Is it possible for a snake to take on a human form — roop badalna — and them become a snake again? In this age of super reasoning and super information, the answer to that would be an emphatic “no” from a majority of people who naturally and logically dismiss age old accounts, no matter how well documented, as myths. They’re right in the sense that such paranormal or supernatural phenomena do defy reason and cannot withstand “scientific scrutiny”. And yet many recent events suggest that happenings cannot be rejected on the basis of reason and science alone. After all, we’ve all experienced falling in love, quite often with someone unlikely — and sometimes out of it too — and that is generally without reason or logic. The important thing is : they happen and the actuality, the asliyat of that happening cannot be denied, never mind if it cannot be explained scientifically.
Running through the centuries, there are innumerable references to icchadhari snakes. Iccha means desire or wish, dhari means to adopt, i.e. those who can take whatever form they desire. Belief has it that it takes thousands of years to attain the powers and status of an icchadhari snake. It is also widely known and accepted that if you kill a snake, especially a nag or cobra, its mate will always take revenge, if not in this birth, then the next.
To give just one incident, many years ago, we had a servant named Bacchan Singh, who stupidly and boastfully killed a cobra at our farm. My father was extremely upset at the pointless killing and because he was aware that the nagin would surely seek revenge, advised Bacchan Singh to immediately repent and try and locate a pandit who could help him reduce the consequences of his callous action. But Bacchan Singh chose to go to his mountain village instead, about a nine-hour journey from our home, thinking no snake would be able to follow him so far. He was apparently okay for four days, but on the fifth day, he was found dead on his cot, with a cobra coiled round his legs. Wisely, the villagers allowed the cobra to leave in its own time and were happy in a way that the snake had taken its revenge in this birth itself rather than the next birth.
There are many cases of icchadhari snakes who were reborn. Some years ago, a young girl claimed that in her last life she was one such snake.
To take revenge, snakes often use their icchadhari powers. I have seen both icchadhari snakes and a mani snake. In my experience, the icchadhari snakes were humans during the day and snakes at night. But a sadhu who knows a lot about them told me that all mani snakes are icchadharis, the difference between mani icchadharis and other icchadharis being that mani snakes are snakes at night and whatever they choose to be in the daytime. Other icchadharis are snakes during daytime and take whatever form they wish — usually of a human — at night. Besides, icchadhari snakes usually prefer to be near temples, but a temple’s proximity is not a must for a mani snake.
However, when it comes to taking revenge, a snake can take any form at any time, at any place. And it is known that a snake does not rest till it has taken its revenge. In addition, a curse called sarp dosh also often affects coming generations. Kaal Sarp dosh is also an astrological affliction for which, amongst other measures, pujas to placate snakes have to be performed. Nag Panchami, full moon and no moon days and certain phases of some lunar eclipses are considered the most potent times for snake related matters, especially for icchadhari snakes. Amongst the many Nag temples all over India for the specific worship of snakes, perhaps the one at the Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain, which is opened for darshan only on Nag Panchmi day, is the most famous and powerful.
There are many cases of icchadhari snakes who were reborn which have been widely reported in the media. Some years ago, a young girl claimed that in her last life, she had been an icchadhari snake. She and her mate, also an icchadhari snake, used to live near a temple in a certain village — and she named the village. There was a well near the temple and one day, she and her mate were sitting on the parapet of the well when their traditional enemy — a mongoose or nevla — appeared suddenly, startling them and they fell into the well and died before they could fully consummate their love.
Now, she said, she and her mate had been reborn so they could consummate their unfulfilled love and she went on to name the village where her mate had been reborn. Everybody was sceptical at this seemingly far fetched story but when the girl persisted, enquiries were made and they found not just the village the girl had named, but also that a pair of snakes had indeed fallen into a well near the temple and died, as a result of which the well had been abandoned. The mate’s village was then located, and from indicators provided by the girl, a young boy was identified as her companion from the past life. He could remember the past only hazily but he declared that if indeed they had been lovers in the last birth, he would marry the girl. Nag Panchmi, the day snakes are worshipped was fixed for the wedding and the “snake” couple tied the knot on Nag Panchmi day.
What should one do to avoid the curse of a snake? Firstly, remember that very few snakes are poisonous. Secondly, no snake — poisonous or otherwise — will harm you without being provoked, so never try to kill a snake. If a snake has entered your house or compound, better to drive it away than kill it. But if you do kill a snake unintentionally, it would be best to get a special Nag puja done as early as possible.
Even if you haven’t killed a snake, do remember that snakes are considered mystical and have been worshipped in cultures around the world since time immemorial. In India, snakes continue to be worshiped on Nag Panchmi and even today, fascinating incidents that have no scientific explanation — only a paranormal one — can still be witnessed at many places like Shirala in Maharashtra.