Here even children ‘play’ with snakes
About 25 kms from Belagavi towards Amboli there is a village where each one from a kid to a senior citizen play with snakes. Yes this is True.
Dholgarwadi has a reputation for being a snake friendly village — villagers don’t harm snakes. There are a large number of visitors who come in here to see this.
Baburao O.Takkekar once while playing in the rivers decided to catch some crabs. His fingers touched a creature and grabbed one. As he lifted his hands off the surface he was stunned. He had trapped a snake mistaking it for a fish. Out of shock, he dropped the reptile immediately but, no one would have imagined then that this incident laid the foundation of a rare institution. “Why did the snake not bite him?” Babu was about just 10 then.
He wanted to remove the fear of snakes and superstitious beliefs associated with that creature among the villagers who often killed them on spotting them in fields and forests not realizing their valuable role in the eco- system. He was also concerned about the education of village children who had to tread long distances to go to school. Thus came up the twin idea of starting a school and a laboratory to help the young minds to study snakes through “personal contact”.
With the help of his elders, the idea took concrete shape with the establishment of the Mama Saheb Laad Vidhyalaya (named after a freedom fighter) in 1966 under the chairmanship of Mr.Baburao O.Takkekar.
Almost every employee is trained in the institution on handling snakes. To start with, wooden boxes with proper ventilation were made to house different species. The school has a live stock of all these varieties besides pythons, rat snakes, trinkets, banded racers, and common wolf snakes, green whip snakes, Russell’s Earth Boas, John’s Earth Boas, water snakes, buff striped keel backs and green keel backs. Anti-venom medicines are readily available in the laboratory. They said not only children, but even the villagers were taught here, how to develop a friendly attitude to snakes. As one visits Dholgarwadi, one notice that not only school children and the staff, but almost the entire village has learnt to live with snakes. No one kills any snake. Rather, on spotting one, it is brought to the school or simply allowed to go away on its own.
Hundreds of people from Belagavi district go to Dholgarwadi, small village in Chandagad taluk of Kolhapur district on the occasion of Nagar Panchami, to witness the snakes exhibition, where students (both boys and girls) handle snakes like cobra, rat snakes, water snakes, python, russell’s earth boa etc. On this occasion, scientific information about snakes is given to public.
The girls in the village are not behind, whenever they see a snake they catch it and get to the school and villagers say this habit continues even after their marriage and thus spreading the word about saving the snakes.