While the cult of trees is widespread in India, it is only in the south of India and especially in Tamil Nadu that the visitor frequently sees the pipal tree, symbolically considered male, planted together with a neem tree so that the two will grow together, their trunks and branches intertwined as one. At the bottom of these trees are usually placed several reliefs of intertwined serpents, an image very similar to that of Hermes/Mercury's caduceus. It is also a common practice in Tamil Nadu to place at the bottom of an abandoned termite hill milk, eggs, and bananas to honor the serpent dwelling inside. These puttu or termite hills are sometimes transformed into little stone temples, and a sculpture of a goddess called “Puttu Amman” is placed on top of it. This article will attempt to explain the meaning of this popular cult and its possible connections with ancient mediterranean civilizations.

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