community but did not let them harm his kids. He used to travel across the village to put up his small-scale shows where he would make the snake dance and groove to the rhythm of his music. He would take Gulabo along with him, wherever he went. Gulabo would listen to the music and watch the snakes dance to the rhythm. She would then try to copy them. Soon, this 2-3 years old girl would groove to the rhythm of the “Been” and dance just like snakes. Talking about the same, she asserted, “I would see the snakes moving their flexible bodies and I would see my father do tricks with them. By the time I was one or one-and-a-half year old, I had already started dancing like the snakes.”


She started pursuing dancing as a passion and a profession too. She performed at the very famous Pushkar Mela in Rajasthan. The Rajasthan tourism department was blown away and were immensely impressed by her performance. They asked her to move to Jaipur for further professional commitments, to which she agreed. She knew that this would bring her a lot of criticism from her family and so she decided to elope from her house.


She also joined the state’s tourism and cultural department as a performer in the 80s. She made her clothes, came up with her steps, and took on the world alone. As a part of the Government’s program in 1985, she was given a chance to travel to Washington DC and perform in front of a large audience. It was to promote the cultural dance of our country on foreign land. This trip turned all the tables for Gulabo Sapera and filled her with confidence. After it, she did not stop and kept working on her art. Recently, she announced that she would be opening her Dancing school in Pushkar, so that young people could come and learn this folk dance and keep it alive for as long as they can.


Despite all the backlash that she received from the Kalbelia community, she did not forget her roots and is making sure that every girl of the community gets to study and grows to be an educated woman in today’s society. Talking about the same, she affirmed, “I didn’t get an opportunity to study…now, I am helping the Kalbelia folk community and ensuring that their daughters can get a formal education.”


Her success is immense. Her hard work paid off and how. This supremely talented dancer owns houses in countries like Denmark and France. Several people who have watched her dance, pay their visits to these places to learn dancing from Gulabo herself.


During the lockdown that was announced as a preventive measure to fight the Covid 19 pandemic, like everybody else, Gulabo also went through a decline in her career, but instead of being selfish and focussing on making money for herself, she decided to work for the people’ of the country and distributed food packets to the people who were starving and fighting hunger to stay alive. Her only goal was to not let anybody go to bed with a hungry stomach.


Apart from being an extremely talented woman who made her career on her own and went through a lot of ups and downs in her life, she did not let the humanity in her be affected by all the struggle that she had to face. She did not forget her roots when success came her way. Instead, she made it a point that she gives back to society in every which way she can. From teaching people how to dance and blessing them with an artform to helping the poor financially, to opening schools for girls, she made sure that her success does not remain her achievement and she makes the lives of as many people as she can better.

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Gulabo Sapera