Korba (Chhattisgarh), May 24 : The snake charmers' community in Chhattisgarh's Korba District observes an ancient bizarre ritual of making the bride carry nine different species of snakes as dowry.
Refusal to do so ends up in a marriage not being solemnized.
It is often the case in the remote tribal hamlets of the state that parents of a girl are desperate to collect nine different snakes to ensure that this dowry ritual takes place without a hitch.
The 25, 000 snake charmers in the state are very particular about carrying out this age-old custom.
Eligible bachelors and betrothed youngsters have to wait for a long time, and even sometimes indefinitely, till their parents are able collect the nine snakes. Some marriages are cancelled in despair.
"In our community, we cannot get married till the time we get the nine snakes of different species," claimed Durjan Sapera, a member of the snake charmers community.
Widespread deforestation and expansion of human habitation into forest areas has led to a dwindling of the snake population, and this has snake charmers quite worried.
The enforcement of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, has also robbed snake charmers of their means of earning a decent living from this practice.
"This is an age old ritual. We have to give snakes of nine different species along with our daughter at the time of marriage. Otherwise, the marriage gets delayed or cancelled. And with the ban on catching snakes, we are facing problems," said Nirmala, a woman of the community. By Shiv Shankar Sarathi