The Nagpanchami Crusaders – Bombay High Court bans live snake worship

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Live snakes worshipped with kum-kum. Photo provided by Maitry Jani, taken by Anonymous photographer in Gujarat.

Shirala also called Battis. Shirala is a small town in India, 60 kilometers west of the district headquarters, Sangli and about 350 kilometers from Mumbai, capital of Maharashtra state. It is particularly known for its Hindu festival Nagpanchami to commemorate the snake god. Battis Shirala is famous for its annual Nag Panchami Snake festival, which is attended by hundreds of thousands of people. On Bendur, a day approximately two weeks before the festival, villagers of Shirala go snake-hunting. All kinds of snakes are captured including the venomous Indian Cobra is tracked and captured.

Snake charmers capturing live snakes and presenting it to people for worshipping! Photographed by: Arpit Jain

On the day of the festival, the snakes are displayed in huge processions. The snakes are sprayed with Turmeric and Kumkum and bathed with and offered milk. 70 to 80 groups take part in the procession. The procession goes on for the whole day adding to the constant stress of being paraded with thousands of onlookers. The snakes end up dying from exhaustion or pneumonia due to inhaling of turmeric powder and kum kum.

In 2013, three crusaders namely Ajit Shridhar Patil (popularly known as Papa Patil), Dr Ravindra Vora and  Prof Suresh Gaikwad filed a PIL with the Bombay High Court.

In response to the petition the Bombay High Court has banned catching of snakes due to animal (snake) abuse cases as rough handling of snakes can result in their death. The division bench observed that the capture and worship of live snakes for worship is not an essential part of the Hindu religion. This is a landmark judgment for snake conservation in India and can also be evoked in cases of live snake demos in snake awareness workshops and rescues.

Please follow the link to download the judgment copy of the said order: