Mon Jul 12 22:58:18 UTC 2004

I'm glad to see that my posting has generated some interest and I thank
everybody for their thoughts on the problem. I've combined some msgs here to
save flooding Indology with multiple replies:

Richard MAHONEY wrote:

> I've often seen the sole remaining Rhode Island Red hen hunting in the
> garden. [snip]  With this beast around it is unwise venture
> outside without a thick pair of leather gloves ;-)
> Perhaps an Indian snake was reputed to strike more than once?

Possibly, though I believe it is rare for snakes to make multiple strikes --
not only do they not need to do so but they need to conserve venon for their
next meal and defence.
Valerie J Roebuck wrote:

> What an interestiing piece of research!  Is it going to be published in

Thanks for the accolade but there's not a lot more to say.  But what my
tentative identifications will get an endnote mention when the text gets


Dean Anderson wrote:

> As I mentioned in my private email, it may also be a snake that prefers
> to eat chicken EGGS. [snip]  so it may be another type of egg-loving
None that I have researched seem to have an especial liking for chicken
eggs.  Definitions in Skt for this snake clearly state that it is the
movement of the snake not its diet that resulted in the name.

Allen W Thrasher

> At least in the West there are many representations, from the Greeks on
> down, [snip]  the basilisk. [snip]
Crucial to my identification is the notion that there are four primary
venonous snakes concerned.  Buddhist texts (I assume medical treatises and
Hindu texts will also mention them) from the start mention four unnamed
snakes (symbolizes the four elements etc) but no commentorial elucidation is
given in e.g. the atthakathas.  The four snakes (Russells & saw-scaled
vipers, spectacled cobras and common kraits) are universally known as the
"big four" in India today -- you can find detailed descriptions with photos
of the snakes themselves and the gruesome damage they do.  Unless the ophids
of India have changed dramatically over time, I think there is a very good
chance that these are the same four as mentioned in early literature.  If
you look at the photos, you will see that none have chicken-like crests,
though as I mentioned, the saw-scaled viper does resemble many types of
domestic chickens in its colouring.  So what I have tried to do is tie up
the classical ones with the modern ones, with some plausiblity I hope.

Best wishes,
Stephen Hodge

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