An age-old tradition that is commonly kept within families of Snake Charmers and once revered in Indian culture. But local governments in India have been banning the trade across the country and leaving snake charmers with no other means for daily income.
Tourists in India have always flocked to the sight of mystical Indian men enticing Cobras to dance to sounds of a flute-like instrument but before long, there will be no sight of a snake charmer anymore due to local government regulations.
Our colleague in India filmed with a snake charmer who told us about the difficulties faced by his community:
“If government were to provide us with an alternative option to make money of course we would accept this, but to take away our tradition which is taught to us all from a young age, it is very sad. Society is changing too fast for us to survive, and our old family traditions will simply die away as a result!” he said.
Most Snake Charmers in India however vouch for their religious beliefs and their own superstitions being the reasons why they look after the snakes fully, ensuring they are kept safely and not harmed in any way.
“Our family have always been devotees of Lord Shiva and so we treat our snakes like they are Gods! For us to harm them in any way would be like we are harming our Gods, and we will never do that!” he explained.
In Hindu culture, the God Shiva is depicted as wearing a Cobra snake around his neck, said to represent a lack of fear and his immortality. Old stories say when snakes were once endangered, the God Shiva gave them shelter and he became their protector. He wore them as ornaments as a sign of strength and also as a means of showing his control on the universe.
Many snake charmers in India live a wandering existence and are often devotees of Lord Shiva. They visit towns and villages on market days and during vibrant festivals.
International animal rights groups feel there are elements of cruelty in the art of snake charming in many countries where it can be common for keepers of deadly snakes to remove the fangs and venom glands of the snake or in extreme cases, even sewing their mouths shut so as not to be able to bite. The Snake Charmer we met explained a pain-free procedure by which his family tradition was to remove the venom from the snake, but the fangs were kept in tact so as not to harm the snake in any way.
Many Snake Charmers whose family traditions are struggling to survive feel that local governments could be looking at ways in which to license the trade, which would also be a way for them to make money from a trade they have been doing for many generations.
— Applause Ent (@applause_ent) September 29, 2016
According to scientists it is said that snakes are able to sense sound however lack an outer ear which would enable to hear any music in the same way humans do. In the case of the music played by the charmer, the snakes are assumed to follow the instrument with their vision carefully as a result of their normal reaction against a predator. This appears as if the snake is dancing, when in fact the snake is simply being vigilant.