Showing posts with label snake charmers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label snake charmers. Show all posts

Saturday, December 17, 2011

ShalinIndia Launches Snake Charmers’s Music Instrument Pungi on Global Online Marketplaces

ShalinIndia Launches Snake Charmers’s Music Instrument Pungi on Global Online Marketplaces
ShalinIndia, an online shopping store from India, has launched snake charmer’s pungi music instrument in the international online marketplaces. This may help India’s large number of snake charmers gain an alternative vocation of making and selling their unique music instrument.

New Delhi, India (PRWEB) December 16, 2011

India shopping store ShalinIndia has launched the pungi's music instrument on the online marketplaces. Pungi is a traditional folk music instrument used by the snake charmers of India to make snakes dance to their tunes. This flute like music instrument has intrigued westerners. They have often wondered how snake charmers make the deadly cobras sway to the tune of their pungi music. Actually the cobra is deaf to the snake charmer's pipe, but follows the visual cue of the moving pipe and it can sense the ground vibrations from the snake charmer's tapping.

As a seller of Indian culture products, we are happy to do a commercial launch of the pungi, on the global online marketplaces. Two months ago we began to test market this Indian music instrument. When we found that a good number of people were not only attracted, they had also begun to buy these pungis, we decided to launch them on a commercial scale.

"Besides having clear business goals, we are trying to sell Pungis to achieve certain social objectives too. Snake charmers are no longer allowed to catch snakes. So this community is now looking for alternative sources of income. Selling their music instruments is one of them. Most of the snake charmers make their own Pungis using dried and hollow gourd. If we succeed in achieving scale economies, we would be able to buy pungis from large number of snake charmers", said Shalini Verma.
We have launched two varieties of Pungis, one made from gourd, and the other made from coconut shell. Snake charmers generally use pungis made from gourd. However, this is very delicate and risks breaking at the joints with the flute like pipe. Pungis made from gourd often produce better quality sound than the one made with coconut shell. Pungis made from coconut shell are stronger and last longer. However, they produce inferior quality sound and are used only by the hobbyists.

ShalinIndia, one of the premier online India shopping stores, specializes in selling handmade gifts, silver and gemstone jewelry, clothing accessories like men scarfs and scarves for women to customers around the world. Through an arrangement with Amazon, ShalinIndia keeps its inventory in five countries US, UK, France, Germany, and Japan. This enables ShalinIndia to reduce not only delivery time but also shipping costs for its customers. ShalinIndia has maintained consistently high feedback ratings from its online customers.

ShalinIndia Launches Snake Charmers’s Music Instrument Pungi on Global Online Marketplaces

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Regulating Snake Charmers & Their Snakes

The following story by  Stephanie Nolen of The Globe and Mail was published on May27, 2011. There is at one interesting comment associated with this story.And, it makes the point that cobras are often urban snakes, living in close proximity to humans and feeding on rats and other snakes. See the Urban Snakes post from a few days ago.

Pali Nath believes his cobras are 1,000 years old. This may be a slight overstatement, but it speaks to his sense that his trade – snake charmer – is an ancient, integral part of Indian culture. He plies it at weddings and other auspicious occasions, and sometimes on the pavement at busy crossroads in Delhi.

When he squats on his haunches and begins to plays his flute, then lifts the lid off a wicker basket of coiled snakes, the music and the swaying of the serpents has an other-worldly quality. He draws a crowd that, for a few minutes, falls still in this cacophonous city.

This is also, however, a modernizing city, and ancient though the practice of snake charming may be, it must keep up with the times.

Thus the municipal government of Delhi recently summoned Mr. Nath and a number of his confederates to have their snakes microchipped.

Yes. Microchipped.

Back in 2003, Delhi’s wildlife department ordered all city residents with wild animals to register their beasts. Dancing bears, auspicious-occasion elephants, festive camels, performing monkeys, parrots who tell fortunes and rats that predict the future – this concrete jungle is rich in fauna.

The city hoped that by declaring an amnesty to register wild animals in the city, it would help to stop the wildlife trade.

Mr. Nath read about the amnesty in the newspaper, and signed up. It took the city eight years to work its way around to the snake charmers, but a few weeks ago, he got the call to bring in his snakes.

In a bare city office, he met Nitin Sawant, a herpetologist who is the director of the Goa office of the World Wildlife Fund India. The city brought Mr. Sawant north because he is one of the few people in the country with an expertise in PIT-tagging (that’s Passive Integrated Transponder, for the uninitiated) snakes, a skill he picked up PIT-tagging pit vipers for his doctoral research in zoology.

Mr. Sawant took each snake in turn, popped its head and neck into a clear plastic tube to keep it still, and used a needle to insert the tag – smaller than a grain of rice – into the snake’s skin, below the top layer that is shed. Each chip carries a unique identity number.

Then Mr. Nath was given a stamped, laminated certificate that records the species, length, weight and unusual identifying characteristics of his six snakes. And that changed his life.

“Before I was being harassed all the time by inspectors, but now when they stop me I show them this certificate,” he said. Wildlife officers can use a handheld scanner to read the chip and confirm the snakes he is carrying are the ones he registered.

Snake charming, like any activity with a wild animal, was outlawed in the mid-1990s. Inspectors patrol for violators, seeking in theory to confiscate animals or, more typically, to demand bribes from the snake charmers to leave them alone.

Now, Mr. Nath said, his fellow charmers are left living in fear of inspectors, keeping to the shadows, while he can operate freely. He was reluctant to be too specific about what he earns, but he seemed prosperous enough, wearing crisp, bright-orange robes stretched over a firm belly.

Only 10 snake charmers, with a total of 43 snakes, came forward for microchipping, according to a wildlife official who declined to be quoted by name; he estimated there are at least 50 more snake charmers at work in Delhi. The initiative has been “very cheap,” he said, at a cost of about 55,000 rupees, or $1,200.

Mr. Nath insisted none of his snakes came through illegal wildlife trading. Rather, he said, they were spotted in buildings around the city and he was called to remove them. “I have caught snakes in the Kuwaiti embassy, in the home of the minister of external affairs, in the railway museum,” he said.

Once he catches them, he defangs the snakes, using a method he learned from his father that he declined to detail. Because they are defanged, his snakes cannot hunt, and he feeds them deboned chicken and fish, plus yoghurt in summer. He carries them around the city in a basket tied shut with string. And he loves them dearly. “In the winter, they sleep with me under the quilt, not my kids,” he said in Hindi.

However, Mr. Sawant, a man with a warm-blooded passion for reptiles, was appalled at the state of the snakes he tagged.

“The way they are catching and treating the snakes is torture, and they were sluggish, they are not in good health,” he said. “I told all of the [snake charmers] that they should leave this profession: ‘If somebody puts your child in a bucket and makes them dance, you will not be happy.’ They said, ‘But, sir, we don’t have any livelihood.’ ”

Mr. Nath said his snakes will live at least several hundred more years (unless bitten by a mongoose) and thus he will never need more. If he did, he said, he would keep a few eggs when his current snakes mate, but never trap a wild snake.

The herpetologist was skeptical. “Obviously these snakes are in bad health and they will die and they will go for new snakes.”

The microchipping may help, he said, but it relies on a fairly high level of efficiency by wildlife inspectors. The king cobra and python species favoured by snake charmers are not yet endangered but are threatened, Mr. Sawant said.

Mr. Nath counters that he has a religious and near-mystical relationship with his snakes, that he and they are bonded through his music. (This idea is somewhat undermined by the fact that he has to jab and poke the snakes, which respond by striking furiously at his hands, in order to get them to “dance.”)

“It’s a talent, a work of art, and it’s legalized with this certificate,” he said.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Snake Charmers, Economics, & Wildlife Laws

The following story is from the Economic Times

India is no longer a country of snake charmers. Today, this ceases to be just a symbol one can be proud of. For India is literally losing its beguiling and dwindling lot of snake charmers because of the enforcement of stringent wildlife laws and raucous rigour of various animal-rights activists. 
"The only snakes that are visible in our lives," says Shambu Nath - an 80-year-old man from Sapera Basti (hamlet), a community of about 200 families on the Northeastern outskirts of New Delhi - pointing to the tarred road beyond, "are the ones on which other mobile units move." Snakes, the sole route to their livelihood has been snuffed out of their lives with no provisions of or guidance to alternate modes of living. The snakes in their possession have starved to death and their charmers are on their way. 
A snake charmer usually seeks the attention of a snake by playing a long clarinet-like instrument (been) that is bloated at the bottom. For the common man the snake sways to its tunes but herpetologists say that the snakes can't hear sounds in the same frequency band as humans. They are actually preparing themselves to face the music rather than enjoying it. 
Today, these snake charmers have been asked to drop their beens and strip their skins or perish in penury. "This is the only work that we have learnt to do," says Lalan Nath. Tradition and its afterthought has crippled them beyond redemption. Most of the hutments they live in this village with thatched roofs and mud kilns are spare structures that reflect the state of depravation that the snake charmers have been subjected to ever since the the ban on keeping sakes under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. The Act was enforced in 2003. 

Lalan, who has had no education, refuses to move out of Sapera Basti saying that even cable television is partially responsible for the threat that they face in theior lives. He is sitting in a small room that also functions as the office of Pahalwan Band where some youngsters are sitting and watching a Hindi film on cable TV. 

The band does some scarce musical performances at marriages and has a few times gone abroad to perform at the government's Inda festivals. "It is ironic that the government still wants to project our image as representatives of the Indian culture abroad while back home they are trying to snuff the lives out of us," says 52-year-old Paras. 

He has handled snakes as venomous as cobras and kraits but now carries gas cylinders as he has joined a cooking gas supplying agency as a delivery vendor, the only slithering thing he handles is the blue gas pipe that connects the cylinder to the stove. "I often wonder if it will come alive and move and dance to my tune," he says. He among thousands others are surely an endangered species. And it is a problem that the government has not sunk its teeth into. 

Now these snake charmers are, particularly, the younger lot have got into rag-picking, collection of iron waste, polythene, and so on because these odd jobs offer better remuneration.