Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Snake Goddess of Khubala

What makes this story so fascinating is that this snake goddess is not ancient; she died 11 years ago. Of equal interest - Khubala (a/k/a (Kubile, Kubala, Kubaba, Kubabat - Cybele), the Great Mother. Story from The Times of India (Nagpur) TNN 25 October 2009, 05:59am IST KHUBALA (SAONER): She may have passed away 11 years ago of a snake bite, but the memories of Sarika Dhakne are still alive in the minds of the villagers of Khubala, about 50 km away from Nagpur. Not only that, Sarika has been quite literally idolized by the villagers who say that no one has died of a snake bite ever since. On June 26 every year, the day Sarika had died, her family organizes a pooja at a shrine they built in her memory. A green field, where Sarika was bitten by the snake, serves as the backdrop of the shrine. A fleeting glimpse at the idol in the shrine, that stands on the bank of a narrow stream, may leave an onlooker foxed as Sarika's idol, in a bluish attire with a snake head rising above her head, may appear like Lord Shiva, whose temples are commonplace in the lanes and bylanes of the country. "Villagers generally visit the fields to relieve themselves. Sarika had also gone there for the same reason and got bitten by a snake on her right ankle," recalled Sarika's distant relative Bapurao Pradhan. "We rushed her to a temple as villagers have more faith on the miraculous powers of sacred places and holy persons than anything else. It was in my lap that she breathed the last," said Pradhan who said he wanted to bring Sarika home as a daughter-in-law. "My wife passed away when our children were young. After that, Sarika used to take care of my house. I would have liked to have Sarika marry my elder son Sachin," said Pradhan. "She was the most beautiful of her siblings," he added. The story of Sarika deification is also quite strange. Pradhan and other villagers recalled that there would be snakes spotted at the Dhakne's residence daily after Sarika's last rites were performed. "The family members were baffled and scared by the occurrence. But, gradually they started placing a diya in front of the snakes, perceiving it as a manifestation of her spirit," said neighbour Lakshmi Kolte. The Dhaknes soon took a pilgrimage to Nagdwar to appease the snake goddess and its lord (Shiva). "However, it was a hair-raising experience that prompted the Dhaknes to build the shrine. One day, the family members spotted two snakes mating on a ceiling beam inside the house. This incident shook up the Dhaknes who took this as a sign and decided to build a shrine in Sarika's memory," said another villager. Pradhan's son Ashok recalled how Sarika was a good student who scored well in her board exams. "A feast in her memory is organized after the annual ritual at the shrine every year," said Ashok. The family members, who regularly visit the shrine to light lamps and incense sticks, say they dream of building a bigger shrine one day.

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