THE COBRA VILLAGES:SECRET GODS IN INDIA AND THAILAND

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THE AMAZING HARMONY BETWEEN PEOPLE AND SNAKES

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“A snake knows more what is happening around than any other creature, because it has no ears to listen to gossip – only direct perception.”

-Jaggi Vasudev 

The snakes almost have been considered as magical animals due to their transformation process and the ability to change the skin through the sloughing. The strength of their modification turns them into the synonym for creative forces of nature, so they are often another name for rebirth.

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At the same time, they are loved and hated, adored and condemned. They are bringing the fears or they are opening the doors for blessings. It is all up to us, our social and religious perceptions and our own micro universe of understanding the world around us. There will be alway people who are scared to death when the snakes are around. There are also the people who find themselves comfortable around the snakes. Those majestic reptiles have their significant place in the global ecosystem but in some places, they are worshipped as Gods  and welcomed as saints.

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India is an incredible land, full of contrasts and vibrant colors. You will find there the mystical Orient and the charm of lost days. When you breathe in the forgotten centuries and unspoken love stories, you will experience everything in between. The religious collage, social and political imbalances, economy poverty and overwhelming beauty of the country that is always in the process of changing its skin. But, above all, you will find the unique village, known as the Cobra village or Shetpal, with the population of 2,600, located in Sholapur District of Maharashtra. This village is just 200 km far away from one big city, Pune but its dry, sunny and ideal to be cobra dreamland.  Shetpal is a wonderland of snakes, and some of the most venomous snakes, Cobras, famous by Hindu people as Naja Naja. The marvelous critters are free to move around the village and chose the places they will stay and live. This usually means that they pick up the local houses and stay by some family for days or even months, not endangering them. The residents feel very blessed when the cobras are in their houses and what is a real miracle, there are no incidents between locals and snakes. They all live in coexistence.

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The fascination with the snakes comes directly from the religion:“Cobra or Naaga  is  synonymous  with the  Hindu  God  Lord Shiva, the cosmic dancer, who has ‘no beginning and no end’ (No Aathi and No Andham). Hence, the villagers firmly worship these reptiles and consider them to be sacred, an embodiment  of reverence and  respect. Invariably in all Hindu temples for generations people worship snakes for which there are small shrines with numerous  small snake stone images reverentially installed and they are  worshiped daily by the people.” It is to be expected that people open their homes for the cobras, believing that God will search a resting place.  So, each family and house has so called  devasathan or the place just for cobras or Gods.  That is hidden and enough isolated so the reptile visitors have no bother but everyone who builds a house in this village, count on this special place to be made  so the snakes would feel good. The picture of people who talk to each others, walking around the cobras, that are sleeping sounds impossible but actually it is realistic. Even in the local schools, cobras get into the class and sleep or simply observe the school children that are used on life among some of the most venomous snakes ever.

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The western scientists try to figure out how this kind of cohabitation is existable. They still believe it is something between pure wonders and spiritualism, the areas so distant to the logical taste of science.  But, we must not forget the famous snake temple at Haripad, in Alappuzha district of Kerala, S. India. That is one of the most ancient center of pilgrimage of serpent gods (Nagaraja). Some say that is 3,000 years old with more than 30,000 snake figures and hope for all couples that seek for fertility. The growing role of snakes within the Hindu society can only approve the Cobra villages around. However, the obsession with snakes is not only reserved for great India, Thailand has also the Gods who are snakes or snakes that could bring gold.

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Ban Kok Sa-Nga in Thailand’s Northeastern Province of Khon Kaen is better known as the thai Cobra Village. Everything has been started 10 years ago when the local doctor has  believed that village must build an unique tourist attraction so he suggested that each of 140 homes adopt a cobra as a pet. When the tourists come, the local residents make show with the snakes and earn the money. That is also the big difference between the Hindu love for the snakes and the thai interest in breeding the snakes. For Hindu people, snakes are Gods, for those Thai locals, they are just a tool for grabbing a money. Thailand is a country known to exploit all what could bring profit, no matter if those are young children or innocent animals. The skin industry in Thailand is a horror almost the same as the prostitution darkness.

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Nevertheless, this village has some kind of respect for snakes. At least, they cherish them because every show with them brings  money that is urgent to be injected in this poverty affected place. When snakes pass away, locals are sad so we could think that snakes are the members of family, golden members. The money circulates because they need stuff to take care of cobras and to cultivate them for the future shows. On the other side, the herb on the local market is one that attracts profit:“The real cash is in fact, made from something completely different – rare, locally grown herbs that are sold in the cobra show market. The most famous of these herbs is the ‘wan paya ngoo’, which is what is mixed with lime and used as treatment for a snake-bite. Chai claims that this herb can cure bites from any venomous animal, like millipedes and scorpions. Eating the herb is supposed to make a person feel better in 30 minutes.” Many visitors are ready to pay for it, especially when they are endangered during their often travels in the countries that are known for very deadly reptiles and creatures.

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The beauty of snakes is not so easy to be described. Their amazing skin put them in the jaws of wildlife terrorism and wildlife crime so they are killed for the purpose of sick mankind’s fashion and dirty industry. Many of them are skinned alive and the pain they feel is worst than every sin we ask for forgiveness from our Gods and in our temples of shame. We must stop worshipping our ignorance and start cherishing the nature and its all children.

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4 thoughts on “THE COBRA VILLAGES:SECRET GODS IN INDIA AND THAILAND”

  1. Thank you so much, Sarah, for this very interesting article! I have to say that your closing argument is so touching that it gave me goosebumps !

    No one can say it or describe it better than you, so I am quoting you, Sarah, for this is a beautiful message for our generation and the generations to come:
    “The beauty of snakes is not so easy to be described. Their amazing skin put them in the jaws of wildlife terrorism and wildlife crime so they are killed for the purpose of sick mankind’s fashion and dirty industry. Many of them are skinned alive and the pain they feel is worst than every sin we ask for forgiveness from our Gods and in our temples of shame. We must stop worshipping our ignorance and start cherishing the nature and its all children.”

    So beautifully said and so well expressed!
    Thank you so much for your outstanding writing which is not only excellent in and of itself, but also comes from the heart !

    If only people could learn from you !

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Very awesome and interesting article Sarah. Please accept my thanks and congratulations on such thorough research and clear writing. Most snakes are harmless to humans, beautiful, and reserve their place in the ecosystem. We humans just need to learn how to co-exist with them and other creatures.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sarah’s interesting and relative article reminded me of the possible evolution of snakes: there is fossil evidence to suggest that snakes may have evolved from burrowing lizards, during The Cretaceous Period (the geologic period and system that spans 79 million years from the end of The Jurassic Period 145 million years ago (Mya) to the beginning of the Paleogene Period 66 Mya). This hypothesis was strengthened in 2015 through the discovery of a 113 million year-old fossil of a four-legged snake in Brazil that has been named Tetrapodophis amplectus. It has many snake-like features, is adapted for burrowing and its stomach indicates that it was preying on other animals.

    An alternative hypothesis, based on morphology, suggests the ancestors of snakes were related to mosasaurs—extinct aquatic reptiles from The Cretaceous Period; which in turn are thought to have derived from varanid lizards. According to this hypothesis, the fused, transparent eyelids of snakes are thought to have evolved to combat marine conditions (i.e. corneal water loss through osmosis), and the external ears were lost through disuse in an aquatic environment. This ultimately led to an animal similar to present sea snakes. In the Late Cretaceous Period, snakes recolonized land, and continued to diversify into the snakes we know.

    In 2016, two studies reported that limb loss in snakes is associated with DNA mutations in the Zone of Polarizing Activity Regulatory Sequence (ZRS); a regulatory region of the sonic hedgehog gene which is critically required for limb development. More advanced snakes have no remnants of limbs, but basal snakes such as pythons and boas do have traces of highly reduced, vestigial hind limbs. Python embryos even have fully developed hind limb buds, but their later development is stopped by the DNA mutations in the ZRS.

    The earliest evidence for snake charming comes from ancient Egyptian sources. Charmers there mainly acted as magicians and healers. As literate and high-status men, part of their studies involved learning the various types of snake, the gods to whom they were sacred, and how to treat those who were bitten by the reptiles. Entertainment was also part of their repertoire, and they knew how to handle the animals and charm them for their patrons.

    After the complete ban of the snake-skin industry in India and protection of all snakes under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, the Irula Snake Catcher’s Co-operative was formed and hunters switched to catching snakes for removal of venom; releasing them in the wild after four extractions. The venom so collected is used for producing life-saving antivenom, biomedical research and for other medicinal products.

    As Sarah’s fine article ends, we must cherish Nature as a whole and never abuse Nature… Homo sapiens themselves derive from amphibian progenitors like serpents, in all probability. Snakes are our fellow tellurians…

    Liked by 1 person

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