about Rama Hunting
The Ducks on the Pond
The ducks you see on the pond in front of Rama are Common Shelducks (Tadorna Tadorna Linnaeus). A strikingly handsome coloured duck with a distinctive red bill and pink legs, it can often be seen in the British Isles. It is a casual, uncommon visitor to India but can be quite plentiful in certain years. Both the birds in the picture are males; the female is considerably smaller and much duller coloured. The Common Shelduck feeds mostly on molluscs, crustaceans, insects and worms but occasionally eats algae, seeds, leaves and tubers of aquatic plants. It seems to prefer mudflats to water and therefore is found on large open lakes and rivers with mudspits and shingle banks. It is a gregarious bird liking to be within at least small parties. During our winter Shelduck fly south to warmer climates, mostly around the Mediterranean. The birds which reach India and Pakistan are more likely overwintering from northern Asia.
The Snake in the Tree
The snake in the picture is based upon the Emerald Pit Viper. I darkened the colours slightly so it would not assume greater prominence in the picture; its actual coloration is startlingly bright and would cause colour clashes with some of the more subdued tones.
The Pit Viper is a venomous snake. Its fangs are hinged so that they can be folded back into its mouth. Other venomous snakes have fixed fangs set at the front of their mouths, and a third group has smaller fangs set at the back of their mouths. Despite their reputation most snakes are harmless, only a small minority are venomous.
Snake venom is a special kind of saliva. It contains many ingredients and is not only used to immobilise its prey but also to aid the digestive process. Having no limbs a snake cannot break up its prey in the normal ways other animals utilise so it has to swallow the prey whole. To achieve this snakes have a complicated loose hinged lower haw made up of four bones. These allow them to expand their jaws so that very large prey can be swallowed. This is aided by their backward facing teeth which bar any escape. Because of their energy-saving way of life snakes can go for very long periods without food.
A Note on the Hindu Faith: The Cycle of Birth and Death
At the centre of the Hindu religion is a belief in re-incarnation. The human body grows old and dies. The spirit within lives on and is reborn in another form, either human or any other living thing. What form one is reborn into is governed by 'Karma', the law of deeds. If you have spent your life doing good things you will be reborn at a higher level, conversely if you have not lived up to the laws of Karma you will be reborn at a lower level.
The only way to break this cycle of birth and death is to attain 'Moksha'. This is a high peak of spiritual awareness, which can only be achieved by devoting your life to prayer, meditation or selflessly serving your fellow men. Moksha means 'release', the soul merges with the spirit that governs all (the World Soul or Brahman) and lives in a state of eternal bliss and perfect knowledge.
Although Moksha is the ultimate goal in the Hindu religion most believers are more interested in living a good, happy, hard-working life. Hinduism is a faith that allows different levels of commitment from different people.