Overview of Snake Charmers in India

India houses some of the world’s most amazing snake charmers. They earn their name by charming cobras and other poisonous snakes as part of their work. The instruments and music used are specific to India, with unique sounds and tunes that elevate the whole snake charming performance.

The pungi is a popular instrument. It is crafted from a hollow gourd and two reeds and produces high-pitched notes which attract snakes. Another common musical accompaniment is the dholak. This drum has a cylindrical body and two heads. Its beats add an exciting element to snake charming.

Notably, snake charming is not only about making music. It involves displaying bravery and skill. Snake charmers can face dangerous situations while performing, like venomous bites and attacks from angry snakes. To avoid these, they have come up with techniques such as wearing leather gloves and controlling the snakes by gripping them behind their heads.

Musical Instruments Used by Snake Charmers

To understand the musical instruments used by snake charmers and introduce you to Pungi, Been, and Dafli as the solution. These instruments add charms to the mesmerizing act of snake charming. In the following sub-sections, we will briefly talk about each instrument and its significance in the performance.


The ‘charming flute’, also known as Pungi in Hindi, is an instrument used by snake charmers. It is made from bamboo or wood and does not have finger holes. Instead, different breath controls and subtle finger movements are used to produce the notes.

The sound of the Pungi has an alluring effect on cobras, leading them out of their hiding spots. The charmer then plays various tunes to hypnotize and mesmerize the snakes. You can hear this music at fairs and festivals in India.

Although the Pungi is effective on cobras, other species like vipers or pythons are less responsive. The next time you witness a snake charming act, appreciate the intricate craftsmanship that goes into playing this unique instrument! Its sound has been a part of Indian culture for centuries and continues to captivate people around the world.


The Been is a special wind instrument used by snake charmers. It’s made of a hollow gourd, with dried snake skin on the top and 4-6 air flow holes on the side. When air is blown in, sound waves form a captivating tune that can charm snakes.

The Been’s history traces to old India. Snake charmers used it to catch snakes for their job. People thought the music held magical powers to control venomous snakes and even speak to them.

Plus, other instruments like pungi, mashak, and bansuri are used across India for snake charming. Pungi is like the Been, but has a longer tube and two reed pipes. Mashak or kudu is made from animal horns or bamboo tubes. Bansuri is a bamboo cylindrical flute. Each instrument produces a sound that enchants certain snake species.


This instrument, commonly seen with snake charmers in India and Pakistan, is renowned for its unique sound. The Dafli, constructed from wood or metal with a taut skin, is hit with a stick or hand to create a rhythmic beat. It is used in many cultural festivities and celebrations due to its versatility.

Given its size and portability, the Dafli is often favoured by street performers. It brings an exciting dynamic to the classic snake charming performance, mesmerising spectators with its lively beats. While normally associated with snake charmers, the Dafli has spread beyond this image and can now be heard in numerous musical styles.

Surprisingly, the Dafli is used for more than music. In some cultures, it is thought the sound of the instrument can chase away evil spirits and bring good luck. It has also been employed for meditation, as its mesmerising rhythm helps to relax.

The Dafli’s deep history and adaptability make it an irreplaceable part of musical culture not only in South Asia but all over the world.

Music of Snake Charmers

To explore the music of snake charmers with a focus on their unique style and the importance of music in their profession, we have two sub-sections. The first sub-section will delve into the style of music played by snake charmers to captivate their audience. The second sub-section will focus on the role of music in the daily life and work of snake charmers.

Style of Music

Snake Charmers’ Music has an age-old style that is still popular in many places. It is a classic form of music that accompanies snake charmers during their acts. It has features that make it different from other kinds of music. Examples of these are:

Snake Charmers also use techniques like blowing air in a diagonal direction on one end of a flute or tapping the side of an instrument while playing it. These techniques make the music unique. Moreover, it has great cultural value in the areas where it has been practised over the years.

Importance of Music in Snake Charming

Music has been a key part of snake-charming for centuries. Flutes and strings create the distinctive melodies that capture snakes’ attention and put them in a trance-like state. These tunes also serve as a warning sign of danger.

Music is not only traditionally important, but it has practical uses too. Snakes don’t have ears, so they sense vibrations and movements. Music helps snake charmers by guiding the snakes in the right direction.

Snake charming adds culture and heritage to society. Laws protect different species, so the music must be pleasant and not cause negative emotions towards people or animals.

Cultural Significance of Snake Charming in India

To understand the cultural significance of snake charming in India, delve into the mythology and folklore surrounding snakes, as well as their role in Indian society. In this article section, you will explore the two sub-sections; Mythology and Folklore, and Role in Indian Society, to gain an insight into the deep-rooted cultural significance and beliefs associated with snake charming in India.

Mythology and Folklore

Snake charming in India is rooted in myth and folklore. It’s connected to divine tales of gods and demi-gods in ancient scriptures. Snakes are seen as symbols of luck, wisdom and wealth.

This art is passed on from one generation to the next, often with nomadic groups. Charming snakes is based on respect. Charms, music and dance are used to draw them out without harm.

Though it’s a captivating show for tourists, some charmers mistreat snakes. They may defang or drug them for performances. This led to laws to regulate the practice.

Role in Indian Society

Snake charming has been a part of Indian culture for centuries. It’s seen as a special ability given to them by the gods. Snake charmers have also been entertaining people with their musical instruments, like the pungi and dafli. This practice has been featured in popular Indian films.

But, today, there are issues with snake charming. People know more about animal rights and are against cruelty to animals. So, capturing snakes is now illegal. This has caused charmers to lose their source of income.

The government is helping to protect this art form. They’re encouraging snake charmers to adopt domesticated snakes instead of capturing wild ones. They’ve also started conservation programs to ensure the safety of animals.

Controversies Surrounding Snake Charming

To understand the controversies surrounding snake charming in India, you need to acknowledge the animal rights concerns and the Indian government’s regulations on this activity. Animal rights issues raise questions about the welfare of the snakes used for entertainment. On the other hand, the regulatory measures aim to maintain the traditional art form while safeguarding the snakes from harm.

Animal Rights Concerns

The ethical treatment of animals is a big deal in the world. There are debates about how to treat snakes when it comes to snake charming. Experts and organizations worry about the survival of snakes in captivity, their health and welfare, and the effects using them for entertainment has.

The public is mainly interested in the show, leading to inexperienced handlers and unruly audience behavior. This can put people and animals at risk.

It’s important to think about the long-term impact on species conservation. Using protected species could reduce their population size.

Some countries ban snake charming, but others allow it if professionals are trained or non-venomous snakes are used.

Regulation by Indian Government

Snake charming in India is a controversial topic due to possible animal cruelty. Therefore, the Indian government has created laws to protect both animals and humans. These regulations stop snakes from being taken from the wild for entertainment, ensure proper care of captive snakes, and require charmers to have a license and training.

Charmers must get a license from the government and follow specific rules about snake treatment. Venomous snakes are not allowed. Charmers also must make sure their snakes are fed, hydrated, and sheltered. If someone is bitten by a snake, they must get medical help.

Despite these laws, some people still think that regulation is not enough to prevent animal abuse in snake charming. They think it’s cruel and unnecessary amusement.

Modern Depictions of Snake Charmers in Indian Media

To explore modern depictions of Indian snake charmers in media, the solution is to examine their portrayal in film and television, as well as in music and dance performances. In this section, we will delve into the sub-sections and analyze how contemporary Indian media is representing the age-old tradition of snake charming through these different art forms.

Film and Television

The representation of Snake Charmers in Indian Media has been an important part of Film and Television. Let’s explore this topic further.

Modern-day interpretations give us a new outlook on this practice. Not only do they entertain, but they also teach and motivate people to learn more about Indian culture.

Music and Dance Performances

Indian performing arts have always been a feature of the country’s culture. Traditional forms such as Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, and Mohiniyattam often appear in Indian media. These performances are very important to India’s entertainment industry, with people from India and beyond coming to watch.

Dance and music tell stories, from ancient myths to modern-day themes. They are also important for cultural diversity and preserving traditional art. Recently, some modern adaptations of classical dances have been developed. Fusion dances, for example, mix classical and contemporary styles.

Not everyone likes these modern versions. Some say they weaken the true nature of traditional art. But others say they keep old traditions alive by making them more appealing to younger people.

Regardless of people’s opinions, dance and music performances continue to be vital for promoting India’s artistic identity at home and abroad.

Preservation of Snake Charming Traditions

To preserve the dying art of snake charming, it’s crucial to conserve the music and instruments associated with it. Efforts to preserve instruments and music are being made to keep the tradition alive. Alongside that, understanding the importance of cultural heritage preservation is also essential to keep its legacy alive for future generations.

Efforts to Preserve Instruments and Music

Preserving musical instruments and traditions is essential for the continuity of cultural arts. People are exploring ways to keep unique melodies and rhythms from around the world. Scholars, musicologists, and traditional musicians have come together to save tools like sitar, kora, mbira, oud, and more. These efforts involve protecting materials used in instrument-making; this is a crucial part of our shared cultural heritage.

Recently, numerous initiatives were launched to protect musical traditions that may become extinct. One example is the preservation of snake charming music; it is an ancient tradition changing due to animal welfare. Local musicians and fans of the artform are training younger generations, while providing alternative incomes for former snake charmers.

Traditional music is very important in societies worldwide. It shapes identities, conveys values, and preserves memory. There is an understanding that more should be done to protect these ecosystems from vanishing. Collaborations between musicians from different backgrounds offer chances for creative solutions, to make sure diversity stays alive globally.

Importance of Cultural Heritage Preservation.

It’s vital to protect our cultural heritage, which includes practices, beliefs, customs, and arts that make up our society’s identity. This helps us appreciate diversity, honor our history, and feel connected to our community.

We can encourage people to take part in events that celebrate their culture, or promote tourism centered around cultural activities and sites. This generates money to maintain and restore these heritages.

Sometimes traditions are lost due to migration or modernization. To save these practices, oral histories can be recorded or digital archives created. This way, people who can’t physically visit a site can still learn about the tradition’s importance.

Snake charming is an example of cultural heritage. It has been held sacred by communities in Asia and Africa for centuries. To save it, we can open a museum or teach performance skills via workshops. This will help prevent it from being forgotten.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What instruments do Indian snake charmers commonly use?

Indian snake charmers commonly use a few key instruments, including the pungi, a wind instrument made of bamboo and played like a recorder; the dafli, a small handheld drum; and the manjira or jalra, a set of small metal cymbals.

2. What kind of music do Indian snake charmers play?

The music played by Indian snake charmers is typically a combination of traditional folk music and tunes specifically designed to evoke the movements of a snake. The melodies are often simple and repetitive, and may be accompanied by a hypnotic beat played on the dafli.

3. How did the tradition of snake charming in India develop?

The tradition of snake charming in India developed out of a longstanding cultural reverence for snakes, which are seen as powerful and sometimes even divine creatures in many parts of the country. Snake charmers would use their music and manipulation skills to tame the snakes and show off their mastery in public demonstrations.

4. Is snake charming still practiced in India today?

While snake charming was once a more common and widely-recognized profession in India, it has become less prevalent over time due to concerns about animal welfare and changing cultural attitudes. However, there are still some snake charmers who continue to practice their craft in certain parts of the country.

5. Are snake charmers typically members of a particular caste or community?

Historically, snake charmers in India were often members of specific nomadic or semi-nomadic communities, such as the Sapera or Jogi. These groups generally held lower social status and were often subject to discrimination and exploitation.

6. What is the role of snake charming in Indian cultural traditions?

While snake charming is no longer as prominent a practice in India as it once was, it remains tied to cultural traditions and beliefs that hold snakes in high regard. In some parts of the country, snake charmers may still be called upon to perform for specific rituals or ceremonies, or to provide remedies for snakebites.