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বর্ধমানের গোপালপুরে ‘ঝাঁপান’ উতসব। ছবি তুলেছেন যুক্তিবাদী সমিতির সঞ্জয় কর্মকার
মারাত্বক সব ছবি। খুব ভাল।
Snake Dance – The Imitative and The Real.
Dr. P K Narayanan. January 10, 2012
There are two categories of Snake Dances: One is imitative and the other is real dance of living snakes.
Imitative Snake Dance is a human dance format: Performance of snake dance by appropriately trained ballet dancers produces awe and wonder. Gymnast Irena Kazakova of Russia is a world famous snake dancer whose performance remained inimitable. Her swirls, twists and bends of the body on theatre stages even surpassed the twisted embrace of snake-mates, standing on the tips of their tails and hooting shrieks.
Sweeping circular movement forms the essential gymnastic style of snake dance. Snake dances are performed in tune with rhythmic music. The dance imitates the uncoiling, writhing and swaying of wild snakes. Apart from being an intricate dance form, it is believed that “snake dance has certain therapeutic benefits because it expresses a gamut of emotions from anger to joy that release toxins from the body.” Whatever be the truth, across the world, snake dances as theatric entertainment, attract the interest and curiosity of the audiences.
A close evaluation reveals that Snake Dances performed by humans have its origin in snake worship. Snake worship is one of the oldest rituals offered by faithful believers in almost all the ancient cultures. Even today, the snake worship is fairly common in India, Indonesia, Cambodia and the nomadic tribes in Africa and Australia. The snake worship among the believers in India is unique and it forms a part of their day to day divine rituals.
There are different versions as how snake worship and snake dance has flourished in India. One view is that snakes primarily represent death, rebirth and mortality. Symbolizing death, snakes cast off their skin after certain period of growth. And then, it symbolically takes rebirth with new look and fresh skins.
Another version of snake worship is based on fear of survival. Snakes as poisonous reptiles, hiding and attacking animals and humans, was dreaded the most. Just like worship and prayers originated in human mind out of fear, snake worship also became a religious custom among the people to safeguard their lives.
There are hundreds of thousands of temples and shrines across the villages, towns and cities in India where the installed deities are snake sculptures (naga prathishta) of different kinds. These idols are believed to be deities of omnipotent power. The devotees express their faith and sublime devotion by offering prayers with flowers and garlands. Before the serpent god, they dance and they crawl around the sculptures.
Real Snake Dance starts here: Some nomadic communities from mountainous forest areas capture snakes from their hideouts in the forests and underground holes. The captured snakes are then taken in baskets made of bamboo strips. They bring the baskets, perform rituals and let the snakes free before the serpent god. The onlookers take care to prevent the snakes run amuck. After the rituals are over the snakes are packed and taken back by the nomadic talents who are the famous Snake Charmers of India.
Theatric snake dance performed by talented danseuses, is awesome for all. The format of such dance is imitation of the movement of serpents. But Snake Charmers in India train the captured snakes and make them dance in tune with the music of their flutes. This is the real snake dance. The snake charmer, with flute on his mouth, moves his head in different directions while the flute emits the musical tunes.
It is well-known that snakes have no ears and no auditory mechanism in its brain. How then the snake hears the flute music and dances according to the tunes? Really a complex phenomenon it is. But the dance of the tamed snake purportedly in tune with the instrument music of the Snake Charmer is an illusory perception of the viewers.
In fact what is happening in real snake dance is the working of a conditioned reflex of certain nerve connections formed in consonance with the simultaneous excitation of the motor center and the visual centre in the snake-brain: The temporary nerve connection is formed by repetitive movement of the snake charmer’s instrument together with the movement of his hands and head simultaneously by pushing and pulling on the head of the snake to different directions. Repetition of this process for several times creates a conditioned nerve connection in the snake’s brain in line with the movements of the snake charmer and his instrument. The snake then starts moving to the directions indicated. And the viewers and the audience take it as if the snake was dancing in tune with the snake charmer’s flute music.
That is the story of the real snake dancing: But the Snake Charmer obviously might be ignorant about the scientific principle behind the above training program. It is the same thing that spectators observe in circus animals which perform different kinds of gymnastics on the stage of the Circus Tents.
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