This page deals with the musical instrument. For the software called Pungi see Pungi (software)

A pungi or been is the musical instrument played with the mouth by snake charmers.

The Pungi was improved to form the Shehnai.


The pungi was originally developed as Indian folk music instrument. It is important for religious purposes and music in India. The pungi was popular in the Badagutittū about fifty years ago, however, prior to this, it derived from Indian folk music and was used for religious purposes for snake charming (Chhau: 1983: 189).

Physical Description

The pungi is an Śruti instrument that is used in India for snake charming. The pungi is made from a bottle gourd, which has been dried (resembling the shape of a light bulb). Two holes are made, one at the top and one at the bottom. At the top of the gourd (the large round part of the light bulb), a piece of reed or marsh plant with a ½ inch diameter and a length of 2 ½ inches are stuck into the top hole. This reed or marsh plant is called the jivala, which resembles a flute. The jivala is seven inches long with seven holes along its shaft. After this is made, there is an upper flap that is cut into the node. The jivala is fitted with beeswax to resemble a flute. This is then fitted tightly in the upper hole of the light bulb shaped gourd. One can get a high and low tone from the pungi by adjusting the control of the beeswax, closing the hole of the jivala will get a low tone, opening the holes of the jivala will get a high tone (Chhau: 1983: 189).


Indian musical practices often coincide with religious ideals. An example would be the comprehensive practice of mantra incantation, which, can be defined as meaningful and/or meaningless syllables used to create prayer to a supernatural force or deity. The pungi, or Indian snake charmer, is believed to be one of the many avenues in which one can communicate with the gods through devotional genres (Ranade: 2000:469).


[1] Chhau, Mahakali pyakhan and Yakshagana. Dance and Music in South Asian Drama. Tokyo, Japan: The Japan Foundation 1983.

[2]South Asia: The Indian Subcontinent. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, 2000 Ed., Volume 5 “Transmission of Nonclassical Traditions” by Ranade, Ashok D

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