Cobra in India
The Indian Cobra is known around the world as highly venomous snake that
feeds on rodents, lizards, and frogs. As well as biting, the Indian cobra
can attack or defend itself from a distance by "spitting" venom,
which, if it enters the opponent's eyes, causes severe pain and damage. The
snake actually forces the venom through its fangs, by exerting muscular
pressure on the venom glands, so that it sprays out in twin jets for 2 m (6
1/2 ft) or more.
Behaviour of Indian Cobra
When threatened, the Indian Cobra will assume its characteristic posture.
It will raise the front one-third of its body and elongate its long,
flexible neck ribs and loose skin to form its distinctive hood, on which are
resembled eyes. .
Status of Cobra in India
Although the Indian Cobra is not an endangered species, it has recently
been hunted for its distinctive hood markings in the production of handbags.
It is listed under the treaty because it closely resembles other species
that are threatened and in need of protection.
Physical Characteristics of Indian Cobra
The Indian Cobra's most known characteristic features are the wide black
band on the underside of the neck, and the hood marking design which shows
half-rings on either side of the hood. It is a smooth-scaled snake with
black eyes, a wide neck and head, and a medium-sized body. Its colouring
varies from black, to dark brown, to a creamy white. The body is usually
covered with a spectacled white or yellow pattern, which sometimes forms
ragged bands. The Indian cobra may grow from 1.8m to 2.2m.
Those Cobras which have the single ring on the hood are found in Assam and
Eastern India and spit venom like the Ringhals Cobra of South Africa which
can eject a spray for a distance of more than two meters and cause severe
eye pain, sometimes blindness. Keepers who attend this particular variety of
Cobra sensibly wear goggles.
Most Poisonous - The King Cobra or Hamadryad
The King Cobra or Hamadryad, is the largest of all poisonous snakes. This
sometimes 5 meter long, lethal creature is entirely a snake eater. It enjoys
Pythons, other Cobras, and even its own species. The King is aggressive,
unpredictable, and can strike without provocation. It is most intelligent.
When erect it can stand up to 2 meters in height. In certain fertility rites
in Burma, a woman desirous of offspring is required not only to approach the
King Cobra but to plant a kiss on its mouth. If she is successful in doing
so she will bear many children; if she fails, obviously none.
The Indian cobra feeds on rodents, lizards and frogs. It bites quickly, and
then waits while its venom damages the nervous system of the prey,
paralyzing and often killing it. Like all snakes, N. naja swallows its prey
whole. This species sometimes enters buildings in search of rodent prey. In
its characteristic threat posture, the Indian cobra raises the front
one-third of its body and spreads out its long, flexible neck ribs and loose
skin to form a disklike hood, on the back of which there are markings
Indian cobras pay more attention to their eggs than is usual in snakes. The
8 to 45 eggs (usually 12 to 20) are laid in a hollow tree, a termite mound
or earth into which the snakes tunnel. The female guards the clutch
throughout the incubation period, leaving them only for a short time each
day to feed.
Festival of the Serpents
Nagapanchami or the Serpent Festival occurs in India generally in August
after the monsoon rains. It is then that the full impact of Cobra power is
manifest. Throughout the country Cobras are either brought into the villages
and fed, or effigies of the snake are anointed and worshipped. Rarely has it
ever been recorded that a fatality has occurred from snakebite during this
occasion; the Cobras appear to sense they are being revered.
Although there may be variations in the date and in the local traditions
and modes of observance, Nagapanchami is celebrated according to ancient
rites. The festival continues to testify to the feelings of awe and
veneration which the Cobra evokes in the minds of the population since the
earliest times remembered. The Cobra is a graceful animal and appears always
to carry an air of dignity and nobility. The physical charisma with which it
is endowed is without doubt also one of the reasons why it, among all
snakes, was chosen by the Nagas to be their totem.
Snake charming is fascinating and at times mystifying. The eyes of the
Cobra are hauntingly black and hypnotic; the snake is beautiful to watch
when it is being worked by a skilled charmer. The hood is then spread and
the markings apparent. The colours of the hood merge from black to brown to
beige and, when framed against the sunlight, it appears almost translucent.
No visit to India is complete without experiencing it.
But the true essence of the art is not observed by the tourist. There are
initiates of the Shiva cult who handle Cobras without any danger of being
bitten. The Commercial snakes, generally the Spectacled Cobra,
have either had their fangs extracted or the poison sacs removed. In general
their lifespan is shortened due to mouth rot. The performance, nevertheless,
is spectacular and colourful.
Palearctic, Oriental: Pakistan, India (throughout most of the country),
Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, possibly E. Afghanistan.
Cobra in India
In India, the king Cobra is found in the National Parks and Reserves of -