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Do Cobras Carry Gems on Their Hoods?

Cobra Pearl is a mineral called Chlorophane, and it is not formed inside the body of the snake. Limited research suggests that snakes as old as hundred years or more might use chlorophane pebble to attract fire-flies. True Cobra stones are rare to find, as the life of cobra in captivity is around 20-30 years.

The Judeo-Christian traditions see snakes as evil and cunning that seek to corrupt our souls – a result of a well-known antediluvian incident at Eden. I have also read something fascinating: the meaning of the Hebrew word for “serpent” matches the word “messiah”.

Hindus worship the snakes, and snakes are an integral part of Indian culture. There are festivals during which snakes are worshipped, and there are temples for snakes too. Many Hindu gods wear the snakes around their necks or waists, or make a bed out of it. 

Shiva and Vishnu with reptilian adornments

You will find many trees on the countryside where snakes are sculpted on stone slabs. Probably, you would find an ant hill nearby. The worship of the snake is closely associated with fertility rituals. Women throng here on certain days; feed milk to snakes and offer worship.

Often when a child is born; it is named after the snake deity – Nagappa, Nagamma, etc. Killing of a cobra is considered to be a sin; thus, people don’t kill it when they chance upon it at homes or in open fields, despite the fear that it is poisonous.

The Cobra Gem or the Nagamani

There are several myths connected with snakes, especially the cobra. People believe the hood of an old cobra carries a Pearl that radiates light even in the dark, and bestows luck and great fortune on whoever possesses them.

How does the pearl get developed in the cobra? It is said that if a snake lives up to 100 years or probably longer and hasn’t exhausted its venom, the venom hardens into an iridescent pearl, and the snake uses this pearl to hunt the prey. 

The Newyork Times, March 9, 1890 talks about an article published in Harper’s monthly magazine by Prof. Hensoldt PhD, who had personally seen the cobra pearl in Sri Lanka under natural conditions and researched on a few pieces he owned. He found the stone to be made of a mineral called chlorophane, a rare variety of fluorspar.

Some varieties of chlorophane phosphoresce for hours in the dark even when slightly warmed by holding it in the  hands for a few moments.

Why and how do the snakes carry and make use of them, and from where do these chlorophane pebbles come from?

Cobras are perhaps the only serpents which eat insects and have preference for fire-flies because they can be easily caught at night. The female fire-flies are much larger than males, and cannot fly. They sit quietly in grass, emit a greenish light that fades and glows rhythmically, and this light attracts male fire-flies.

The chlorophane pebble also emits in the dark a dark green light not unlike the female fire-flies, and cobras use them as decoys to attract the fire-flies with it.

The cobra finds one these shining pebble in the gravel of the dry river beds, and goes for it assuming it to be the larvae of some glow worm. Through experience, it would notice that the fire-flies could be caught much more easily using the phosphorescent pebble. The cobra carries it about and soon learns to treasure it as a means to easy food during its old age. Prof. Hensoldt believes even a young cobra learns the tricks of the trade and it becomes an instinct for it, because the inherited race memory among the lower animals is often far stronger than the memory gathered during the short lifetime of the individual.

Where Are The Cholophane Pebbles Found? 

The water worn chlorophane pebbles are normally found in dry bed rivers and especially in area where gem mines are around, i.e. places like Sri Lanka, Burma and Ural (Siberia). In Sri-Lanka the chlorophane is also called serpent stone.

A chlorophane from Siberia glows white from hand heat, green in boiling water and emerald on burning coal. And Chlorophane from Amelia Court House, Virginia, long recognized as remarkably thermo luminescent, became, after exposure to UV rays, so sensitive it would glow green from the heat of one’s hand.

With all this background, one can say that Cobra Pearl is not formed inside the body of a snake.


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User Comments
  1. Joseph Parks

    On May 23, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    This is a really intriguing article. Great work my friend. I enjoyed this.

  2. monica55

    On May 23, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    This article makes a very informative read. I may have seen those stones before, but didn’t know the name. And I never knew that it was believed to be formed in the body of the snake, so your point about how the snake come into possession of it is very enlightening. Thanks for the read.

  3. neopisiva

    On May 23, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Interesting article,I must admit the headline caught my attention to it.

  4. Judy Sheldon

    On May 23, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Fascinating information about cobras.

  5. Raj the Tora

    On May 23, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    nice myth buster. No cobra has lived beyond 18-20 years in wild and 23 being the longest known record in captivity. So, it takes 6 generations to reach century! No other creature except humans are obsessed with gems or any stones. Pearls are made by oysters to avoid irritation caused by dirt and not to become filthy rich! Being excellently energy efficient inhabitants, no snake is stupid enough to waste its energy in carrying a stone which it can never use in life. It rather would love to grow another pair of fangs than create this stone! In fact one gang was unearthed and jailed a few years ago, for stitching stones inside cobra and trying to make millions of money by deception.

  6. The Silver Phoenix

    On May 23, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    this is possibly one of your best articles. it has everything in it. intensely and passionately written, this article, in my eyes, deserves to be on the top of the list. very well done. i really enjoyed it all and pictures were so colourful and awesome, a visual treat.

  7. Macherie

    On May 23, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    enjoyed this article.I didn’t know that there are these kinds of gems available.I bet this is quite costly as it is very rare.Another one of those things that mankind are waiting to exploit.

  8. mona rastogi

    On May 23, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    good post

  9. payaltyagi

    On May 24, 2011 at 12:43 am

    Good Article

  10. valli

    On May 24, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Interesting information about cobra pearl.

  11. Anuradha Ramkumar

    On May 24, 2011 at 1:55 am

    Very informative; I learnt a lot about nagamani from this post of yours.

  12. lian rosa

    On May 24, 2011 at 9:02 am

    I would agree that this article shares a very interesting information. This also sheds light on why Indian interpretation on dreaming about snake is not negative compared to others interpretation. Anyways, I would surely love to see the cobra gems.

  13. thresiapaulose

    On May 24, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Very excellent article my sister Uma. It will surely create wonderful ripples in Triond. Thank you.

  14. kanivel

    On May 24, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Wow! A ‘precious’ article, indeed!

  15. veera78

    On May 24, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Very interesting, but I wonder why they are so expensive if they are just pebbles. Is it because they are so rare?

  16. Pooja Says

    On May 25, 2011 at 1:28 am

    Ah the wonderous legend of ‘Nag Mani’. Refreshing read. :)

  17. geetarao07

    On May 25, 2011 at 7:08 am

    i got 2 read about this gem 4 the first time n enjoyed reading.

  18. Ruby Hawk

    On May 25, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Uma, this makes good reading and gives us lots of interesting information.

  19. Ebbin Jose

    On May 26, 2011 at 12:03 am

    This is a good study on Indian Hindu Mythology.

  20. The forgiver

    On May 27, 2011 at 12:11 am

    It actually made me wonder. I used to think that all this stuff is only mythological but now after reading about the scientific references attached in this article it became very clear to about what exactly the gem is and what its purpose is. Thank you very much for the information. I am sharing this article on my facebook account as it is really very interesting.
    Sincere regards,
    -The forgiver

  21. siriiiii

    On May 27, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Interesting info

  22. divya

    On May 28, 2011 at 3:11 am

    What about elephants carrying gems? That’s another myth. Anyway, the article was great. Snakes living exceptionally long and in the forests in earlier times might have made use of them. Entirely possible.

  23. Aruna

    On May 28, 2011 at 3:18 am

    I love the splash of colors of these stones. Who cares whether the cobra carries them or not?

  24. Jimmy Shilaho

    On May 29, 2011 at 2:12 am

    I do not know how I missed this impressive post. Even though the depth of your research convinces me somehow, I do lack the courage to move closer to any snake and find out, leave alone….Cobras!

  25. Cassle Tang

    On June 16, 2011 at 10:16 am

    I just know something like snake gem exist in this world. I’m very surprised! Your writings are very well-researched I think, no matter what kind of topic you write on. I should really learn from you! It’s so nice to find your works today.

  26. Rosettaartist1

    On July 2, 2011 at 3:18 am

    nice gems

  27. Allan

    On December 2, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Thanks for the article. At least it is now document I culture of getting the pearls from the snakes has always been common in Africa and some people actually sell the pearls. I personally have filmed a pearl being removed from a cobra. Don’t worry no harm came to the snake it was given its pearl back after my filming

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