The old man sitting in front of me, carries his life on his face. His wrinkles, grey hair and sun stained face tells the story of his life as a snake charmer. And in his hands, he carries his snake. The age old tradition of India is standing in front of me.
Snake charming is said to have started in ancient Egyptian times. An age old tradition, also linked with Hinduism as it’s believed that serpents are holy animals. Snake charming is a skill carried over from father to son, making some families snake charmer families, as they’ve been for generations.
He greeted me friendly and pointed to the bag, saying something. I looked down. Snakes. Never been that close to something we’ve been taught to fear and to run away from. I’m scared of snakes. I remember seeing one in our backyard when I was very young- my dad quickly killed it and the memory moved away.
A mystical creature for me. This man takes me by the hand, makes me sit next to him and takes out his snakes – yes, very alive ones. A cobra and a rice snake. He tells me the fangs are pulled, so no harm can be done. He holds them; I guess my fear is written all over my face, while he puts the rest of the body in my hands.
Snake charmers use a flute called a pungi which the snakes ‘dance’ to. They are street performers, either performing individually or as part of a been party. Snake charmers can also practice traditional medicine with the venom and are the best when coming to treating a snake bite.
Nowadays, as snake charming have become a bit of a lost art – snake charmers are used to find & catch unwanted snakes when they make their way into communities.
This man, spend his life as a snake charmer – he likes it. It’s the only thing he knows. Sitting on his knees, playing the pungi he transform into a bit of mystical, traditional India, with a bright orange headscarf and white beard.