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Mapping Eco-consciousness in Homen Borgohain’s Poem “The Snake”


Mapping Eco-consciousness in Homen Borgohain’s Poem “The Snake”

Krishnangee Baruah

M.A. (English)

Martin Luther Christian University

Shillong, Meghalaya, India


The lush topography and cultural diversity found in North-East India are adequately captured in the poem “The Snake” by Homen Borgohain using eloquent imageries and emotions. This research aims to investigate such themes of eco-consciousness in the poem. Borgohain not only captures the mysterious environment of their region, but also reveals about the natural rhythm of life, which means the presence of the thought of ‘death’ in the poem could portray the exquisite balance in ecosystems and at the same time he endeavors to generate an awareness of interconnectedness that exist between the natural ecology and the balance needed for sustenance of life. While the term “eco-consciousness” came to light in the 20th century, its core can be associated to deep historical origins within Indian literature, mainly in the literature of the North-East Indian region. While Indian classical literature shows some feeling for nature, the literature of the North-East has evolved in the warmth of nature.

Keywords: Eco-consciousness, Homen Borgohain, Northeast Poetry, Ecocriticism


Homen Borgohain,also known as the workhorse of Assamese literature, was a widely known writer, poet, novelist, critic, editor and journalist columnist from Assam, who breathed from 1932-2021. He is looked upon as a very significant and esteemed figure in Assamese literature. He achieved the Sahitya Akademi Award for his book “Pita Putra”. “The Snake” by Homen Borgohain, is a poem that uses eloquent imageries as they induce deep passion and emotions in the reader. It is set against the scene of an alluring but scorching night and dives into the complex desire and emotion of human beings. There’s the metaphor of a “dazzling golden snake” which is used in the poem that juxtaposes freedom and dazzle, beauty and death. In this poem, the contradictory entities of darkness, life and passion is symbolized by the “snake.” The spirit of north east literature is well captured in Borgohain’s poem where he employs vibrant imageries like “in a serpentine motion, floating in the river of night’s darkness” to speak of introspective themes like the region’s close association with nature and spirituality, which reflects the environmental panorama of North-East India. Serpents like snakes and rivers capture the spiritual significance of some of the indigenous beliefs of North-East, which also comprises of shamanism and animism.

This research paper studies the enigmatic stanzas of the poem “The Snake”. In this poem, the enthralling themes of environment, ecology and nature are woven together. As we dive deeper into the eco-conscious perspective, we analyze the symbolism of the dazzling snake, the darkness of night, as well as the golden silence. This paper seeks to reveal the ways in which these entities speak more about the graver connection that exist between the natural world and humanity. We will unveil how the poet digs into the way in which the subtle balance between flashiness and destruction goes with our contemporary comprehension about ecological awareness.

Nature often inspires writers across the globe and exposes its charm and power. Moreover, environmental challenges and issues that human beings face are also aptly showcased through the powerful means of literature. So, in order to face these ecological issues, the contemporary literary theory of Ecocriticism gained significant elevation in the 21st century. Ecocriticism is a wing of study that scoops into the way in which nature is depicted in literature, reflecting the subtle relationship that potentially exists between literary works and the natural world. Literary works that belongs to North-East India can possibly be divided into two main groups: indigenous literature and ecocriticism. Although the concept of having compassion for the natural world came into light in the 20thcentury, it has a deep-rooted relationship with Indian classical literature, especially with North-East literature. While Indian classical literature shows some feeling for nature, the literature of the North-East has evolved in the warmth of nature.

It is essential to admit the limitations that might affect our research. In spite of rigorous efforts, the identity of the translator, in case the poem has been translated, remains unknown. Nevertheless, this research possesses considerable significance as it digs into the theme of ecocriticism that’s present in the poem and by studying this, this research provides a significant awareness of the subtle interaction between environment and equilibrium, which could inspire people of the vital need to care and protect our shared ecology for the welfare and continuity of all living beings.

Thus, the poem “The Snake” by Homen Borgohain skillfully portrays significant eco-consciousness. The symbolic portrayal of both beauty and death by the eloquent imagery of “snake” mirrors a deep relationship between human emotions and nature, just like human experiences that are related to beauty and happiness could be intertwined with the inevitability of death. As we sail on this voyage of exploration, this paper also seeks to contextualize the theme of ecocriticism within the distinctive cultural and environmental scenario of North-East India, striving to generate considerable awareness of eco-consciousness and encourage people to introspect on their role in contributing to the ecological harmony of the natural world.


The primary methodology of research for the collection of data for this research paper is the library research method. In addition to this, this research paper uses comprehensive analysis of eco-consciousness present in the poem. The research involves a mixture of qualitative approach, literary analysis and contextual exploration. The data used in this study are extracted from trustworthy online sources, dissertations and scholarly journal articles that are appropriate for this study. The most important source of data for this research is the poem snake by Homen Borgohain. In this paper, the inherent aspects of the poem are studied by tracing eco-consciousness in it and a sincere attempt is made to unmask the poem’s symbolism, themes and imagery by carefully scrutinizing the poemand taking relevant notes about the same that could inspire a sense of eco-consciousness in the readers. This study also employs secondary data from various sources to answer the research questions.

Results and Discussions

Borgohain’s eminent poem “The Snake” significantly involves the theme of eco-consciousness within the backdrop of North-Eastern Literature, and in the section to come, we shall dig into the results of our comprehensive analysis of the same. We shall also understand the way in which the poem’s imageries and vivid symbols further highlights a larger essence of environmental consciousness.

“As if a dazzling snake…

Golden is whose colour, the cruel emotion of death is whose eyes.”

We can comprehend the symbol of “The Snake,” used in the above lines, as a means used by the poet to connect humanity to the natural world. The poet compares the snake to a dazzling, flashy and gorgeous yet dreadful entity that might give off some threat as well. It is possible for the snake to act as a symbol of the flora and fauna found in North-East. Moreover, it expresses that they are equivalent to the snake – which is so dazzling and flashy yet has a potential to be dangerous and dreadful. This further suggests that the environment in the North-Eastern part of India is so delicate and so it demands to be well maintained and that we should stay in harmony with it.

The poem juxtaposes ideas like life and death, darkness and amazement etc. It shows how various opposite entities are present together in the environment. It further reflects the beauty of the world and makes the area’s environment worth of appreciation. This is because it captures the true intricacies of the world and the balance that exist between the entities in the ecosystem as a whole. For example- In the place where the poet belongs to, i.e., Assam, the ecology comprises of both the opposite poles of life and death and darkness and amazement, the lush green vegetation of the region where animals live can symbolize “life” and the areas where the wild and ferocious live, that makes life challenging can symbolize “death.” In the same way “night” can symbolize darkness and mysteriousness because it’s difficult to see at night and that’s the time when everyone sleeps, but at the same time it can also symbolize wonder and fascination because certain sounds, fragrance and emotions can only be felt at night.

The poet pays significant attention to the features of his environment as he notices the different aspects and duality of nature. He also represents how people in his region value nature. We understand this because when a person takes notice of their environment and values its complexities, its more likely that they’ll care for it and be more responsible for it.

“In a serpentine motion, floating in the river of night’s darkness”

The movement of the snake is explained as a portion of the darkness of the night which portrays a deeper connection between the snake and ecology. It means that every element of the natural world is somehow connected and has an effect on one another. It further means that the snake isn’t doing everything in isolation, in fact, it’s functioning in harmony with the larger landscape of nature. For example, the night has a rhythm of its own and the snake’s movement in the night to that rhythm makes the it even more alive. This can even mean that every entity in the natural world has a worth and purpose in it.

The snake that’s floating in a river during a dark night symbolizing silence and wonder can also portray the region’s close relationship with nature and spirituality, which reflects the environmental panorama of North-East India. Serpents and rivers capture the spiritual and natural significance of some of the ethnic beliefs of North-East, which also aligns with shamanism and animism.For example: The shamans believe that one can connect themselves to the spiritual world via communicating with nature, and the serpent’s movement can be also seen as a symbol of such kinds of communication, which the shamans often seek for. Therefore, an essence of spirituality could be felt here where the nature becomes a channel for interacting with the higher power. Moreover, the North-Eastern rivers like Brahmaputra, Barak and various tributaries has deep cultural and spiritual aspects. Rivers play an important part in ceremonies and occasions, as ethnic communities of this place perceive the rivers to be sacred. This depiction also rolls on with the belief that environment and ecology has a special and sacred place in the hearts of the people of North-East.

“The way I love the mind, like tar the colour of whose body, a prostitute”

            The native people belonging to North-East India has a profound and practical relationship with the natural world in their region. One of the beliefs that the indigenous people hold is that spirits dwells in different entities of nature, like rivers, mountains and forests. This can be one of the reasons behind cultivation of a deep respect for the natural world in the hearts of indigenous people of North-East India. In addition to this, in the practical sense, the native people of this region foster great traditional environmental knowledge about their region’s ecosystem. They acquire this knowledge through a lineage of generations which is important for their sustainable use of the resources of nature. Whereas the rich biodiversity of North-East India has become a space prone to attack by the activities of human beings like coal mining, deforestation, habitat destruction etc. This has the potential to pose a threat to the region’s diverse ecosystems.

            In context of the above lines, the poet perhaps used the poetic device of ‘allegory,’ to reflect the contrast between native people’s deep connections with nature and harm posed by humans on the ecology. This could also reflect a duality in human actions: the deep-rooted respect that they have towards nature, and at the same time they also have the audacity to attack on the rich biodiversity of the region.

            “The way I love the mind” perhaps represents this tension which is mentioned in the above paragraph. It’s a conflicting feeling with regards to human consciousness, and in addition to this the poet is perhaps aware about the dual role of human beings. Also, the representation of the harmful on the area’s ecosystem through human activities like pollution could be represented by “tar” and “prostitute” might symbolize the exploitation or misuse of nature.


Thus, the poem highlights a strong bond between North-East India’s eco-cultural identity and the ecology. It might portray that the environment doesn’t just run in the background of humanity but also plays a significant role in the molding of a person’s psyche, beliefs and also in giving shape to their culture. In this poem, we also come across a complex balance between the glitter and wonders of nature and the harsh realities of nature as well. It is possible to understand it as an urgent requirement for eco-consciousness, in order to maintain the beautiful ecosystems and culture of the North-East India. When we pursue intense research on matters like eco-consciousness, we may embrace an intimate understanding of this complex cycle of human connections with the nature with respect to the eco-cultural aspect which significantly marks the people of a particular region like the North-East.


Works Cited

Buell, Lawrence. The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture. London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1995.

Chandra N. D., and Nigamananda Das. Ecology, Myth and Mystery: Contemporary Poetry in English from Northeast India. New Delhi, Sarup & Sons, 2007

Rueckert, William. Literature and Ecology: An Experiment in Ecocriticism.In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology, edited by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, The University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia, 1996

SARMA, ARABINDA NATH. The Assamese Scene: Neither Rosy, Nor Bleak.Indian Literature, vol. 30, no. 6 (122), 1987, pp. 25–32. JSTOR, Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

Borgohain, Homen. “The Snake Poem”. Poem Hunter,13 June 2012. The Snake - The Snake Poem by Homen Borgohain (