Gulabo Sapera, you probably know her as a dancer or as a Bigg Boss contestant? That’s correct, but there is so much more to her inspirational life that today, we decided to have a look at it.
Gulabo AKA Dhanvantri is a dancer from Rajasthan and the recipient of the prestigious Padma Shri award. She was given the honour in 2016 for her outstanding contribution towards keeping the art form of folk dance alive.
Today, everyone knows her and she is considered to be a hero in her community and beyond. However, things were not always the same. Gulabo had to overcome a lot of struggles to be where she is, and one of them was simply to be alive.
When she was just 1 day old, Gulabo, the youngest of 7 kids, was buried by her family members for being a girl – and hence a ‘burden’.
This did not include her parents, thankfully and it was actually her mother who dug her out after nearly 7 hours.
7 hours for a newborn is a long time to be buried under mud, but Gulabo survived, something that became a habit later in life.
Meanwhile her father, who was a snake charmer, was abandoned by the community for fighting for his daughter’s right to live.
He accepted it but decided to make sure that his kids will not be harmed again. When Gulabo was barely a few months old, he started taking her for the rounds he used to do around the village with the sankes.
And that was Gulabo’s first brush with music and dancing. Just like snakes, she too would dance to the tunes of the been. In a conversation with Outlook India about the same, she said:
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
Gulabo, then, picked up dance for good. She started performing at local events and it was Pushkar Mela where she was spotted by the members of the Rajasthan Tourism Department.
This meant that Gulabo had to shift to Jaipur, something she readily did even though it meant that she had to elope from her house. She also joined the state’s tourism and cultural department as a performer in the 80s.
She made her own clothes, came up with her own steps, and basically took on the world alone.
In 1985, she got a chance to visit Washington DC as the government was promoting cultural dance in the US – and that changed everything for her.
Since then, there has been no looking back for Gulabo. In February this year, she announced that she is making a dancing school in Pushkar, so that she can teach dancing to younger people and keep the tradition alive.
She is also helping the members of the Kalbelia community to give proper education to their daughters, something that she wasn’t lucky to have.
I didn’t get an opportunity to study…now, I am helping the Kalbeliya folk community and ensuring that their daughters are able to get formal education.
At this point, she has houses in Denmark and France, and you’d be surprised to know how many people turn up there to learn dancing from Gulabo.
The pandemic, though, took its toll on her career but Gulabo decided to help those who needed it more. She would send out food packages during the lockdown and tried to make sure no one goes to bed hungry.
Gulabo is a self-made woman with a list of achievements so long, it might take a few hours to go through all of them. She has single-handedly changed the way dance and dancers were perceived in her community, while also giving an answer to those who thought she must die because she is a girl.
We look up to her and hope that she continues to inspire us all.
Oh, but, before we go, here is a short story about how she got her name. When Gulabo was around 1-year-old, she fell severely ill and that is when someone kept a rose near her head, and from that day her father started calling her gulabi.