While other two-year-olds are just learning to walk and talk, the children of the nomad Vadi Tribe are introduced to the centuries-old art of snake charming.
All the children of the Vadi Tribe come face to face with a poisonous cobra at age two, and go through a ten-year ritual, in which they learn all the secrets of snake charming. Both boys and girls must learn to handle snakes. While men must be able to manipulate cobras by playing the flute, the women must know how to take care of the reptiles when their husbands or brothers are away.
The Vadi treat snakes like their own children, never keeping them away from their natural habitat for more than seven months. Any longer than that would be disrespectful to the snakes, according to Babanath Mithunath Madari, the 60-year-old Vadi chief-charmer. In fact, the only time a snake actually bit his charmer, was when he kept it for more than seven months.
Vadi snake-charmers don’t cut the fangs of their snakes, instead they feed them an herbal mixture which, they say, makes their deadly poison harmless.
Unfortunately, in 1991, the thousand-year-old tradition of snake-charming was banned in India, and the Vadi tribe are stripped of their snakes whenever they are confronted by the police. They never spend more than six months in the same place.
Photos by BARCROFT MEDIA