"Charming" snakes

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One of the most mystical images of India is of snake charmers, who play the poongi flute and have cobras sway out of a small basket. In Hinduism, the cobra is associated with Lord Shiva and for centuries, the snake charmer caste of Kalbeliyas has furthered the wonder by catching and charming the cobra, which has a very venomous bite.

Although snakes are able to sense sound, they lack the outer ear that would enable them to hear the music. They follow the poongi with their heads. The snake considers the person and pungi a threat and responds to it as if it were a predator, but usually the cobras are defanged and the charmer typically sits out of biting range.

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