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Snake god creates hysteria in Nepal!

A dead snake's curse is said to be causing dozens of school students to faint and scream in Nepal.

india Updated: Sep 07, 2006 12:55 IST

While psychologists explained it as mass hysteria triggered by fear and tension, an alarmed Nepal town began ritual worships to propitiate a dead snake whose curse was said to be causing dozens of school students to faint, weep and scream.

The Laxmi Secondary School in Lekhnath town in Kaski district, west of the capital city Kathmandu, presented a strange sight for two days in a row.

Students, mostly girls aged 14 to 17, began falling down in a dead faint, weeping loudly, kicking and screaming and making signs of extreme fear and distress.

The first fits began on Tuesday, when nearly two-dozen students displayed the symptoms. The alarmed school authorities and parents were nonplussed by the phenomenon and at a loss as to what to do.

Nearly two-dozen more students, including some boys as well, displayed the same bizarre behaviour on Wednesday as well, causing frantic parents to take their wards to the district hospital.

The principal of the school, Sribhadra Baral, decided to suspend classes for the rest of the week.

Shamans have been called to exorcise the slain snake's spirit before the school reopens Sunday.

Some teachers and local residents told visiting journalists, including private television channel Kantipur that the disturbance had been caused by the curse of a snake god.

Last month, the school authorities killed a snake found on the premises. According to local superstition, the snake was a deity that has been haunting the school to avenge its slaughter.

Some of the afflicted students said they had fainted after seeing a huge snake that was poised to bite them.

A Kathmandu-based psychologist, Saroj Ojha, discounted fears of an unknown affliction hitting the school, saying adolescents, especially those who were weak physically or mentally, often showed signs of hysteria when under any emotional trauma.

"There is no cause for alarm or taking them to the district hospital," Ojha told Kantipur. "They simply need to be counselled, which can be done in the school."

Cases of mass hysteria have been frequently reported in Nepal's schools. Besides being superstitious, a large number of school students are also under intense psychological pressure because of the Maoist insurgency.

The communist rebels are known to recruit students from schools or make them attend indoctrination sessions. In the past, schools often turned into battlegrounds between the guerrillas and security forces, making going to school a terrifying experience.

Forced migration, the killing of the family's bread earner or poverty often ends a student's school days abruptly, forcing him or her into employment. Girls are especially vulnerable to molestation and trafficking.

However, the social and scientific explanations have failed to convince some of the parents and teachers, who stoutly believe in the curse of the snake god.

Last month, Nepal celebrated Nag Panchami, the festival of the snake god, a festival that probably began due to deaths caused by snakebites and the unavailability of anti-venom serums in the villages.