Snakes

Stephen Hodge s.hodge at PADMACHOLING.FREESERVE.CO.UK
Sun Jul 11 20:40:56 EDT 2004


L.S. Cousins wrote:

> kukku.ta + ada 'eating chickens'.
> Could this be confused with aadi ?

Possibly, but kukku.ta + ahi is attested and Skt definitions say
"kukku.ta-cara.na-tulye sarpa-bhede".  Having done some further research, I
think I can tentatively identify my set of four snakes, assuming that the
four most deadly snakes in India were and are the same creatures:

1.    aa'sii-vi.sa = Russell's Viper.  The speed here is probably not
referring to the action of the venom (which is bad enough, as it can kill
within 24 hours) but the fact that this viper is noted for its exceptionally
fast strike (several sources say "lightning-fast")

2.    d.r.s.ti-vi.sa = common krait.  This identification is purely based on
a guess at present, having eliminated the other three.

3.    naaga = spectacled cobra.  A fairly uncontroversial identification.

4.    kukku.taahi = saw-scaled viper.  My identification is basd on the
following:  as noted above the snake in question should do something
resembling the movement of a chicken etc in some way.  Apart from being
coloured somewhat similarly to most chickens I have seen, the saw-scaled
viper is said to have one interesting characteristic: when threatened, it
coils back, delivers a fast strike and then regains its raised position of
defiance, which sounds to me similar to a chicken bobbing up and down,
pecking the ground.  It also makes a rasping noise with its scales (like
rattle snakes) but not having heard the sound, I can't judge whether there
is anything chicken-like about this.

OK, this may be somewhat speculative but it seems to be better than the
normal "a type of snake" definition.

Based on the above, similar identifications can possibly be suggested for
the list of four deadly snakes given in the Lankavatara-sutra:  1)
aa'sii-vi.sa (T: myur-gdug), 2) d.r.s.ti-vi.sa (T: mig-gdug), 3) bhujaga
(sbrul) = spectacled cobra, and 4) ghoraa (mi-bzad) = saw-scaled viper.


Best wishes,
Stephen Hodge



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