Born and brought up in the heart of the western ghats and belonging to an agricultural family, I was one of the first professionals in my family to migrate and adapt to the busy city life. Being a Nemophilist, I have a strong attraction towards nature and admiration for the ancient practices my community follows. Even though my cousins have embraced city life and achieved success, our roots are deeply intertwined with these traditional practices that have been passed down through generations. One such tradition is snake worship, I have a strong admiration for snake worship, they have always fascinated me with their mysterious nature. They possess a beauty that demands respect, but we also recognize the potential danger they pose. In India, we highly value and pay homage to things that we hold in high regard. Our reverence for snakes and the rituals associated with them stem from our desire to live in harmony with nature. We aim to avoid actions that disrupt the delicate balance and hereby have the potential to harm ourselves, our families, and our communities.
To me, snake worship goes beyond being just a tradition. It is a testament to our ancestral wisdom and our deep connection with nature. It brings back memories of encounters with snake charmers who carried mysterious roots and herbs to protect our homes from venomous creatures, the awe-inspiring sight of majestic king cobras on our farm, and the captivating spectacle of snake courtship during our walks back from school. Living within a vast ecosystem, we become attuned to our small environment. We are familiar with our neighbors and regularly encounter creatures like Jungle Bison, wild boars, cobra leeches, and snakes. Conversation with my father during my recent visit about the absence of the Bison herd this time, the noticeable lack of the large king cobra that shed its skin on our farm last season, and the decreasing variety of frogs, leeches, and peacocks. These discussions with my father usually take place while enjoying roasted jackfruit seeds and local coffee. My father's daily actions, such as moving cow dung towards a tree or an area where it can be used better, casual inspection of trees for fruits or flowers to monitor seasonal changes, and updates on fallen trees and saplings, are part of our routine walks through the farm and jungle. I also try to involve my daughter in these activities so that she can also be a part of this connection. In our community, information is primarily shared through word of mouth. People track and exchange knowledge about the routes taken by the Jungle Bison herd, which often causes crop damage due to their large size and strength. Landowners make efforts to distract by replacing their fruits/food like jackfruit, banana, etc from the farm towards the jungle or bursting the crackers to redirect the herd, avoiding, or luring them away from their land to prevent potential harm. this mode of information still works as still there is no mobile network and people still whistle or call each other HOY! In their own peculiar accent/voice to pass on the imp message from homes that are 200-400 meters away. Our agrarian community and way of life revolve around maintaining a harmonious coexistence with this ecosystem. Every creature has a role to play in the ecosystem. snakes play a crucial role, especially in the western ghats—a region abundant with diverse species. Through our daily practices, we ensure that we align ourselves with the natural processes of mating, reproduction, and the cycles of life. Preparing a space for building a home is of great significance to us. We are careful not to disturb snake routes, which we locally called "naga daari" These interconnected snake burrows lie beneath the ground, often supported by trees and roots. It is considered forbidden to disrupt these routes, known as "naga dosha." Therefore, we avoid cutting down such trees or constructing anything that blocks these important passages. This is one of the mindful rules and traditions handed down by our ancestors, driven by their fear of harm coming to our family and community. There are many myths and real stories in the community that support and keep this ritual alive with a touch of superstition.
The pre-monsoon season, known as "harake" or "pooje" in Malenadu—a region characterized by hilly terrain and heavy rainfall on the slopes of the Western Ghats—provides the perfect time for our agricultural community to prepare for various festivities before the harvest. These During the pre-monsoon season, in the hilly region of Malenadu, we celebrate and perform rituals to please the local deity. This time is important for our agricultural community as we get ready for the upcoming months of continuous rainfall and the harvest. We offer prayers and gifts to nature and the natural habitat, which gives us confidence and prepares us for the rainy season when we begin to sow and sometimes stuck inside the home for days/weeks during heavy rainfall. As a student of art, culture, and design, I am always curious to understand the meanings behind the rituals and beliefs associated with snake worship. These traditions have deep roots in the history of my ancestors and have evolved over time, influenced by the essence of nature itself. I yearn to discover the wisdom and symbolism embedded in these practices, seeking a greater understanding of how they have shaped our cultural identity and created a sense of belonging. Through my personal Inquest, I hope to foster a strong connection and a greater appreciation for the balance that our ancestors established through their traditions, rituals, and daily practices and understand the place for such knowledge and practices in our lives today in a changed context. Pranathi Puttaiah #traditionalknowledge #learning