Indian Snakes and Snaky India: British Orientalist Construction of a Snake-Ridden Landscape during the Nineteenth Century

Rahul Bhaumik

Department of History, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India. Email:

 Volume 9, Number 2, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n2.24

Received May 15, 2017; Revised July 03, 2017; Accepted July 15, 2017; Published August 11, 2017.


This article explores British Orientalist construction of ‘snake-infested’ India focusing on the constitution of Orientalist discourse through the real experience of the colonisers gained in course of their extensive engagement with Indian wilderness while they began to subjugate more and more areas of the subcontinent. The main thrust of this article is to prove that, the Orientalist creation of the inferior image of venomous Indian snakes and the land they dwelled, as reflected in a range of nineteenth-century colonial literature, was definitely not a product fashioned through the Western interpretation of classical Indian texts; rather, this Orientalist understanding was inevitably fostered through the visible reality of livelihood in India and influenced by a traditional Christian sense of animosity towards snakes. This article, therefore, is a critique of the argument that scholastic construction of Orientalism derived only from the Western interpretation of scriptural accounts of the East.

Keywords: Indian Snakes, British Orientalism, Wild Orient, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Satan.

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