Behrupiya, the original travelers and entertainers, once were the much sought after street performers in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. They were masters of disguise and sometimes entrusted with spying for the kings. These performers usually dressed up as Hindu Gods and Goddesses and sang devotional songs during festivals.
Many were great at mimicry and impersonation and would entertain in courts of kings and on streets. Patronized by kings like Nawab Of Awadh, once, these performers are now living a life of poverty and resort to begging near temples during festivals.
Changing lifestyle and changing modes of entertainment pushed this art into obscurity. The communities like Bhand and Naqqal who were engaged in this traditional street art for generations have given up on it and their current generation finds the craft derogatory. But a few still try to make a living by roaming the city streets singing devotional songs.
Listen to them once in a while and you will realize that some of them have good voice and the songs are the folk songs that are lost in the blaring filmy renditions of nowadays.
I came across these ‘Behrupiyas‘ during my travels from Uttarakhand to Rajasthan to Tamilnadu and Maharashtra. It was interesting to hear them sing. A few knew more than one language and sang songs in dialects wherever they traveled to.
Listen to 2 different Behrupiyas here: