SARPA DOSHA and SARPA BALI
The transit of Rahu-Ketu every one and a half years comes with anxious queries on astrological implications for one. Serpents have always been in our environment, particularly in rural life. The harm done by serpents to man or by man to serpent is a common occurrence. The harm done by man to serpents gets manifest as sarpa dosha.
Serpents signify earth as they take home under the earth in cool areas where water-veins are found and where trees are found. Water and trees are natural wealth that need to be taken good care of. Bur these sources are dotted with the habitat for snakes. In the science of detecting water veins, Varahamihira lists out the snakes to be spotted at certain depths to ascertain the amount of water and the taste of water. When man harms these natural sources voluntarily or involuntarily or uses these natural sources for his benefit, the habitat of snakes also gets affected. This is primarily how the curse of snakes takes place.
Another way of looking at sarpa dosha is that if the earth is harmed by digging for whatever cause, it hurts Adisesha who is bearing the earth all the time.
Adhisesha is a personification of the force that keeps the earth as a stable one in a stable path around the sun. Any slightest disturbance caused to earth by scratching or digging is a harm caused to earth or Adhisesha. That is why any digging activity must be preceded by a pooja or propitiation to the earth. When not done so, it also attracts sarpa dosha.
The harm done in earlier births to serpents or the earth comes back as the curse of snakes. This curse afflicts one's progeny, family life, health and riches.
Identification of sarpa dosha :
Prasna Marga, an astrological text, gives some tips on how to identify the sarpa dosha in the horoscope and how to get rid of it. We will not go into the details here.
Many different remedies are prescribed, the prime among them being the "sarpa bali" - "Whatever be the house occupied by Rahu – Ketu, it is better to worship them and do sarpa-bali (pooja to them or offerings to them)"
Other offerings include a gem called Chithra koota, milk and water, singing, service in a snake temple, planting trees etc.
The remedies for sarpa dosha are thus simple but they make sense. The universal remedy for sarpa dosha is offer of milk to the anthill or ground where snake-god is installed. This is symbolic of purifying the Mother earth by the pure and the life-giving food, that is milk.
The message of sarpa dosha is that man must become aware of the harm he is doing to the earth and the environment. Every time one spits on the earth or makes the ground unclean or digs the earth – though for an inevitable reason - without offering apologies for so doing by way of thoughts connected with a Pooja, one is inviting the curse of snakes.
Abuse of earth and dumping waste on usable areas of earth and waterways also invite the wrath of Earth by means of Sarpa dosha.
Wherever one is born or in whatever faith one is born, the sarpa dosha caused by his action needs to be remedied.
This is the context for the performance of "sarpa bali" on January 20 every year.