Flying Snake in Kalidasa (Post No.3544)

Written by London swaminathan


Date: 14 January 2017


Time uploaded in London:- 18-39


Post No.3544



Pictures are taken from different sources; thanks.





Kalidasa, the greatest poet of India, who lived in the first century BCE, had amazing knowledge about flora and fauna of India. His knowledge about a vast land mass of Asia from Iran to Indonesia is equally amazing. Whenever I try to compare his writings I go through at least 500 Tamil and Sanskrit poets of ancient India. Most of my poets are from Sangam Tamil literature. There are over 450 Tamil poets of Sangam age. They lived 2000 years ago. Is it not amazing that I need 500 poets to compare his 1250 similes and images?


It is not only the images. He speaks about 1500 mile long Himalayas, flying experience of a pilot, longest tour from Iran to Indonesia. He knew the ins and outs of even he Southern most Pandya Kings and their Guru Agastya!


When I read about flying snakes in the Raghuvamsa in 1997, I made a marginal note in my book. Recently I watched a nature series on the BBC television and I came to know what he wrote about the flying snake is true. Later I googled and found out there are several videos showing the flying snakes that glide from the tree and reaches another tree or the ground! Kalidasa knew all these things even before we knew! His description of the coastal caves that echo the thundering clouds, the beautiful Himalayas and Vindhyas – all these show he was the greatest poet. In Shakespeare who lived 1600 years after Kalidasa we do not see much science. But Kalidasa talks about Magnets and Magnifying glasses, phosphorescent plants etc. I will write about his knowledge in science and geography in a series of articles. If the snake reference is a single one I will simply reject it. But he refers to whales and other animals.



Following is the place where he refers to the flying snake; though he talks about winged snakes we don’t see any wings, but they fly as if they have wings. You can watch them on several You Tube videos.


Read the following Raghuvamsa sloka taken from Sanskrit


तयोरुपान्तस्थितसिद्धसैनिकं गरुत्मदाशीविषभीमदर्शनैः|
बभूव युद्धं तुमुलं जयैषिणोरधोमुखैरूर्ध्वमुखैश्च पत्रिभिः॥ ३-५७

babhūva yuddhaṁ tumulaṁ jayaiṣiṇor
adhomukhairūrdhvamukhaiśca patribhiḥ || 3-57

tayorupAntasthitasiddhasainika.n garutmadAshIviShabhImadarshanaiH |
babhUva yuddha.n tumula.n jayaiShiNoradhomukhairUdhvamukhaishca patribhiH || 3-57

tayoH upAnta sthita siddha sainikam garutmat ashI viSa bhIma darshanaiH | babhUva yuddham tumulam jaya eSiNoH atho mukhaiH Urthva mukhaH ca patribhiH || 3-57


3-57. jaya eSiNoH= victory, desiring; tayoH= between those two – Indra, raghu; garutmat= like divine eagle Garuda; ashI viSa= in fangs, venom [those that have] snakes; bhIma darshanaiH= frightening [arrows,] to look at; athaH mukhaiH= down, faced – downwards; Urthva mukhaH ca= up, faced – upwards, also; patribhiH= with arrows; upAnta sthita siddha= nearby – there about, staying – stood motionless, with siddha-s; sainikam= [also with] soldiers; tumulam yuddham babhUva= tumultuous, war, occurred.




Between those two who desired victory over the other, namely Indra and Raghu, there occurred a tumultuous fight with frightful arrows that flew up and down between sky and earth like winged serpents, or like the mutually chasing eagles and snakes, and with this the onlookers, namely the celestials like siddha-s, chAraNa-s et al on indra’s side on sky, and the soldiers, and other princes following the ritual horse, on Raghu’s side on earth, stood motionless there about. [3-57]


Flying snakes are in India, Srilanka, Indonesia, Laos Vietnam and Cambodia. Indian species is known as Chrysopelea taprobanica. All the flying or gliding snakes belong to genus Chrysopelea.


Following information is taken from Wikipedia:_

The Sri Lankan flying snake (Chrysopelea taprobanica) is a species of gliding snake distributed in India and Sri Lanka. It can glide, as with all species of its genus Chrysopelea, by stretching the body into a flattened strip using its ribs. The snake is known as “dangara dandaa – දඟරදන්ඩා” in Sinhala, due to its folding postures.


The Sri Lankan flying snake population in Sri Lanka can be found in dry zone lowlands and parts of the intermediate climatic zones, including PolonnaruwaWilpattu, National ParkSigiriyaKurunegalaJaffnaTrincomalee, and Monaragala. This species was known to be an endemic species to Sri Lanka until researchers have recorded few specimens from Andhra Pradesh India.

Chrysopelea, more commonly known as the flying snake or gliding snake, is a genus that belongs to the family Colubridae. Flying snakes are mildly venomous,[1] though the venom is only dangerous to their small prey.[2] Their range is in Southeast Asia (the mainland (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos), Greater and Lesser SundasMaluku, and the Philippines), southernmost ChinaIndia, and Sri Lanka.


Leave a comment


  1. I had actually witnessed a snake jump from a branch of a tree to another tree about 10-12 feet away in broad daylight. It happened in Tiruvannamalai about 10 years ago. We were working in the garden of a relative around 10 AM when the snake just flew past us. I do not know whether it was a flying snake or just another snake jumping across to another tree.
    Tiruvannamalai is known for many species of snakes and locals tell many stories. Sambandhar in his hymns notes the snake wealth of the hills: அரிகுலம் மலிந்த அண்ணாமலை!

  2. It is interesting to know that you saw a flying snake. It is possible. Because Wikipedia says it is in Andhrapradesh
    and Sri Lanka. So it can be found anywhere between Andhra and Sri Lanka.Regarding the word ARI KULAM it may be about monkeys.
    Because ARI means Lion, Monkey and Vishnu in Tamil literature.

  3. I got the reference to “ARI KULAM” from Sri Kripananda Variar’s commentary on Tiruvannamalai Tiruppugazh “வடவை அனலூடு”. In the line:
    இடை அரி யுலாவும் உக்ர அருணகிரி
    Sri Variar interprets the word ARI as both snake and monkey.He says that Arunagiri is full of snakes and the town is full of monkeys! It is in this context that he cites the Tevaram line
    “அரிகுலம் மலிந்த அண்ணாமலை”.
    Incidentally, it is from Appar, and not Sambandhar. I am sorry for the slip due to bad memory.
    It occurs in the 4th Tirumurai hymn: புரிசடை முடியின் மேலோர். The third line reads:
    “அரிகுல மலிந்த அண்ணாமலையுளாய்”.

  4. Thanks.Please keep posting your comments.
    They are very informative.

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