Qalandar - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs and Practices. Rather than having a formal set of religious beliefs or practices, Qalandar rely on sacred activities and religious holidays in order to pursue their entertainment strategies. They are essentially agnostics or religious pragmatists, professing Muslim, Hindu, or Christian beliefs depending on whichever affiliation best serves their momentary purposes. They do believe in the "evil eye" and the effectiveness of charms or amulets ( tabiz ) in protecting them from a spectrum of spirits and ghosts.

Arts. Qalandar produce no art or artifacts, as they invest all their energies and pride in their knowledge and skills as professional entertainers.

Medicine. Excluded from access to modern hospitals, Qalandar rely on druggists and homeopathic practitioners for serious illnesses. Most suffer from chronic malaria and seasonal enteric diseases such as typhoid and cholera. Colostrum is considered "hot" and newborns are fed sugar water for the first three weeks after birth. This solution of water and brown sugar is readily contaminated by flies and infant mortality from enteric infections is very high. Senior females serve as midwives at birth, though strong women often deliver their own children.

Death and Afterlife. When an individual becomes too old or unable to walk he or she is considered dead, and left behind. Death is considered a part of life and bodies are simply washed, wrapped in a clean white cloth, sprinkled with perfume, and buried in an unmarked grave within thirty-six hours of death. Ideally siblings and parents care for the body; however, if not available, dēra members dispose of the body. Regardless of economic potential around a campsite following a death, Qalandar will immediately move on to their next destination. They are always aware that flexibility and freedom from both internal and external constraints are critical for their survival as nomadic entrepreneurs.

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