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Jobless snake charmers hunt for livelihood options

Jobless snake charmers hunt for livelihood options

india Updated: Mar 02, 2004 16:53 IST

It was a lone Black-winged Stilt and some Pied Wagtails that welcomed us to the Gulabgarnathji Temple at Charkhi Dadri, Haryana. The temple is named after Gulabgarnath, the Guru of all north-Indian snake charmers.

Snake charmers from across India gather at this small village annually to offer prayers to their Guru. This year, however, the occasion had a special significance. The snake charmers, along with the Wildlife Trust of India, had organised a mahapanchayat (big congress) to strategise for their rights since snake charming had been declared an illegal occupation

A simple looking village temple dome with high boundary walls set amidst a rural surrounding was all that we could see from a distance. The ambience changed as soon as we entered the temple complex.

What looked like a great congregation of pilgrims from far was actually a gathering of snake charmers or saperas from all across the country. About 600 odd snake charmers and their families had gathered there on that auspicious day, while more were streaming into the temple with each passing hour.

The main priest or Guruji, dressed in a bright saffron robe, was blessing the devotees. The samadhi or tomb of Baba Gorakhnath was the hub and people thronged it to offer their prayers. The air was thick from the smoke of incense sticks and rumbles from a huge drum.

First Published: Mar 02, 2004 14:40 IST