Through the Eyes of Ulūpī : A Distinctive Snake Perspective in the Mahābhārata

Black, Brian (2022) Through the Eyes of Ulūpī : A Distinctive Snake Perspective in the Mahābhārata. The Journal of Hindu Studies, 15 (1). pp. 83-105. ISSN 1756-4255

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Abstract In this article, I will explore the role and significance of snakes in the Mahābhārata. Rather than offer a general account of how they are depicted across the text, I will focus my attention on one snake character in particular: Ulūpī, a vital, but often overlooked persona. Although she only participates in two episodes, in both cases she bursts into the narrative from underground to change the course of events decisively and with major consequences. By considering both of her appearances together, I will argue that Ulūpī plays a more central role in the unfolding of the narrative than has been previously realised. Throughout the article, I will reflect on Ulūpī’s identity as a snake. By looking at the terms used to describe her, how she relates to other prominent snake characters, and the relationship between her lineage and other snake lineages, I will show that her unique perspective brings out a nuanced and diverse understanding of snakes that can contribute to our wider appreciation of these complex characters in the Mahābhārata. Moreover, I will suggest that Ulūpī’s distinctive vantage point as a snake within the lineage of Airāvata sheds new light on two pivotal episodes: Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice and the burning of the Khāṇḍava Forest.

Item Type:
Journal Article
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The Journal of Hindu Studies
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This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Hindu Studies following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Brian Black, Through the Eyes of Ulūpī: A Distinctive Snake Perspective in the Mahābhārata, The Journal of Hindu Studies, Volume 15, Issue 1, May 2022, Pages 83–105 is available online at:
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30 Mar 2022 13:25
Last Modified:
09 Jul 2024 23:56