How a snake can get you into jail


All that S. Sundaresan wanted to do was seek the blessings of the gods for the long life of his parents. But he has found himself in jail for falling foul of the Wildlife (Protection) Act.
Mr. Sundaresan, who is a temple priest in Duraisamy Nagar, Cuddalore, marked his parent’s Sathabhishekam (reaching the age of 80) with a ‘sarpa pooja,’ which involves the use of a snake. He hired a snake charmer — one Palani, who provided a spectacled cobra — and proceeded with the rituals.
Like most special events in this hyperconnected and everything-recorded era, someone recorded video of the event and posted it on social media. The clip showed the cobra hissing while the priest chanted Vedic hymns. Another serpent is seen in the snake-charmer’s basket towards the end of the film.
Revered by tradition
The use of a snake in a religious ritual is not unusual. Snakes are revered in Tamil Nadu, and the worship of the animal in the form of Nagakkal is common across the State. There are also places named after the snake: aside from Nagercoil, which has a temple dedicated to the snake god, Nagaraja, there is Nagapattinam, Nagamalai, and Nageswaram. And the puthu (anthill), believed to be a home for snakes, is also sacred to some. Puthupet near Puducherry takes its name from one such sacred anthill, the C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre says in a publication.
But spectacled cobras are a species protected under Schedule II of the WP Act, and a licence from the Forest Department is required to keep such animals. Needless to say, the snake charmer did not have one. And unfortunately for the family, the video went viral. A week later it caught the eye of the Forest Department.
Strictly enforced
Forest Ranger Abdul Hamid said that the department booked both the priest and the snake charmer under non-bailable sections 43, 48, 49, 50 and 51 of the WPA. The elderly couple were not booked, as they had not hired the snake charmer, but Mr. Sundaresan was arrested. Mr. Palani the snake charmer, was not traceable, and a search for him is on.


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