Basic Description: A
snake, especially the cobra, depicted as a mystical, semi-divine being with
a human face, the tail of a snake, and the raised head of a cobra. The name also applies to followers
of a snake cult widespread in India. Traces of these people can be found in the ancient history of the Indian subcontinent. Certain mountains bear their
name, and the Naga-Dvipa was one of the seven subdivisions of the ancient country
Bharatavasha (India). The Nagas were clearly not Hindus; they are though
to have been Scythes. Their name, which probably reflects their practice
of snake veneration, has been retained in such place names as Nagpur.
Alternate Names: the
Serpents, the Ever-moving, creeping creatures, those creeping on their chests,
those creeping on their shoulders, goat eaters
The legend of the nagas
appears to come from a mixture of elements, on one side the cult of serpents
considered as the genii of trees and rivers and, on the other, memories of non-Aryan
clans who worshipped serpents. Today the nagas are still worshipped as
deities in most villages of southern India. The serpent seems to have
been the totem of the ancient Dravidians, and until comparatively recent times
there were dynasties of kings who were pictured with a cobra's hood in eastern
and southern India.
They are represented
as half human, half serpent. Human face, the tail of a snake, and the
raised head of a cobra.
nagas are linked with the antigods. They are possessed of great courage
and are quick and violent. They are handsome and wear jewels, crowns,
and large earrings. The nagas have three kings, Vasuki, Taksaka, and Sesa.
The nagas are said to descend from Fragant, the fabulous cow, daughter
of the non-Aryan sage Vision. The nagas dwell in the underworld, the serpent
world, which is an immense domain crowded with palaces, houses, towers, and
pleasure gardens. The nagas also live on earth but dwell there in the
caves of inaccessible mountains. They also dwell under the sea.
The Hindu Pantheon. Los Angeles: Philosophical research society,
Thomas, P. Epics, Myths
and Legends of India. Bombay, India: D. B. Taraporevala Sons &
Co. Private Ltd, 1961.
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