Allen W Thrasher athr at LOC.GOV
Wed Feb 2 17:38:23 EST 2005

It may refer in part to the real and visible markings on snakes, but I
seem to remember from ancient Middle Eastern and Greek art that there
are representations of snakes with a jewel-shaped appendage on the top
of the head.  (The same for griffins.)  I have never pursued the source
of this.  On the other hand, I can't remember any artistic
representations of snakes in India, whether sculpture or painting, that
have this.  But I feel little confidence about either the remembrance or
failure to remember.  I think the jewels are supposed to be luminous,
which would mean they were outside the head.  Miniatures of nAyikAs
going out in the fearful night might show snakes and indicate if the
latter had such gems.  There may be a note about the matter in Ingalls'
Anthology of Sanskrit Court Poetry.

The classic sources on snake lore would be:

Jean-Philippe Vogel. Indian serpent-lore.  London: Probsthain, 1926
James Fergusson. Tree and serpent worship.  2nd ed. London: India
Museum, 1876

Also very interesting-sounding, but perhaps not helpful, is:

Laurie Cozad. Sacred snakes : orthodox images of Indian snake worship.
Aurora, Colo. : Davies Group Publishers, 2004.
See the online Table of contents:

My library's copy of the latter is not yet available on the shelf.


Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D.
Senior Reference Librarian
Southern Asia Section
Asian Division
Library of Congress
Jefferson Building 150
101 Independence Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20540-4810
tel. 202-707-3732
fax 202-707-1724
athr at
The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Library
of Congress.

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