a village in India where young children are taught to coexist with snakes as early as age two. The children’s favorite animal is the snake with the face on its back.

In the north Indian village of Gauriganj, handling snakes is quite literally child’s play. Every youngster is brought up in the company of ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs snakes so they can grow up to be ace sɴᴀᴋᴇ charmers. And one of the favourite snakes in the village seems to be happy to oblige, judging by the smiling face on the back of its head.

Having mastered the art himself, Uttam Nath, 44, says the villagers see it as their duty to introduce the young members of their community to snakes as soon as possible.

“The training begins at two. The children are then taught the ancient ways of sɴᴀᴋᴇ charming until they are ready to take up their roles in our community,” said Uttam Nath.

“Before the children go out they should know everything that they can know about snakes.”

Instead of attending formal schooling, all village children complete a ten-year initiation ritual that culminates in the boys becoming fully fledged performing sɴᴀᴋᴇ charmers.

The men earn their crust by showing off their skills with a traditional flute. But the women in the village don’t shy away from the snakes either – their role is to care for the serpents and handle them  when the men are not around.

“We not only charm snakes but we also ʀᴇsᴄᴜᴇ them and sᴀᴠᴇ people from sɴᴀᴋᴇ ʙɪᴛᴇs. If someone around the village has had a sɴᴀᴋᴇ or sᴄᴏʀᴘɪᴏɴ ʙɪᴛᴇ, we cure him with natural therapy,” said Mr Nath.

Most children grow up playing with snakes but do not see them as a toy. Many children even put the king cobra around their necks.

For many in the community, the sɴᴀᴋᴇ charming life holds less and less appeal. Younger people in Gauriganj feel there’s no future in practicing the craft.

Illiteracy and poverty are prevalent in Gauriganj communities. Children start working at a young age and child marriage is common. The problem, it seems, that many Gauriganj aren’t sure what life looks like without sɴᴀᴋᴇ charming.

“The majority do not have any cultivable land and depend solely on sɴᴀᴋᴇ charming for livelihood,” recommends Amit Kumar Ghosh, the superintendent anthropologist at the Anthropological Survey of India.

“The government should introduce welfare schemes to connect them to the mainstream and ensure that their children also get quality education and better quality of life,” he continued.


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