Short Story - Why Snakes Have Forked Tongues
Vinata, mother of Garuda, had been enslaved by the nagas after she had quarreled with their mother, Kadru. The nagas offered to release Vinata from servitude if Garuda brought them amrita (nectar of immortality) from the moon.
Garuda brought the nectar after overcoming numerous obstacles, battling even the gods in the process.
The nagas were delighted when he placed the pot containing the nectar before them. They let Vinata go and then they went to wash themselves before partaking of the ambrosia.
On their return they found the pot missing. Indra had taken it away. The nagas feverishly tried to lick up the drops of nectar that had fallen on the darbha grass on which the pot had been kept. They didn’t get much nectar, but the sharp blades of the grass slit their tongues. Snakes ever since have had forked tongues.
Fact File: Snakes smell with the help of their tongues and an organ of smell called Jacobson’s organ in the roof of the mouth. A forked tongue helps them smell better. Besides snakes, a few species of lizards too have forked tongues.