Frequently Asked Questions
First Online: November 01, 2000
Page Last Updated : February 15, 2013
||Are there snake charmers in
||Yes. There are snake charmers all
over India, who provide street side entertainment. The snakes are typically cobras (those with a hood and S mark; they are deadly poisonous). The
charmer blows a horn (called Pungi) to which the snake seems to
The snake charmers also exhibit other types of snakes like
pythons, and sometimes arrange Snake Vs. Mongoose fights for the
||Why are snakes worshipped in
||Snakes have a very important role in
Indian mythologies and beliefs (you can see their depiction in this
section at Kamat's Potpourri).
Snakes are both feared and revered in India. There is a
festival called Naga Panchami that is dedicated for the purpose.
||Are the Indian snakes poisonous?
||There are both poisonous as
well as non-poisonous snakes in India; the viper, the krait, the cobra,
and the king cobra have venom and are deadly. The Indian children are taught to identify these
snakes in the schools and also to provide first aid in the case of
||How does the snake charmer make
the cobra dance?
||The snake charmer uses a blow horn
to excite the cobra which opens its hood in its defense. The charmer
then makes rhythmic, elegant motions with the horn, which is
correspondingly followed by the hood of the cobra.
Interestingly, the cobra cannot hear the horn, and instead follows
the motion of the horn. (so one could actually take a stick and move
it rhythmically in front of the cobra and it would do the same!)
||Why are cobras so fascinating?
||One must study the elegance and
fiery lifestyles of cobras (biological name Naga naja) and king cobras
(Naja hannah), to understand
the royal and divine status attributed to this animal. The cobras
lead an extremely strong family oriented life, with the males taking an unusually
large role in the raising of the newborn. The king
cobras can make love
for hours together, making them among the most potent of the
The fearsome defense of the male cobra can scare away any animal and
an venomous attack surely will kill the enemy.
The Indians attributed these qualities of the king cobras to a leader
or emperor, and in India the cobra is given a royal status.
||What are some of myths and
stories involving snakes in India?
- A cobra decorates the the beehive of Lord Shiva
- A snake decorates the stomach of Shiva's son Ganapati
- Lord Vishnu uses a snake as a vehicle, bed and a sofa!
- A large serpent was used to churn the ocean to produce
ambrosia (Samudra Mathana)
- Parikshit, a descendant of the Pandava kings was very
afraid of the snakes and took great pains to avoid them.
However, Takshaka the snake took the from of a worm in a fruit
and killed the king. Parikshit's son Janamejaya, then undertook
a mass sacrifice of the snakes (Näga-Yajna) and wanted to
eliminate all the snakes from the earth. At this juncture, the
divine forces intervened and stopped the destruction of the
- The Nagas are a tribe living prominently in the State
of Nagaland, in Eastern India. They are said be descendants of a
Naga prince killed by Parikshit (see above).
- When an evil serpent Kaliya troubled the village cows,
Krishna tamed him and danced on his hood.
- In ancient India, solar
eclipse was believed to have been caused by the snakes.