|Manasa is generally
identified with the sister of the serpent king Vasuki who was married to the hermit Jarut
Karu and became the mother of Astika, and according to the Mahabharata was to save the
Nagas from being exterminated by the snake- goddess. This however, seems to occupy a
somewhat indefinite position in the Brahmanical pantheon. Although serpent worship was
associated with Brahmanic religion from a remote time, the name of the goddess Manasa does
not seem to appear in the early literature. It therefore leads one to the belief that
Manasa is not a goddess with a Vedic and Puranic past, but assimilation from outside.
Professor Kshitimohan Sen suggests that Manasa obtained her semi - Sanskritised name from
the South-Indian snake goddess Mancamma. On this ground, Bhattasali concludes that the
cult of Manasa was imported to Eastern India from the south. He, however, seems to forget
the fact that snake - worship is more widely distributed and developed in more interesting
forms, among the various tribes of Assam. Among the Khasis of Assam the most remarkable
form of serpent-worship is that of U Thlen, a gigantic snake which demands to be appeased
by the sacrifice of human victims, and for whose sake murders have been committed; even in
recent times."23 In Manipur, which preserves the Mahabharata tradition of being the
seat of the Naga king Citravahana, whose daughter Citrangada was married to Arjuna, even
at the present day, the ancestral god of the royal family is a snake called Pakhangba. The
Rabhas worship a serpent God which once dwelt in a cave and was propitiated by the annual
sacrifice of a boy and a girl.24
23. Gurdon: The Khasis, pp. 98 ff., 175 ff., Census
of India 1901, Assam, Pt. 1, p. 49.
24. Census of India, 1911, Assam, Pt. I, p. 145.