Killing a snake brings bad luck


Maneka Gandhi


(Bihar Times) I met a woman last week who said that she had an ancestral house in West Bengal but never went because she was frightened of the snakes. She asked me to write an article on how to deal with snakes.

It is a timely subject because we get many calls in each city informing us that a snake has entered the house – and if we do not get there in time , the complainant has usually killed it. This , by the way , is a crime and the punishment for it is upto 7 years in jail. Snakes of all kinds are very endangered species so you harm the environment if you kill them.

A Swami in Bangalore whom I revere told me that he is often called by businessmen and professionals to tell them the reason why they were going through misfortune , why the factory is beset with problems, the sudden illness etc. He goes to the sites and in almost every case, he said to me , it is because a snake has been killed. According to him , snakes carry the energy of the Earth – that is why in every religion the snake has a position of power – the snake in the garden of Eden , Vishnu and Sesha, Krishna and Balaram, Arjuna and Ulupi are examples I can think of offhand – and killing a snake brings bad luck to generations. Even the doctor’s symbol of Hippocrates has two snakes entwined round the staff of healing.

What should you do if you happen to find a snake in your home or anywhere else?

Snakes are active during the monsoon and during the rains, it is not uncommon for a snake to seek refuge indoors.  Should you find one on the premises, don’t panic or attack him with a broom. Most snake species in India are non-venomous and completely harmless. Even if it is venomous, it will still not harm you unless provoked or frightened.  Snakes are timid creatures who are almost blind and deaf and given a chance choose to escape rather than attack. If you move towards or attempt to pick one up, you may provoke an attack. Do not confront or try to handle a snake unless you have been trained.  Standing still or slowly moving off gives the snake a chance to silently slither away.  

Should the snake be in the house on the floor, the best thing is to fling  a blanket or towel over it.  It will normally settle down. Place heavy objects like books around the edge of the blanket to prevent the snake from slipping out from underneath and going elsewhere. This will buy you some time to get help.  The next thing to do is to call an animal welfare/ wildlife NGO and ask them to send an expert to collect the snake. They will catch and release it far from human habitat.  In Delhi call Wildlife SOS at  09871963535, in Bangalore call People For Animals at 9980339880.  In Pune contact People For Animals at 919890044455.  Most states have any number of trained snake catchers.

In other cities, check on the net for a snake catcher or PFA unit or Forest Department.  Should there be no help, here is what you can do: The snake will in all probability be in a room with access to the outdoors from whence he entered. Closing all other exits , leave the way to the outside, open. From behind all the other doors , stamp your feet or tap a stick to create ground vibrations.  The snake will simply return the way he came.

If you want to be more proactive, after putting the towel on the snake, use a gentle  broom ( phool jhadu) keeping it in motion and move the snake quickly  toward your container or the door where it came from.
Moving a snake is best done by firmly grasping its tail allowing some portion of the snake to remain on the ground. Then guide the snake outside or into a container by moving the container into the path the snake travels once you get it moving, offering the snake a place to hide. A container can be a bucket, even an open pillowcase , a cardboard box.  Secure your container.

 If the snake is found in a drawer or somewhere difficult to access move all family members away from the immediate area . Throw a towel on him. When he becomes still, wrap your hands with thick cloth and then see if you catch the head from the back, pick the snake up and put it in a bucket.
Take the bucket as far out as you can to a safe place and then let the snake go.

 If you come across what you recognize as a venomous snake in the garden, move everyone away.  Never attempt to hurt  him. Most bites happen when people try to kill a snake. You can spray it from a distance with a hose. This will persuade the snake to leave the area.

If you ever encounter a snake in the wild and it is likely that no one else will run into the animal just leave him alone. Stand still, change direction or walk away from the snake and he will simply disappear into the bushes or a hole in the ground. If it looks like he is moving towards you stamp the ground to create ground vibrations. This should be enough to drive him away. Remember that  snakes are even more scared of you than you are of them. 

 In snake prone areas, learn what species of snakes are common to the place in advance. When walking outdoors, keep to cleared or paved paths so you can see where you put your feet thus avoiding stepping on a snake by accident.  Use a torch in dark areas, especially after twilight.  Wear closed shoes and long pants if you expect to be walking in grassy areas. In residential areas, ensure that corridors and paths are well lit. Cover crevices and potential entrances into buildings that may have been created by rats or during construction. Cover drain pipe openings with fine wire mesh.

 Remember, snakes were around long before we arrived. We are the visitors in their garden.  Although capable of defending themselves, snakes are yet reluctant to do so. It would be nice if we too showed equal restraint against a much maligned creature.

To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in


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