Serpent Mother is about devotion to the Goddess of Snakes and the importance of divine female
power in West Bengal Indian life. The film's focus is the Jhapan Festival, the great celebration of
snakes. Shown are festival preparations, the role of traditional arts and crafts in the worship of
the Goddess, devotional singing, and an exposition of ritual action.
In the story of Manasha’s birth, a nymph was moving across the heaven. Seeing her naked Shiva
madman that he is was aroused. He released a seed and that fell on the lotus plant in the cosmic
ocean. Basuki, king of snakes, ate the seed and became pregnant. From his mouth the serpent
mother was born.
Manasha the daughter of Shiva is the goddess of snakes and she is worshipped throughout India.
Manasha strikes fear into the human heart but when approached with devotion she becomes a
protective mother. A divine female power that makes all creative action possible. Manasha is the
deity of the earth. She intervenes in the cycles of growth and decay, life, death, and regeneration.
During the rainy season, Manasha’s rituals are performed. Her stories are sung and her favorite
snakes are displayed. Worship of Manasha is offered in temples, open air shrines under sacred
tree and on household alters. Such sites are marked with hood of offering of clay horses and
Manasha dwells in her sacred vessels of invocation when one is concentrated and installed, it
stands with goddess herself.
Men gather around the masters of snake play. Priest who initiate devotees into the cult of
Manasha. They celebrate the goddess, sing devotional songs, learn the lore of snakes, and play
with the cobras and in these way worships her.
By playing with snakes, master handlers render their power visible. Serve goddess and solicit her
mercy. Although some of the venom is drawn from the cobras, and that poison remains for
goddess to destroy those who offend her.
How shall we praise you, the land and the water, the heaven and earth are your creation and you
are heart with all creature. You are the creator, upholder, and destroyer. Your truth in infinite.
You are the protector of heaven and earth and hell. The worlds all trembles for your mercy. Even
the gods do not know how to praise you, how then shall we mere human worship you.
The town of Vishnupur is an ancient center of Manasha’s worship. In the distant past, the kings
of the region started the festival and built the temples of Manasha to benefit the people. These
were continued to be performed by family, community and neighborhood groups.
“All of us cowherd boys together, we will gather wild flowers, with these flowers which please
her most, we will garland the serpent mother. All of cowherd boys together. “ – this is what the
men chant. All of cowherd boys together, we will gather wild flowers. With these flowers which please her
most, we will garland the serpent mother. All of us cowherd boys together.
In addition to the sacred vessel, Manasha is also recognized in human form. A maiden of golden
complexion standing on a lotus and holding snakes in her hands.
Jhapan is the great festival of snake goddess. The combination of Manas