The Abode of Snakes of South India

Sarpa Kavu (meaning Abode of Snakes) is a traditional natural sacred space seen near traditional homes in Kerala state of South India. The site is believed to be inhabited by snakes, and the area usually contains Nagakals (”snake stones”), representations of Naga Raja (King of the Snakes) and other Naga Devatas (snake deities), where offerings and rites are performed during special ceremonies. This is a Brahminical ritual performed by certain sects of Nambudiris, and all castes hold the Sarpa Kavu in reverence, with access forbidden to the area unless for due ceremonies. These forests are havens for wildlife, and are often filled with medicinal plants which are used for the treatment of snake bites.

According to tradition, Kerala was created from the Arabian Sea by Parashurama (the 6th incarnation of Vishnu) and donated to Brahmins as a compensation for his sin of having slaughtered numerous Kshatriya dynasties. The land was covered in forest and home to snakes, and found to be inhospitable by Brahmins, who refused to stay there. Parashurama requested Lord Shiva to provide a solution, who advised that the Brahmins should start worshipping Ananta, the King of Snakes, and the bed on which Lord Vishnu reclines.

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