THE ABOBE OF SNAKES
Outlook Traveller|July 2021
A guide from the Dang tribe of Baradpani village in Gujarat shares how a snake tried to save his life, and why he feels responsible for protecting the species
BHASKAR NARAYAN DALVI

IT WAS AN AFTERNOON unlike any other. After completing the work at our farm, my wife and I headed to the forest adjoining our village — B aradpani — to forage for wild vegetables. Midway we saw a King Cobra blocking our path. It was staring at us and didn’t want us going any further.

Snake sightings are not unusual in our village. Our ancestors have worshipped nature and its creations for a long time, including the Naag Devta (the Snake God). Neither were we startled nor wanted to hurt the cobra. We tried to shoo it away, but it didn’t budge. Generally it’s enough to make a snake slither away, so we wondered why it wasn’t moving out of our way.

We, the Dang people, believe that snakes can sense danger, and maybe it lurked ahead, we wondered. But getting vegetables from the forest was essential, so we bowed to the cobra and took a different path towards the forest. In the woods, walking in search of the vegetables, we were oblivious to the likelihood of any danger.

Suddenly, the unmistakable roar of a leopard tensed up the air. We didn’t see it, but it must have seen us, or heard our voices, and probably roared to protect itself. Fearing that it might attack us, my wife and I ran back to a safer place.

That’s when we realized that Naag Devta – the cobra – had tried to stop us from going into the forest that day. It was perhaps warning us of the danger ahead, which we chose to ignore.

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