By Aishuwarya Sudarshan
Nag Panchami is a festival celebrated in certain parts of India where the Cobras or Nagas are worshipped. What once used to be a worshipping of the Shiva energy has now turned into a lucrative business, where many members of a tribe skilled in catching and handling snakes start collecting the snakes from the wild, defanging them brutally and then keeping them hungry for months before the festival. They do so because hundreds of people will on this day bring milk, offerings and lots of money to receive the blessings of the snakes. Once the festival is over, the snakes either die out of starvation and dehydration or are thrown back in the forest where they are too weak to survive and so die.
Contrary to popular belief and customs, the original tradition says you are supposed to keep a photo of the cobra in front of your door and put milk, fruits and food in the farm because when the rodents come eat the fruits the snakes will prey on them, keeping the farm safe. Unfortunately the actual tradition has faded into the background and the inhuman tradition of catching snakes and keeping them hungry seems to have caught the public imagination.
This year Naag Panchami falls on the 24th of July and the U.P Forest Department and Wildlife SOS have already started seizing snakes from the Saperas or Snake Charmers as a warning to the others. On 21st July 2012 there was one operation done by the Department and WSOS where they jointly seized 6 snakes. There were 5 Cobras and 1 Common Sand Boa all completely dehydrated and starving
The snakes are at the Wildlife Hospital inside the Agra Bear Rescue Facility undergoing a complete check up and being administered drips as they are too weak to eat. They are also being treated for deep wounds near the fangs and infections in the mouth.
It is a request from the Divisional Forest Officer, the Forest Department and the entire WSOS team; If you find a snake charmer with a snake please do not hesitate to inform the police as it is illegal and they can be arrested under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. This tradition needs to stop and the people behind these brutal acts need to be educated on the cruelty involved