by Drupadi Srivastava
(New Delhi, India.)
There are several myths about snakes, which need to be verified. A few known to me are mentioned herein:
1. It is believed that the snakes after praying on rodents, occupy their burrows. My grandfather was the station master of Shikarpur railway station (Sind, Pakistan), way back in 1932. The railway stations used to be far away from the habitation and the railway staff was provided accommodation adjacent to the railway station, with a view to provide efficiency. Since we lived far from habitation, my grandpa kept few chicks for home consumption. However, one chick was found missing everyday.As snakes are known to be fond of milk and chicks, my grandpa thought it to be the fete of a snake. He, therefore got heaps of sand spread all around our residence, covering a large area. As usual, the next day also one chick was found to be missing; but on the sand were left behind, clearly visible marks of the movement of the snake,which led him to a hole. Large utensils (used for food preparation of marriage parties) full of boiling water were carried to the identified hole and the boiling water was poured into the hole. This worked and thereafter none of the chicks were lost.
2. There prevails a belief that a snake or a scorpion, if bites, would return to the same spot, exactly after 24 hours. In 1944, we were living in Hala (near Hyderabad, Sind). We had a large accommodation with thatched walls. Since there was no electricity, we, during summer slept in an open courtyard. One night, around 10.00p.m, my mother used the toilet and wanted to clean her hands but could not find the soap nearby. Being a chronic patient of arthritis, she asked me to fetch the soap for her. Reluctant to get out of my bed, I advised her to take a small quantity of mud from the wall and use the same for cleaning her hands. No sooner did she touch the wall, she screamed and fell flat on the ground. Instant first aid was provided but the pain, swelling and blueness persisted. Available hurricanes and torch lights were used to identify the cause, but nothing was visible. It was suspected to be a bite of a poisonous snake. The vigil was kept and as expected, exactly after 24 hours at 10.00p.m. at the same spot, we found a 6-7 inch long jet black scorpion, supposed to be highly poisonous.
3. My grandma, born and brought up in sandy areas of Sind (1873-1969)was very knowledgeable. She told us that snakes worshipped Gogulveer, and if one dilutes milk with water and sprinkle the same around one's house chanting 'Gogulveer's Drohi(curse)'it would act as a protection against snakes. The sprinkling of diluted milk coupled with chantings, create an imaginary line prohibiting the entry of the snakes in the so specified area. In other words, the area concerned becomes out of bounds for the snakes. I practiced this simple ritual as the protection against snakes when I lived in Indian Agricultural Research Institute (1961-68,1987-199); Ile Ife, Nigeria (1974-76); Palam Vihar, Gurgaon (1989-2003) and Surya Niketan,N.Delhi (1992-2003); and found it to be very effective. Though there were snakes around, none ventured to come near my residence.
4. Some believe that the snake does not bite the eldest son of the family. My mother told us that in 1922, she was living in Naodero, a village in Larkana District of Sind. Once during winter season, she left her 3 year old son for basking in the sun. After a while he fell asleep, and when she went to pick him up, she was shocked to find a king cobra right above his head in a striking pose. Not knowing what to do, she helplessly, started praying and fortunately for her, the snake left of its own. Perhaps, it did not strike because the child happened to be the eldest son of the family.
5. Snake never appears before a pregnant woman.
6. If you keep something in a shape of a coil (like a labourer places on his head for carrying load) before a moving snake, it would stop moving and would coil up.
7. A sudden sight of a snake brings good luck.
8. If you spot a snake and chant 'Shiva's Drohi' (curse of Lord Shiva), it would stop moving.
9. The most popular of all the snake myths is the one of Cobra's revenge. There seem to be many reported incidents which need to be compiled and carefully analysed.
Thus, there are quite a few myths about snakes. However, it must be emphasized that myth is a myth and the process of verification must be pursued. *****