India snake charmers struggle to save dying tradition

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India snake charmers struggle to save dying tradition
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India snake charmers struggle to save dying tradition
Ravi Nath poses for a photograph with a cobra snake in Jogi Dera (Snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 10, 2016. Picture taken November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY. SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Children of a snake charmer prepare dinner outside their home in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India January 16, 2017. Picture taken January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY. SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A wife of a snake charmer prepares dinner as her daughter holds a torch in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India January 17, 2017. Picture taken January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY. SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Children of snake charmers sit next to a fire on a cold winter evening in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India January 16, 2017. Picture taken January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A wife of a snake charmer stands inside a burnt part of her house in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 9, 2016. Picture taken November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY. SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A daughter of a snake charmer holds her sibling as she stands outside her home in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India January 17, 2017. Picture taken January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Posters are seen inside a house of a snake charmer in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 10, 2016. Picture taken November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A wife of a snake charmer stands outside her house in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 9, 2016. Picture taken November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A son of a snake charmer collects buffalo dung to use as cooking fuel in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India January 16, 2017. Picture taken January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A wife of a snake charmer holds her baby as she stands outside her house in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India January 16, 2017. Picture taken January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Wife of a snake charmer sleeps outside her home in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India January 16, 2017. Picture taken January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Children of snake charmers attend a class at their school in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 10, 2016. Picture taken November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A woman prepares breakfast outside her house in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 10, 2016. Picture taken November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A wife of a snake charmer combs hair of her daughter outside their house in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 10, 2016. Picture taken November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A snake charmer sits on a road with his belongings after returning home from a month-long trip in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India January 16, 2017. Picture taken January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A snake charmer carries snake pots and his belongings as he returns home after a month-long trip in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India, January 16, 2017. Picture taken January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A snake charmer cleans the eyes of his snake in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 11, 2016. Picture taken November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A baby rests in a hammock as a cobra is seen below him in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 11, 2016. Picture taken November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A boy closes a snake pot in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 9, 2016. Picture taken November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A snake pot is seen inside a house of a snake charmer in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 11, 2016. Picture taken November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A snake charmer plays a gourd flute in front of cobras after the morning prayer at a temple in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 10, 2016. Picture taken November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A daughter of a snake charmer holds snakes as she eats her breakfast in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 11, 2016. Picture taken November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Snakes are seen inside a pot in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 11, 2016. Picture taken November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A cobra is seen in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 9, 2016. Picture taken November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Ashiq Nath poses for a photograph with a snake in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 10, 2016. Picture taken November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A snake charmer holds a cobra, which was caught in a house in a near-by village, in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 9, 2016. Picture taken November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A snake charmer holds a cobra, which was caught in a house in a near-by village, in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 9, 2016. Picture taken November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Marshal Nath poses for a photograph with a snake in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 10, 2016. Picture taken November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Binu Nath poses for a photograph with a snake in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 10, 2016. Picture taken November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A boy holds a snake as he poses for a photograph in Jogi Dera (snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 9, 2016. Picture taken November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Rishi Nath poses for a photograph with a cobra snake in Jogi Dera (Snake charmers settlement), in the village Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 10, 2016. Picture taken November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Manish Nath holds a snake as he poses for a photograph in Jogi Dera (Snake charmers settlement), in the village of Baghpur, in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, India November 10, 2016. Picture taken November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "SNAKE CHARMERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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JOGI DERA, India, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Buti Nath flips the lid of a basket and a cobra snake slowly emerges. The deadly reptile begins to sway as Buti plays his gourd flute.

He is a member of an ancient tribe of snake charmers known as Saperas, who over the generations have thrived on catching venomous snakes and making them dance to their music.

"More than seven generations of our families have been doing this and so are we," Buti Nath, 65, told Reuters Television in his dusty village of Jogi Dera in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state.

"We are called upon whenever there are dangerous animals coming into your houses or in your fields - we go and catch them with courage," he said.

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Snakes are revered by Hindus in India and snake charmers are considered the followers of Lord Shiva, the blue-skinned Hindu god who is usually portrayed wearing a king cobra around his neck.

Snake charmers were once a regular fixture at Indian bazaars and festivals, mesmerizing crowds of onlookers with their ability to control some of the world's most venomous creatures.

They would often be the main source of medicines if someone suffered from a snake bite.

The snake charmers of Jogi Dera say their centuries-old tradition is slowly dying out as authorities seek to enforce wildlife protection laws, and after an outright ban on the practice in 1991.

Modernity is also doing its part to elbow out tradition and these days, saperas don't earn much as there are plenty of other entertainment options available.

"There is no place in civilized society for people to go around catching snakes and taking them and doing some kind of an entertainment show with snakes," said 30-year-old Mangal Nath, cradling his infant son in his arms.

In Jogi Dera, a snake charmer earns about 200 rupees ($3) a day, not enough to support a family. Young villagers who had dreamed of a life of snake charming are leaving to find work on construction sites or as rickshaw drivers.

Kuldip Nath, a 14-year-old snake charmer recalled how he joined his father in searching for snakes, and said he regrets not going to school.

"Sometimes, I also feel that I should study, get a proper job or get into some business and work, so that I can take care of my responsibilities for my family and children," he said.

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