Monday, February 20, 2006

The Snake God in Labasa

From Peceli

When I was a child I spent some time with relatives from my mother's side, originally from Vesi in Mali, who had settled at Matailabasa, about 20 k. north-east of Labasa town. There was a river there and a narrow bridge without railings. One New Year the river was flooded and as we stood on the bridge someone pushed me in. I was about seven and could not swim well. I yelled and struggled in the flooded river until someone rescued me and pulled me out. I decided I must learn to swim after that!

Matailabasa village is built on the foot of a mountain range and sugar cane grows on the flat land with many Indian farmers. I remember as boy we used to climb up the rocks and fetch breadfruit and oranges

There are soft white volcanic large stones in that area. One stands out because it is shaped like a cobra snake. Over the years the Indians built a house there with a caretaker and the rock grew taller as the years went by and many Hindus came there to pray. Then the Temple of the Indian Snake God was built around it and become a focal point of the history of Labasa. The Hindus have daily worship there and put their garlands, marigolds, and broken coconuts there.

Traditionally snake is regarded as a totem taboo like in the Nakauvadra story of the Fijian snake god called Degei which is widely known by Fiji people and if people want to go up to the Kauvadra mountains they have to get permission of the priestly tribe of Vatukacevaceva village at the foot of the mountains.

There used to be many snakes in Fiji but the mongoose have got rid of most of them. Only occasionally do you see a small tree snake. Of course there are still many sea snakes which are black and white striped and they lie in the sun on the rocks such as at Vorovoro. People say they are poisonous but I have never heard of anyone being bitten.

The Indian Snake Rock is listed as one of the tourist sites in the Labasa area.


Anonymous said...

very interesting story.

Anonymous said...

Vinaka vakalevu sara na i talanoa rogorogo vinaka

Anonymous said...