The Kalbeliya Gypsy people are known as the snake charmer caste.
Indian people fear snakes, and particularly the cobra, which kills hundreds of people every year. Kalbeliya catch cobras, remove their fangs, and domesticate them. In India, the cobra is not only feared, it is also venerated as a mystic animal. It is the ally of Shiva, the most powerful Indian God, and is represented on all images and statues. Kalbeliya men for centuries have exploited this fear and interest to “charm” snakes for money; they train the cobra to stand and sway out of a woven basket while they play their traditional Poongi flute. Indian people today remain fascinated, and some are willing to give a coin for the chance to observe the mystic cobra from a safe distance.

Copyright 2003 - Jean-Philippe Soule

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