He is adept at handling both snakes and a tambura

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P. Manjunatha or ‘naga Manju’ says he rescues animals out of love

P. Manjunatha’s hands can do wonders, grab a snake, play the tambura or weave a fabric…his passions go about with absolute ease. At the Weavers Colony near Gottigere where he is residing since he was born, he is known as ‘naga Manju’ as the last three decades have seen him rescue more than 25,000 snakes. He is forever at the beck-and-call of panic-stricken residents in Bangalore and Mysore.

Belonging to the Devanga community of weavers from Karnataka, Manjunatha lives close to the forests near Bannerghatta. “Animals and reptiles are part of my family and living,” believes the 40-year-old, listed in the BBMP Forest Cell of rescuers. King Cobra, Russell’s viper, Krait, rat snakes…he has rescued them all.

Identifying the hiss of the serpent family or chasing the straying pachyderms back into the forest, his compassion for animals, reptiles and birds seems innate. For, he can walk with a scorpion on his shoulder, rush to rescue a monkey or a bird caught electrocuted on hanging wires, or shed a tear for an owl entangled with the kite-flying threads.

“I am an animal-and-reptile rescuer. I do it out of love, as there is no fixed income in every rescue,” he says.

Why didn’t the weft-and-warp with cotton strands attract him more for a profession? After all, snake bites have almost killed him many a time.

“I have an affinity towards the animal and reptile world, just as melody easily captivates me. People in music circles call me ‘Naada Manju’,” he says.

His love for music ignited as he was gradually trained into playing the tambura for M.S. Subbulakshmi’s family living close by at Gottigere.

While the 10 pass claims he had a craze for singing Kannada songs in school, he was trained to wield the tambura for vocalists Radha Viswanathan and granddaughter S. Aishwarya for the last eight years.

“I can change the tambura strings and even tune the instrument for a perfect shruti. I keep them ready before a concert tour is announced by the family members,” says Manjunath.

Apart from a keen ear for Carnatic music that he has developed, his learning ability seems infectious as he says, “My favourites are Sankaracharya’s ‘Nagendra Haaraya’ and the Dasarapada “Dasana Maadiko Yenna’. I can’t resist singing “Jagadodharana” when Radha amma and Aishwarya practice at home. Perhaps, I have to learn raga Punnagavarali to magnetically pull serpents into my fold,” quips the snake-catcher.
(The Hindu)

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