Friday, March 4, 2016


I am Aryanath
I can do something special which
I am sure none of you can do!
Do you know what? I can play
the been! You must be surprised.
Yes, I can make snakes dance by playing the been. I have learnt
this art from my family members. We people are known as Kalbeliyas.
My grandfather Roshannathji was famous amongst our people. He could easily catch many poisonous snakes. He tells me many stories about his past. Come, listen to his story in his own words–
Dadaji remembers
From the time of my grandfather and great grandfather, we have always been saperas (snake-charmers).
Snake charming is the practice of  a snake by playing an instrument called pungi or bansuri.
A typical performance may also include handling the snakes or performing other seemingly dangerous acts, as well as other street performance staples, like juggling and sleight of hand.
The charm has nothing to do with the music and everything to do with the charmer waving a pungi, a reed instrument carved out of a gourd, in the snake's face.
Snakes don't have external ears and can perceive little more than low-frequency rumbles. But when they see something threatening, they rise up in a defensive pose.
"The movement of the snake is completely keyed in on the guy playing the toodley thing," says Robert Drewes, chairman of the department of herpetology (the study of amphibians and reptiles) at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. "He sways, the snake sways."
Snakes are elongated, legless, carnivorous repitiles. Snakes can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears. 
There are more than 3,000 species of snakes in the world and there is at least one type of snake on every continent except Antarctica. 
Size- They are  many different species, there are snakes of many different sizes.
The  world’s smallest snake, according to National Geographic, is the thread snake, which grows to only about 3.9 inches (10 centimeters) long. It looks much like an earthworm.
The largest snake, the reticulated python, can grow to a whopping 30 feet (9 meters). The largest snake fossil ever discovered is called the Titanoboa. This creature lived 60 million years ago and would have been 50 feet (15 meters) long. 
Snake eggs & baby snakes- It is a common misconception that snakes build nests for their eggs.
Only one species of snake, that is king cobra, will build a nest for its young ones . Not all snakes lay eggs, but 70% of snakes lay eggs. These types of snakes are called oviparous.
The other 30 percent of snakes directly give birth to live young, much like mammals. This is because some climates are too cold for eggs to develop and hatch, so snakes living in colder climates do not lay eggs.

What do snakes eat?
Snakes are carnivores. This means that they only eat meat. Snakes are often seen as pests, but they actually can help keep pests at bay by eating rodents.
Many people think that all snakes kill their prey by biting it and injecting the prey with poison. This isn't true. Cobras, vipers and other related species are the only snakes that use venom to hunt.
Most snakes simply swallow their prey whole. Large snakes, such as the python, will strangle their prey to death and then swallow it whole.
Snakes can eat other animals up to 75 to 100% bigger than their own size, according tonationa geographic. They have been known to eat animals such as crocodiles and cows. To fit the large prey into their mouth, the snake's jaw will unhinge.

Once the animal is inside, the snake's body releases enzymes to break the food down into useable energy. Snakes do not need to eat as often as other animals because they have a very slow metabolism rate. King cobras, for example, can live for months without food.
Sometimes, though, eating a live animal can result in disaster. Snakes have been known to explode after eating a living animal, though it is not known why.

Where do snakes live?
Snakes live in almost every corner of the world. They are found in forests, deserts, swamps and grasslands. Many call underground burrows or the spaces under rocks home. Some snakes, like the cottonmouth water moccasin of North America live in water part of the time.
Though they are found all over the world, snakes do not, however, like the cold. they are cold blooded or ectothermic. This means that they don't have the means to regulate their body temperature like warm blooded creatures. since their bodies do not use energy to create heat to warm them. When  it is cold, many snakes hibernate in tunnels underground.
Snakes have been an important part of our life. We used to move from village to village carrying our snakes in bamboo baskets.Whenever we stopped in a village, a crowd would gather around us. We would then take out our snakes from our baskets.
Even after the show, people would stay on. They knew that in our tinbox
there were many types of medicines for them. We made these medicines from plants collected from the forests.
I had learnt all this from my grandfather. I felt nice that I could
help people with my medicines even if doctors and hospitals were far off.
In return, people would give us some money or food grains. In this way we could manage our life.
Sometimes, I was called to places where someone had been bitten by a snake. From the marks of the bite I tried to find out which snake had bitten the person.
I would then give a medicine for that. But I have not always been on time to help. As you know, some snake bites can even cause death on the spot.
But most of the snakes are not poisonous. Sometimes, when some farmers would come running for help shouting “snake, snake”, I would catch that snake.
After all, catching snakes was something I had been doing since my childhood. Oh, those were the good days. We could help a lot of people in many ways. We also entertained them. It was not like today
when everyone watches TV for entertainment.
When I grew older, my father taught me how to remove their poisonous teeth (fangs). He also taught me how to close the tube of poison in the snake’s mouth.
What can we do
Aryanath! your father used to travel with me ever since he was a young child. He learnt to play the been without being taught. These days it is diffcult. Now the government has made a law that no one can catch wild animals and keep them.
Some people kill the animals and sell their skins at high prices. So they made a law against this. Now, with this law, how will we earn our livelihood? We people have never killed snakes, and sold their skin.
People say that we keep the snakes in bad conditions. If we wanted, we too could have earned a lot of money by killing snakes. But we would never do that.Snakes are our treasure, that we pass on from one generation to another. We even gift snakes to our daughters when they get married.
In our Kalbelia dance we also have movements similar to the dance of the snake. Aryanath, you will have to make a different life for yourself. You have got your father’s gift of playing the been. You and your cousins can form a been party and entertain people.
But do not waste this knowledge about snakes you have got from your
elders. Share your knowledge about snakes with children who live in towns and cities. Tell them, that they should not be scared of snakes. Help them to recognize poisonous snakes.
Tell them how snakes are friends of the farmers. They eat the rats in the fields, otherwise rats would eat the crops. Now you tell our story. Also make a new story of your life, to tell your grandchildren.
Musical instruments used in been party Been, tumba, khanjiri and dhol. Except dhol all the other three instruments are made from dried gourd (lauki)
Do you know?
Of the many kinds of snakes found in our country, only four types of snakes are poisonous. They are: Cobra, Common Krait, Russel’s Viper (Duboiya), Saw-scaled Viper (Afai).
A snake has two hollow teeth (fangs). When it bites, the poison enters the person's body through the fangs. There is a medicine for snake bites. The medicine is made from the snake's poison and Cobra is available in all government hospitals.


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