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In Rajasthan in India, locals know a snake called peevna in the local language. Many of my relatives live there in villages in open deserts. They see many kinds of snakes every day.

The word peevna is basically derived from the Hindi word peena, which is a verb meaning to drink. But in the case of this snake, the drinking being referred to is the process of inhaling the warm air from the nose or mouth of a sleeping man. Hence they call it peevna.

Locals describe this snake as follows:

It is afraid of light. It just sits on the waist of any sleeping human, and then it "drinks" the warm breaths. After the breath gives the snake some comfort, it releases the venom into the mouth of the human. Finally, it hits the man with it's tail and leaves. The man dies once the sun light falls on him if he is not treated.

A similar description of this snake is mentioned on many Hindi blogs. However, I can't trust these stories.

Given all that, what snake is it and is it and is it even possible that this snake behaves like this?

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closed as off-topic by WYSIWYG, David, Remi.b, Amory, iayork Sep 11 at 12:07

  • This question does not appear to be about biology within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Usually a snake attacks only when it is not provoked/threatened or if it wants to paralyze a prey for a meal (humans are unlikely to be thought of as meals by most snakes). In this site we ask and answer questions about biology and not bust folklores and myths. Hence your question is off-topic. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Sep 10 at 9:40
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    $\begingroup$ The folklore or myth could be real. Don't call it myth without proof. $\endgroup$ – Vikas Sep 10 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ *Usually a snake attacks only when it is provoked/threatened. You yourself said you cannot believe these stories. Stories without proper scientific basis are usually called myths or folklores (depending on how much they are believable). Your description of the snake does not fit any known behaviour of snakes. Moreover, most snake venoms are not lethal when taken orally. The hitting by tail and sunlight have no roles per se. You told a story with no scientific basis. You did not try to check even the most obvious facts and here you are telling me to prove that it is not a myth. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Sep 10 at 12:07
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    $\begingroup$ Your comment was written in such a way that you made it myth, which I don't have any problem with. The thing is I wanted it in an answer. The point of question is to know whether what I stated is TRUE or not. What I believe or think is a different thing. If you had written the comment as an answer, all things would have been cleared. Your comment was too intelligent for me to understand whether you called it myth or it is myth. Please don't comment if you can't explain for better understanding. $\endgroup$ – Vikas Sep 10 at 15:27
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This Times of India article mentions the name "peevna" in relation to the "saw-scaled viper".

According to Wikipedia, the genus Echis contains 12 species that are commonly referred to as a group as "saw-scaled vipers."

Of these, one clearly is found in India: Echis_carinatus (commonly called the "saw-scaled viper", "Indian saw-scaled viper", or "little Indian viper" in English.).

  • This same Wikipedia article provides common names in other languages, but the given common Hindi name on Wikipedia is not "peevna" but rather "aphai (अफई)." I'm not sure what to make of this discrepancy...

I have no idea if this is in fact the snake you're referencing. BUT, if E. carinatus IS your snake in question, Wikipedia provides the following info:

enter image description here

Source: Wikiedi

Habitat:

E. carinatus is found on a range of different substrates, including sand, rock, soft soil and in scrublands. Often found hiding under loose rocks. Specimens have also been found in Balochistan at altitudes of up to 1982 m.

Behavior

E. carinatus is mostly crepuscular and nocturnal, although there have been reports of activity during daylight hours.

  • This is likely where the "afraid of sunlight" part of your myth arose form. However, the Wikipedia article goes on to say that they have sometimes been found active during the day

Wikipedia goes on to say that they are a very aggressive species known for many snake bites, which again relates to the sinister behavior described in your story:

E. carinatus is one of the species responsible for causing the most snakebite cases due to their inconspicuous and extremely aggressive nature. Its characteristic pose, a double coil with a figure of eight, with the head poised in the center, permits it to lash out like a released spring.

  • Wikipedia also points out that bites are fatal ~20% of the time, which I assume would be even higher in smaller villages with limited medical response capabilities.

Finally, Wikipedia points out that they move primarily via sidewinding, which in a way could be construed as flicking its tail aggressively when it moves away. This might be where the tail-hitting comes from in your description.

As for the "drinking" of breaths?...

I haven't figured out what that would be due to. My best guess is that (unsurprisingly) this snake can't handle cold weather and is known to hibernate. Perhaps the warm breath comments are relating back to its need to warm up (after hibernation??). Who knows.

This is the best I've got for you.

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