Dharmendra Trivedi is a translator in Gujarat Vidhan Sabha, and at present deputed to CM Office, Gandhinagar. He is a reader, a writer, a photographer, and a nature lover by nature. There is one thing which he takes extremely seriously, and that is Snake Rescue. He is especially skilled in that.
Dharmendra has been rescuing snakes for around 30 years. He rescued the first snake in 1986.
In India, we have so many beliefs, conceptions, misconceptions and myths regarding snakes which need to be clarified. Understanding any species in Mother Nature and treat them with the proper parameters is extremely important for the eco-system. On the base of misconceptions, we often harm the eco-system, unknowingly, though.
So, let’s hear about the actual concept: ‘Snake Rescue’ and the beliefs, myths, and conceptions-misconceptions regarding this in Dharmendra’s words:
What are the precautions you take before the catch?:
During any Snake Call, it is my priority to identify the Species of the Snake I have to rescue. The ID-ing of the Snake will make it clear whether the Snake is Venomous or not.
What instruments do you use to catch the snake?
If the Snake is venomous and small in size, we use an instrument named Hook, which is very efficient in holding the Snake very delicately and still doesn’t injure or stress the snake and keeps the Snake and the Rescuer both safe. There are also other instruments like Snake Tongs. But, personally speaking, I prefer using Hook over the Tongs.
Where do you put the snakes after catching?
The different species of Snakes prefer different sort of topography as their habitat. Normally as per our knowledge of the different species, we find out the suitable habitat out of the city which is suitable to the snake and release them over there. The common practice is to find out a place near water body and ample opportunity to hide. Moreover, we prefer to release the rescued snakes either during Morning Time or Evening Time, so that they can find a hiding place before it gets too hot or too cold.
The most challenging act you have ever faced:
Once I had to carry out a rescue in a small Gully between two houses in a nearby village. It was almost 10 in the Night and the Gully between two houses had a dead end. As people had chased a real big cobra, which was about five feet in length and very thick in size, the Cobra was cornered there and it had coiled up its body and reared its hood and was in the defensive mood. The Gully was so small that I had to enter it sideways and can’t face the cobra straight. My body cross and the furious cobra was attacking the Hook I was extending to lift it up from the coiled up body. It was a dangerous situation where I can’t even keep my body straight and had to move sideways like a crab. But due to my observation of body language of the Cobra and its reaction towards the sudden movement, I kept my composure and let it get calm and then slowly hooked up the Cobra’s coiled body in the Hook and came out sideways out of the Gully and bagged the Cobra in a Cotton Bag. The pressure of the situation and natural fright of the Snake in the real odd situation was released then after and my body started shaking with the release of the stress and relaxation. It was one of the scariest still thrilling experiences for me.
Which are the most common or visible species?
The Most Common species around the Human Habitat are Common Cobra (Venomous), Common Krait (Venomous), Russells and Saw-scaled Vipers (Venomous), Rat Snakes (Non-Venomous), Common Wolf Snake(Non-Venomous), Common Cat Snake (Non-Venomous), Bronzebacked Tree Snake (Non-Venomous), Red Sand Boa and Russell’s Earth Boas (Non-Venomous) etc.
Your views on worshiping snakes:
My perception towards the Snake Worship differs from the traditional one. People keep on worshipping snakes because their ancestors have worshipped the snakes because one single species namely Cobra is attached with Lord Shiva as his ornament. I, before I knew very little about the snakes, used to fear the Snakes just like all the common people. Gradually as my knowledge regarding the Snakes deepened, I came to know them more closely and my fear for them slowly vanished and was replaced by the respect for them. This respect for them led me to worship them with a true sense of their usefulness and importance in the Eco-Cycle. My worship is not a blind faith springing out of my blind religious beliefs, but it is a result of my knowledge and respect for them.
What are the misconceptions you have heard about the snakes?
There are many that I have come across during my walk of life and encounters with the people from all walks of life like Rural, Urban, Literate, Illiterate masses etc. Few of the most famous beliefs are:
(1) The Cobras have Diamond under their head skin and they put it out at some high place in the dark nights to hunt their prey.
(2) The Snake will be blinded if the shadow of a pregnant woman falls on it.
(3) The Snakes drink milk directly from a grazing Cow.
(4) If you kill a cobra, it will capture your images in its eyes and later on the female cobra will hunt the person down and kill him/her to take revenge for the death of her mate.
And at last, the worst kind of belief I have ever heard is,
(5) You will have Punya (good deeds) in your religious account if you kill a snake because a Spirit is given birth in a snake’s body as a punishment as it will have to drag around the land all its life, and It will be freed from this torture if you kill it.
Snakes are worshipped and it is considered a curse to kill them knowingly or unknowingly. Your views on it:
The ways of the sages who created our traditions and beliefs were mystic but truly scientific. The Rishimunis, who constructed our religious structure, were well aware of the Human psyche of intolerance towards the animals on earth. That is why animals are wisely connected with almost all the animals with one or other deity. We all know that as per our religious beliefs, there are 33 billion deities in this world and there are lacs of followers and worshippers of every single one. Thus, they connected wildlife with religion, which will obviously be respected with the respective deity of the mass. Thus, the vision of the Indian Sages was meant to protect all the living beings on this planet. The fundamental was to protect animals being thoughtlessly harmed by the people.
The ‘myths’ regarding snakes and religions?
The Myths were created to invoke either fear or respect for snakes in people. Snake as an Ornament of Lord Shiva, the myth of female Cobra taking revenge, Snakes drinking milk, Snakes having a sparkling diamond etc are created either to create fear or respect for snakes so that people don’t kill snakes.
Your message to the world:
I firmly believe that the God almighty or Mother Nature are the creators of this world, you can choose either of one. There is nothing that was created in vain; everything is useful and interdependent for the healthy environment. If we, just out of our illiterate fear of Snakes, keep killing them, there is great danger of the entire species of snakes vanishing from the face of the earth. Thus, the snakes, which are very important factors in maintaining the balance of the eco cycle, have to be protected and given them a fair chance to survive. Moreover, as far as I know, most people are Snake Illiterate and have heard the scary stories of people dying of snake bite. This era is of Knowledge and Education. If we literally believe that we are educated and cultured, why should we kill an animal when we know almost nothing about them? We should, at least try to know them more closely and then judge the Fear Factor prevailing around the Snakes. It is my claim that any man or woman, who is scared just on seeing a snake, will be not afraid of them after obtaining only basic facts about them. My Message to the World is “Don’t Kill, Just Call”. I appeal all not to kill snakes and call your nearby Snake Rescuer and please try to obtain at least basic knowledge regarding the species of Snakes, their being or not being venomous. Be nature-friendly and you will be a step nearer the omnipresent God as you call the Mother Nature.