Sapera are one of the many gypsy communities living in India. In a recent past, they used to wander in the western state of Rajasthan where they are still considered as untouchables by the indian mainstream because of their way of life. ( Orthodox hindus don’t like people who spend their time moving and live in the nature : they consider them as impure.) So Sapera are known as snake charmers. But they also administer herbal medicines for scorpions stings and snakes bites, sell eggs, beg,…and make “kajal”(eyeliner), a traditional by-product of the snake.
From the snake’s ribs, a substance is extracted, then boiled. This exudes a kind of oil, the “kajal”, Sapera men, women and children use to protect against the evil spirits. But also against dust, pollens and other particles. And as a cosmetic. It sounds amazing but Sapera have a deep respect for the snakes, they even worship them once a year, at the time of the Nag panchmi festival. I specify “kajal” is used by many indians throughout the country : in such cases, it is a product that is found in the commerce and made out of sesame oil, almonds,…!