This photograph was taken by me at Raani Ki Vav, Patan, Gujrat.
From what the guide told us, this sculpture is of a Naag Kanya or a Vish Kanya. Naag means a serpent and kanya means a daughter. So Naag Knaya means a serpent’s daughter. Vish means poison. The word Kanya also means a girl. So Vish Kanya means a poison girl.
In Indian mythology, Nag Kanyas are considered to be the most common friend and companion of the great god Vishnu.
A Vish Kanya is a girl who is supposedly poisonous and any bodily contact with her will result in instant death. Her blood and bodily fluids were poisonous to other humans. These poison girls were supposedly used in ancient India as assassins. They were typically young and beautiful maidens who were sent to seduce a rival king. Prime minister and an adviser to the first Maurya Emperor Chandragupta (c.340-293BCE) Chanakya, in his treatise on statecraft, Arthashatra mentions these poison girls.
Now this is something my granny would tell me. So I don’t if it is true or if it is just a folklore but I felt like sharing this. My granny told me that whenever a girl was born to a concubine, if that baby happened to be beautiful, she would be fed poison in very small quantities right from her childhood. Eventually her body would get used to the poison and would become immune to it. Right from childhood these girls and their beauty would be protected and preserved. They would be specially trained in the art of seduction. Also they were trained in various art forms like singing, dancing, playing musical instruments. They were also, to some extent trained in statecraft. Their’s would be a one way mission. A suicide mission.