When I was a small girl ,we went for a picnic to Okhla in Delhi,, which was a popular picnic spot in those days.The whole day was spent in merrymaking.In the evening, when everyone was about to disperse,I was standing in a group,waiting for the car. Suddenly I felt something under my feet.I felt as if it was some soft mattress.I tried to see it carefully but could not decipher what was it.My Father asked me what was I looking at so intently.He came and after seeing that object he just pulled me away .He was shouting frantically "A snake, a snake' Every body moved aside.The snake,on which i was standing, slithered away merrily.All those who were standing there were relieved when they found the reptile crawling away in the opposite direction.I did not realize why everyone was panic stricken and sympathising with me.I don't know how long I was standing on it.At home I found my parents discussing the same incident.They were talking ,'Thank God the child is safe.The serpent was benign that's why it quietly went away in the opposite direction.The Sarpa Raj is kind to her." Such talks went on for several days in our house. Years rolled by. The frightening incident was forgotten.The past memory had completely faded,when I encountered another incident of a similar kind. We were staying in Dehra Dun. We had a huge house In the compound of the house there were innumerable trees and bushes.I remember that it was a winter evening in the year1956. Cool breeze was blowing from Mussoorie hills. My Father had gone on tour.My Mom and siblings were sitting in the portico and having a pre dinner gossip session.I noticed that our dog,Tinky was continuously looking at me. Tinky was very fond of me.I did not find any thing unusual in his behaviour.After sometime Tinky started barking loudly. This was somewhat abnormal My mom then looked beneath my chair. Her facial expression turned pale,as if she had sighted a ghost.She started shouting in panic.There is a snake under the chair.I was about to get up when she again shrieked " don't move."The servants were immediately summoned.They somehow removed the serpent.
Since the last few days these two incidents have been coming to my mind again and again.My husband told me that my birth sign is the same as the sign of Snake Gods.This set me thinking.Serpent,snake or reptile are the words which evoke a feeling of fear, dreadfulness and hatred in one's mind.Have we ever pondered over the back ground of this creature,which bring forth such negative thoughts in our minds.It is not always correct to say that serpents are deadly . On the other hand there are snakes which are worshipped and are known to be protectors. I gave a serious thought to this theory and was surprised to see the various aspects and origins of such beliefs.It came to the fore that snakes are worshipped in many cultures.It is seen as a protector. In Hindu mythology a snake or a Naga is shown as a garland round the neck of God Shiva.The serpent is also depicted as a 'shayya' or a bed for Lord Vishnu. Its hood over the head of God implies that Shesh Naga is controlling all.the planets under his hood.
|A serpent coiled round Lord Shiva|
It is believed that Laksmana(brother of Sri Rama) was the incarnation of Shesh-Naga.He also took the form of Balaram(Lord Krishna's brother).Another example of the protective nature of a serpent is the Budha.sitting under the Bodhi tree in meditation and is protected by a serpent against the vagaries of nature.
In Kerala Snake Gods are extensively worshipped across the State.I read in the Newspaper recently that in the famous Padmanabha Temple of Tiruvanthpuram,the treasury is guarded by the Serpents.In our ancestral family temple there is a shrine dedicated to the Serpent God.
In ancient civilisations of Greece, Cambodia, Egypt, Africa, Native America and Rome, serpents find an important place. They depict serpents as guardians of their temples.
There is another side of this creature,which depicts negativity. The serpent is another form of Satan.A popular legend states that Satan,in the form of a serpent tempted Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden apple.The serpent is thus associated with deceit.The snake has a forked tongue,which is a symbol disunity,harsh speech and wily nature.Many religious and spiritual institutions in the past believed that a serpent is linked with the theory of death, rebirth and resurrection.The serpent sheds its old skin and acquires a new one,which strenghtens the belief of rebirth.The crawling of the snake is symbolic of the rhythm of life.More over, its eyes without lids give a message of awareness. Many people are not aware of the fact that one tenth of all species of snakes are biting snakes.It is a belief that unless troubled, the snake will not cause harm.These fear evoking creatures have an ear for music.This is the reason that snake charmers play flute,to enchant the snakes. I remember that in the year 1956 a Hindi movie Nagin based on the life of female snake, was released.It had a very soft, soothing.and gripping flute music.It was reported in the newspapers that snakes appeared in many cinema halls.This in spite of the fact that the serpents have no external ears.They have no limbs and crawl on the pressure of its muscles of the abdomen.
Naga Panchami is a festival which is widely celebrated in India.It is a symbol of serpent worship in India.Special Pujas are held in dedication to Serpent Gods.