Sarpa Kavu Of Kerala Hindu Tradition And Its Link To Environment


Snakes and Ayilyam – both are closely linked to Kerala Hindu traditions and rituals. Naga Raga Vasuki is worshipped as God in various parts of India. On every Malayalam month on Ayilyam star, Hindus devote milk and turmeric powder to snake temples to please Snake God. It’s believed that by doing so, Naga Raga gives prosperity to the family, cures people of skin diseases and gives them offspring also. In many parts of south India, certain practices exist, where couples devoid of children offer milk to snake temples. Sarpa kavu – the places where snakes are worshipped form a part of traditional Hindu families. Sarpa means snake and Kavu means temples surrounded with forest or dense trees. Yet nowadays those scenes are vanishing and people are destroying snake temples to give way to concrete buidlings. Instead they do ‘Kaavumaattal’ and replace the devotees in the nearby suitable place. It’s so heart breaking to known that Sarpa Kavus, a part of snake worship and Hindu tradition have already started vanishing!


Legends related to snakes and Hinduism – Vasuki is the king of snakes. Devendra destroys the naga named ‘Summer’ to bring rains to earth. Ananthan with 1000 heads carries earth on his head. Snake is like a garland in the feet of Vishnu’s Garuda and Subrahmanya’s Peacock. Lord Siva wears snake around his neck. As per beliefs, when Parasurama formed Kerala, it was filled with snakes and inhospitable for Brahmins to live. So, as per instructions of Vasuki, Parasurama made ‘Kavu’ across Kerala, as the residents of snakes and places of worship. When tribal people close to nature and forests started worships of Pancha Bhoota, snakes – a part of forests also became a part of it.  


Form a part of Kerala Hindu traditional homes – In old days, all traditional homes had one ‘Sarpa Kavu’ each. They are placed at South-West Corners of land which surrounds the residence. It reduces the strength of south-west wind before it reaches the home. As such places have a lot of plants and trees it provides good oxygen to breathe.


They play a significant role in the environment system as well, giving support to wide varieties of flora and fauna. Many medicinal herbs, trees and flowers also grow abundant in such regions and they play a significant role in preventing soil erosion. Many rare varieties of plant and animal species are found here. When greenery is vanishing every day, Sarpa kavu gives shelter and food for such animals and birds. In short, kavu is a replica of a small forest. They also keep underground water level high. It’s said even a single plant plays a role in the eco system.


Nature as a form of God – When snakes are given God status, they are worshipped. It bonded man with nature through the path of religion. A better place for plants and animals to live and propagate – when our ancestors created such places, they had these things too in their minds.

Article Posted By : Sandhya RanilView All Articles

I like Sarpa Kavu and its silent beauty

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Keywords :
sarpa kavu , worship of snakes


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