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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Snake Worship in India - An article by Jawhar Sircar


 Published in Ananda Bazar Patrika, 7th August 2016

(English Version)

The month of Shravan brings joy to poets and also to farmers, but it also brings numerous snakes out of their flooded homes, triggering both fear and worship. This explains why many Indians celebrate Naga Panchami on Shravan Shukla Panch ami, on the 7 th of August this year. The snake is more than just an awe -inspiring creature: it actually marks different stages in the gradual evolution of the Indian mind, over centuries and millennia.

We could begin from Janamejaya who personified the Western -Aryan hatred for the serpent, but we will reach a stage when the same animal found veneration, as Naga-raja or Manasa. The two, incidentally, are quite different, as one is a male snake and the other is surely a female deity. One can forgive this mistake, because it is not very safe to get too close to examine a snake's gender, even while worshiping. The serpent bears evidence of many conflicts, like the one between the wheat-eating Indo-Europeans of the West and the rice-loving civilisations of the East. After all, rice cultivation was hardly possible without water and this necessitated a better adjustment with eco-systems where snakes lived in plenty, but were not usually aggressive or venomous ,unless attacked. In its legends are traces of the perennial struggle between ‘formal’ and ‘folk’ cultures. Manasa in Bengal was primarily folk, but later formalized as Padmavati, who was born from Shiva’s semen that fell on a lotus plant. In many parts of western India, deities like ....


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