Indian Cobra

Indian Cobra

Spectacled cobra, Asian cobra, Binocellate cobra

Naja naja
Population size
Life Span
24 years
m ft 

The Indian cobra (Naja naja) is a large highly venomous snake and is a member of the "big four" species that inflict the most snakebites on humans in India. The Indian cobra is revered in Indian mythology and culture and is often seen with snake charmers.


These snakes vary tremendously in color and pattern throughout their range. The ventral scales or the underside coloration of this species can be grey, yellow, tan, brown, reddish, or black. Dorsal scales may have a hood mark or color patterns. Salt-and-pepper speckles, especially in adult specimens, are seen on the dorsal scales. Indian cobras can easily be identified by their relatively large and quite impressive hood, which they expand when threatened. Many specimens exhibit a hood mark. This hood mark is located at the rear of the Indian cobra's hood. When the hood mark is present, are two circular ocelli patterns connected by a curved line, evoking the image of spectacles.




Indian cobras are native to the Indian subcontinent and can be found throughout India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and southern Nepal. This species has been observed in Drosh, in the Chitral Valley, which means it may also occur in the Kabul River Valley in extreme eastern Afghanistan. Indian cobras inhabit a wide range of habitats throughout their geographical range. They can be found in dense or open forests, plains, agricultural lands (rice paddy fields, wheat crops), rocky terrain, and wetlands, and they can even be found in heavily populated urban areas, such as villages and city outskirts. Indian cobras are often found in the vicinity of water.

Indian Cobra habitat map

Climate zones

Indian Cobra habitat map
Indian Cobra
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Habits and Lifestyle

Little is known about the habits of Indian cobras. However, most cobras are generally solitary and diurnal creatures. Indian cobras find their shelter in holes in embankments, tree hollows, termite mounds, rock piles, and small mammal dens. When threatened, these snakes take the characteristic posture they are famous for. They raise the front of the body and expand their distinctive hood, which are resembled eyes-like hood marks. Indian cobras are one of the big four snakes of South Asia which are responsible for the majority of human deaths by snakebites in Asia. The venom of young cobras has been used as a substance of abuse in India, with cases of snake charmers being paid for providing bites from their snakes. Though this practice is now seen as outdated, symptoms of such abuse include loss of consciousness, euphoria, and sedation.

Seasonal behavior


The Indian cobra's venom mainly contains a powerful post-synaptic neurotoxin and cardiotoxin. The venom acts on the synaptic gaps of the nerves, thereby paralyzing muscles, and in severe bites leading to respiratory failure or cardiac arrest. The venom components include enzymes such as hyaluronidase that cause lysis and increase the spread of the venom. Envenomation symptoms may manifest between fifteen minutes and two hours following the bite. 0.45 mg/kg. Zedoary, a local spice with a reputation for being effective against snakebites, has shown promise in experiments testing its activity against cobra venom. As of November 2016, an antivenom is currently being developed by the Costa Rican Clodomiro Picado Institute, and the clinical trial phase is in Sri Lanka.

Diet and Nutrition

Indian cobras are carnivores and feed on rodents, frogs, and lizards.

Mating Habits

48-69 days
at birth
10-30 eggs

Indian cobras are oviparous and lay their eggs between the months of April and July. Females usually lay between 10 and 30 eggs in rat holes or termite mounds and will fiercely guard them during the incubation period until they hatch. The incubation period lasts around 48-69 days. The hatchlings measure between 20 and 30 cm (8 and 12 in) in length. They are independent from birth and have fully functional venom glands.


Population threats

Indian cobras used to have been hunted for their distinctive hood markings for the production of leather goods. This species is not considered endangered, however, it is now protected in India.

Ecological niche

Indian cobras are important in the ecosystem as they help to maintain the balance of prey species and control agricultural pests such as rats and mice.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • There are numerous myths about cobras in India. Rudyard Kipling's short story "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" features a pair of Indian cobras named Nag and Nagaina, the Hindi words for a male and female snake, respectively.
  • The Indian cobra is greatly respected and feared and even has its own place in Hindu mythology as a powerful deity. The Hindu god Shiva is often depicted with a cobra called Vasuki, coiled around his neck, symbolizing his mastery over "maya" or the world-illusion.
  • The Indian cobra's celebrity comes from its popularity as a Nipaie of choice for snake charmers. The cobra's dramatic threat posture makes for a unique spectacle, as it appears to sway to the tune of a snake charmer's flute. Snake charmers with their cobras in a wicker basket are a common sight in many parts of India only during the Nag Panchami or Naagula Chavithi festival. The cobra is deaf to the snake charmer's pipe but follows the visual cue of the moving pipe and it can sense the ground vibrations from the snake charmer's tapping. Sometimes, for the sake of safety, all the venom in the cobra's teeth is removed. The snake charmers sell the venom at a very high price.


1. Indian Cobra on Wikipedia -

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