Bhopas are one of its kind priests who carry portable temples with themselves in the rural areas of Rajasthan. The mobile temples, that Bhopas carry, are actually Phads or scroll paintings that portray the stories of the folk deities of the area.
Traditionally, the companies of Bhopas are invited by villagers in times of adversity so that the phad rituals can be carried out in the area to bring in the positive energies and the blessings of the deity. Phads, the scroll paintings are carried as rolls to the place where the narrative is to be organized. Once there, bhopas will erect the phad on two poles, consecrate it, invoke the deity of the phad, and start reciting the narration.
Usually, bhopas begins the recital past nightfall and terminate it only past dawn and thence the event is called Jagran. The event ends with a grand Aarti of the deity, after which the Bhopas reroll the Phad and depart for the next village where they’re invited. In lieu of this service, Bhopas receive donations from the villagers, which also is the sole source of income for them.
Apparently, the lifestyle of Bhopa is quite different than that of villagers. But what comes as a surprise that even amongst the Bhopas, there are good many differences as well. Primarily, there are three denominations –Bhopas of Pabuji, Jamat Bhopas, and Par Bhopas. While Pabuji bhopas are the priests of Pabuji and carry Pabuji ki phad, the latter two are the priests of Devnarayan.
Jamat Bhopa of Devnarayan has to be Gurjar, whereas there is no such caste restriction for Par bhopas who can be Rajput, Kumbhar, Gurjar, or Balais. The bhopas of Pabuji are usually from Nayak community. Yet another difference among them is in the usage of the musical instrument. Where Pabuji Bhopas use ancient musical instrument Ravanhatha, the Devnarayan Bhopas prefer Jantar, a unique stringed instrument with two resonators.
Another major difference among the three factions is that where a Jamat Bhopa lives the life of a celibate, there’s no such convention for Par Bhopas. Moreover, a Bhopa of Pabuji is normally expected to have a married life, his wife (called Bhopi) accompanying him in his recitals. Although there are many such differences among these factions of Bhopa community, what remains same is the respect the people have for these nomadic pastoral priests.