Subtle as a Serpent
Snakes come up in a wide variety of tales across cultures. They keep getting invested with meaning, all over the world. Of course, they aren't always the same meaning. Symbols don't arrive with meaning already in them but take on different meanings in different contexts. One of the first metaphors in memory was the biblical one- the serpent as temptress, evil, seductive, generally something you should run from. In the performance described in the cover story, the effects of the snake bite travel farther than just the victim of the venom. The innocent Behula has to set off on a raft because her man Lakhshmindar was bitten. The villagers sing and dance and re-enact this story of Behula and Lakhshimdar and the Manasa.
What is the point of these songs? What does a serpent represent in this story? These things aren't obvious. Different people give different answers about the Manasa Sangeet. There are even directly conflicting answers- some say only men perform this, others say only women can possibly perform this. What does gender have to do with it? Maybe it is the fact that snakes seem to always incite this notion.
From the Insight Desk
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