Snake charming and kids!! Vadi tribe of Gujarat, India strange places 15

When the new academic year begins, all over the world, parents who  have young 3 to 4 year old kids,  will be anxious to put them in the best possible kindergarten school so that they will have good foundation in basic education. This is essential for higher studies when they enter the under graduate colleges and ultimately these people will make a decent contribution to nation building.

Indian Children taking basic training in snake charming.

Snake-charmer and a customer
Here in India, the second most populous country in the world next to China, to get better elementary school  education for  their kids, parents have  to run from pillar to post, pay higher capitation fees, etc way ahead of  admission date to be assured of a seat in the next academic year. For admission to the best schools,  sometimes they need recommendation from the local VIPs or from the shrewd local politicians.

Here in the nondescript remote village near Rajkot in the state of south Gujarat,the scenario is all together different. Here lives a group of nomadic ''Vadi tribes'' numbering 600 plus  who run their own kindergarten school for a different purpose!!  No application forms to be filled up, no rush, no fees, no books and no hassle! Not even a building with proper roof over the head!  But this school is unique in its own way and it is for those who want their children to become  professional snake charmers, for which India has been well-known for centuries.

Real snake charmer.
Indian snake charmers's young kids playing with cobra.

In the old cartoons of the western news papers, when there is a scoop on India, positively one will see a picture of an Indian cobra dancing  and swaying before a turbaned snake charmer playing gourd pipe or bin. Such an image will give an impression that such road shows by Indian snake charmers are frequent and common every where in India. It is a wrong misconception. There are  a few nomadic communities across India  and  for generations, they are traditionally professional  snake charmers whose main livelihood is through snake charming  road shows. They are  marginalized communities in the society and the government has found it difficult to reform them. 

Their mythical  emotional attachment with deadly snakes goes as far back as  1000 years and to continue their tradition they prepare the young children for the next generation. The uninterrupted link will continue down ages. These people hardly ever stay in one one place and keep moving from one place to another . Their only occupation is snake charming , occasionally selling herbal medicine for painful bites, etc. Being very poor, illiterate and low caste, they lead a pathetic, hand to mouth living and they have nothing to grudge about. Snake bites do occur  among children and they know how to take care of them. In most cases, the snake-bits are due to teasing and overstepping.

As for snake charming school, the  qualification is : lots of guts and children should belong to the nomadic tribe of  Vadi. For generations they have been  snake charmers who take great pride in their association with the deadly snakes. Unfortunately, this is the only profession they know of.

To get rid of fear and be at ease, they prepare their children for this  most dangerous, daring profession at an early age. Children aged two years plus are given practical lessons and demonstration with live cobras. These kids do not show any sign of fear, anxiety or nervousness. They don't even flinch if the snakes come closer  and coil around them. The  basic fear instinct is very much absent among them because of close, continuous association and good exposure with the reptiles. To become a fully trained snake charmer capable of conducting shows on their own requires a minimum of 10 years plus. It all depends on how fast they learn the trick of the trade. Vadi women  were also trained when they were very young. After marriage, besides family responsibility, like cooking, etc they do handle snakes when the males members are away on errands. Native of Gujarat, these people, in spite of being poor are self-contended and highly proud of their profession. Rather than obsession, they have mythical attachment with the most dangerous of all reptiles Cobra and the trend continues without any sign of break  in the near future. Because thy are steeped in age-old tradition and will never come out of it and join the main-stream society

The following are  some of the fascinating facts:

 01. Snakes are carefully caught, taken from their habitat and are kept  with them for some time.

 02. They don't harm the snakes while training and consider them as their own children. Nor do they remove the poison fangs off snakes.

 03. They don't keep the snakes for more than seven months at a stretch out of their habitat.

 04. Mostly they are kept inside a specially made basket with cover.The basket is invariably made of bamboo.

 05. Besides regular food, the cobras are daily given a herbal mixture which renders the deadly poison useless or ineffective.

 06. They are being haunted by the cops as the Indian government banned snake charming way back in 1991.They never stay in one place for more than six to 8 months.

 07. For some reasons these tribal people are not allowed to reside in the residential areas of villages or towns. Caste and lack of grace may be a factor.

08. "Sapera" is yet another semi-nomadic community of snake charmers who are found in Punjab, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh. They mostly  live in camps just like Gypsies on the outskirts of the town. They are both snake charmers as well as Snake catchers. Just like Vadi tribes, they are not allowed to reside in the urban areas.

09. They are closely  associated  with playing gourd pipe or bin, a wind instrument. To catch  snakes they select an area chant some kind of mantra and play the ''bin'', surprisingly after five to ten minuets, snakes come before them almost mesmerized. They effortlessly put them in the basket and take them away without any hardship or accident.

10. In India the  state governments and social groups' attempt to educate them, but have  failed as their tradition is deep rooted. They are mostly Hindu by religion, marginalized and very poor. There are also a few other semi nomadic communities of snake charmers in Northern India.

11.In southern India, particularly in Tamil Nadu, there is also a community of snake charmers and snake catchers (in local language Pombatti or Pombu pittaran). They are also tribal people and live in the hilly places. Just like snake charmers of other states, they neither have fear nor anxiety and catch the deadly snakes with ease. They do the most dangerous job effortlessly in a jiff.  Snake charming is on the decline in this state and is banned.