Snake charmers often display snakes amongst masses as a way of earning livelihood. These snakes are also offered for worshiping by them on Nag Panchmi or in the month of Sharavan as they are also seen soliciting people around temple precincts to feed their snake God.
Nag Panchmi is a festival in which devotees worship snakes either in live form or through images of them as they are considered incarnation of God. The snakes are held significant in Hindu religion because of Lord Shiva and his inseparable snake.
Snakes and Hindu Rituals
This festival of snakes and feeding them milk go hand in hand and there are infinite rituals based on this logic. It is a common belief that worshiping these creatures in the month of Shravan which generally falls in the month of July or August brings upon the deity’s blessings. People end up feeding the snakes with milk in order to invoke its grace.
But in our research, we have found something that will make you question a few rituals. Snakes are cold-blooded reptiles which are carnivorous whereas milk is consumed by warm blooded mammals which have mammary glands.
Do snakes drink milk?
The snakes are deprived of water or even kept hungry a few days before Nag Panchmi hence making it dehydrated, so it eventually consumes milk only because it is thirsty. It will in fact swig on any liquid drink to satisfy its thirst. Snakes have no preference for milk. The snakes commonly exhibited are Indian rat snakes or Indian Black Cobra.
How are the snakes made to drink milk?
They are non surgically deranged and their mouth is stitched so that they don’t bite. They are then kept hungry or just given minimal diet to keep them alive and kept in a basket for a few weeks leading to cramps in the muscles of the reptile’s body hence wearing off any prompt or swift moment. These reptiles are unfortunately subjected to further more torture by the snake catchers by making them drink milk which acts as a poison to its body.
What is the result of feeding snakes with milk?
Snakes cannot digest dairy products. These reptiles do not have enzymes in their body to digest milk and feeding them milk develops indigestion in their body. Indigestion of milk may result in pneumonia, fever, vomiting or even its death. The pouring of milk over the body of snake in the name of worshiping gives them a slow death as it enters its lungs and eyes and blocks its nostrils.
What is the real diet of snakes?
Snakes will always prefer a diet of flesh or eggs and it preys upon small lizards, rodents etc to sort it preferences. Even a species of snakes known as milk snakes which are generally red or brown in colour with black stripes do not drink milk, they prefer a diet of flesh and feed on smaller reptiles.
Hence, people often end up hurting these creatures in pursuit of its blessings. They feed their deity’s pet with things not appropriate for its body leading to its death. Killing a snake is an offense which is non-bailable under Wildlife Protection Act considering that they are protected under the Schedule II and Part II of the Act.