SNAKE CHARMER DOING HIS CHARM IN BENARES, INDIA

This vintage real photo postcard features a snake charmer doing his charm in Benares, India. Ophidiophobics should think twice before adding this postcard to their collection. This photograph is a snake phobics nightmare. The photo was taken in Benares, which in India is known as Varanasi. The city is on the banks of the Ganges river. Benares is a major religious hub in India. In fact, it is the holiest of India’s seven sacred cities. What is the point of snake charming. It is the practice of hypnotizing snakes by playing and waving around an instrument called a “pungi”. A popular species of snake used in this practice are cobras. The snake charmer handles the snakes and performs dangerous acts with them. They also do other types of street performances (ie juggling or sleight of hand). India is considered the center of snake charming but the practice is also common is Pakistan, Thailand , Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and other Asian and North African countries. The popularity of snake charming is on the decline. Snake charmers tend to be transient. They visit towns during festivals and market days. The charmers are not suicidal. They sit outside of biting range and try to work with snakes when the snakes are sluggish. In addition, some of the snakes have their fangs and/or their venom glands removed. Some unfortunate snakes have their mouth sewn shut. The snakes do not hear the charmers music. Instead, they are interested in attacking the pungi, which they view as a predator. This postcard appears to be from the 1940’s and is in excellent condition (see scans).                                            

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “The popularity of snake charming is on the decline….Snake charmers tend to be transient.” These 2 statements made me laugh. Especially the second, which has several interpretations as to WHY.

    • Interestingly, I learned online that it is illegal to keep snakes as pets in India. In regard to transient snake charmers, it appears they have to take their show on the road in order to participate in various town’s festivals. Can you imagine the following advertisement: “Have Snake; Will Travel”.

      • It should be illegal everywhere to keep any exotic “pet.” Invasive plants AND animals are a real threat to a country’s native species. I love the ad, particularly because it made me remember Paladin and the pre-Paladin motto I made for my 3rd grade confederation of girls: “Have Eye–Will Spy.” I think I still have one of the poster paper buttons I made for us, with a staring eye in the center. As for the declining popularity and transience of the charmers, if they didn’t extract fangs or sedate their snakes, they’d be transient to another realm.


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