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Naga (Skt. nāga; Tib. ཀླུ་, lu; Wyl. klu) — serpent spirits classified as one of the eight classes of gods and demons, or as animals or demi-gods. They live beneath the surface of the earth or in the water and are believed to be endowed with magical powers and wealth, as well as being responsible for certain types of illnesses (Wyl. klu’i nad) transmitted to humans. In Indian mythology they are preyed on by the garudas.

Virupaksha, the guardian king of the West, is the leader of the nagas.

Alternative Translations



The word Naga comes from the Sanskrit, and nag is still the word for snake, especially the cobra, in most of the languages of India. When we come upon the word in Buddhist writings, it is not always clear whether the term refers to a cobra, an elephant (perhaps this usage relates to its snake-like trunk, or the pachyderm's association with forest-dwelling peoples of north-eastern India called Nagas,) or even a Mysterious person of nobility. It is a term used for unseen beings associated with water and fluid energy, and also with persons having powerful animal-like qualities or conversely, an impressive animal with human qualities. How the inhabitants of Nagaland came to the World's attention during WW2.


In myths, legends, scripture and folklore, the category naga comprises all kinds of serpentine beings. Under this rubric are snakes, usually of the python kind (despite the fact that naga is usually taken literally to refer to a cobra,) deities of the primal ocean and of mountain springs; also spirits of earth and the realm beneath it, and finally, Dragons. In Indian mythology, Nagas are primarily serpent-beings living under the sea. However, {{Wiki|Varuna]], the Vedic God of storms, is viewed as the King of the Nagas, ie. Nagarajah. Here we see the king and queen of water Nagas worshipping Parshva, the Jain Tirthankara of the era before this one. All Nagas are considered the offspring of the Rishi or sage, Kasyapa, the son of Marichi. Kashyapa is said to have had by his twelve wives, other diverse progeny including reptiles, birds, and all sorts of living beings. They are denizens of the netherworld city called Bhogavati. It is believed that ant-hills mark its entrance. The naga -{{Wiki|Varuna]] connection is retained in Tibetan Buddhism, where {{Wiki|Varuna]], Lord of weather, is known as Apalala Nagarajah.

As a category of nature spirit:


"Nagas kLu are a class of beings (often snake-like in Form) that dwell in a variety of locations ranging from waterways and underground locations and also in unseen realms. These beings have their own perceptions and vary in their Enlightened level as do humans and other beings. Nagas are susceptible to Suffering created by mankind's carelessness and basic Ignorance of proper conduct in nature and disrespectful actions in relation to our environment. Therefore Nagas often retaliate towards humans when they behave in such ignorant manners. The expression of the Nagas' discontent and agitation can be felt as skin diseases, various calamities and so forth. Additionally, Nagas can bestow various types of Wealth, assure fertility of crops and the environment as well as decline these Blessings. For this reason the practice of Lu Sang has been developed or arises as a natural method to increase prosperity, and assist the Nagas by preserving the positive qualities of their natural environment." ~ Tsewang Ngodrup Rinpoche The Bodhisattva Manjushri, in wrathful Form, can appear as Nagaraksha (Tib: jam.pal lu'i drag.po).

Nagas and Water

Water symbolizes primordial Wisdom and in psychoanalysis, the storehouse that is the Unconscious Mind. However, to paraphrase Sigmund Freud commenting on the interpretation of symbols in Dreams, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." That is, the water in naga lore is really wet. In the Language of Kashmir, the word for "a spring" is naga and, in fact, Nagas are considered the earliest inhabitants of that region. In a sense this is borne out by geology since that valley was once "a vast span of water, similar to a huge dam, walled in by high mountains. The Nilamatapurana records how the valley was elevated out of water and left under the care of the Nagas, of whom Nila, the son of Kashyapa, was the chief." Kashmir is named after Kashyapa where "the term ‘naga’ stands for spring; 'chesmah,' and 'negin' for small spring. Springs are the main source of water in Kashmir." And "the auspicious and famous river of Kashmir, the Vitasta (Jhelum) originates from a spring near Verinag and is responsible for the water supply to most parts of the valley. The religious significance of the river is established by the Nilamata Purana Myth of the Indigo Goddess when it records the entire land of Kashmir as the material manifestation of Uma and describes her as the divine Form of the Vitasta."

"A large number of temples were built near springs and were dedicated to the worship of Nagas." and "These places have become great centres of religious pilgrimage. The place names of certain areas, e.g. Verinag, Anantnag and Seshanag even today remind one of the intimate relations between the valley and the popularity of the Naga cult. The Rajatarangini of Kalhana mentions Sushravas and Padma Nagas, who were tutelary deities connected with the Wular lake. The Dikpalas of Kashmir are believed to be four Nagas, viz. Bindusara in the east, Srimadaka in the south, Elapatra in the west and Uttarmansa in the north."

Many Kashmiri festivals relate to Naga worship, "for example during the first snowfall, Nila, the Lord of Nagas, is worshipped. The Nagas are also propitiated in April and are related to Iramanjari Puja and to {{Wiki|Varuna]] Panchmi, which is organised in July-August." And "in the darker half of the month of Jyeshtha, when a big festival is organised to propitiate the king Taksakyatra. The Nilamatapurana listed 527 Nagas that were worshipped in Kashmir. In the account of Abul Fazal, the court historian of Akbar, there are references to seven hundred places sacred to serpents." The {{Wiki|purana]] also points to the association of the cult of Nagas with that of Shiva. In the Mahabharata and Harivamsa texts, Shesha was considered the son of Shiva. A lesser relation was developed with regard to Vishnu as in his sheshashayi Form which links the primal waters with the sleeping Vishnu. Also, Balarama who is Krishna's elder brother is the personification of the snake, Ananta.

Kashmiri names such as Vishnasar and Krishnasar are Vaishnavite ones where the suffix sar means 'reservoir.' Even though Kashmir may be Muslim-dominated in contemporary times, a spring is "understood as naga and enjoys the respect of every Religion." "The prosperity goddess, Lakshmi, is said to have taken the Form of the river Visoka (now known as the Vishov) to purify the people of Kashmir. Most probably, treating springs and rivers with great reverence wittingly or unwittingly resulted in the ecological Balance necessary for a healthy and natural interaction between the environment and man." " . . . every naga has a snake as its guardian deity. Fishing is prohibited in these springs, though the fish which come out of the main garbha [den, lair] of a naga can be caught. Restrictions on fishing have definitely helped to some extent to preserve water ecology."


"Hindus still propitiate these Nagas. At Martanda Naga even srada is performed. Water is offered by Hindus to the Sun God and to their ancestors (purvaj). Before having darshan of the snow linga at Amarnatha a holy dip is essential in the Seshanaga. A person Suffering from a skin disease is said to be cured after having a bath in Gandhakanaga (sulphur spring) at Naghbal, Anantnag." "Muslims show their respect for these Nagas in many ways. They offer sacrifices and organise fairs on many festivals such as Id, [e]ven they do not catch fish in these Nagas. Their Faith in Nagas can further be established by an example from Anantnag district, where during days of water scarcity or extra rainfall, people offer sacrifices to the Vasuki Naga (the water of which remains in the valley during summer only and disappears in winter.) They have full Faith that offerings to Vasuki will bring rain or stop it as desired."

Naga Mythology

Vasuki [also Basuki,] the naga king, has the gem, Nagamani, on/in his head. It is a universal panacea [cure-all] and is a bestower of Fortune. Manasa Devi, the serpent goddess, is Vasuki's sister. She is mostly identified with the cobra, but she can cure any snakebite; indeed, any adversity. A popular Indian film shows Manasa coming to visit a man in his prison cell. She drinks his Offering of milk, then leaves, opening the cell for him on her way out. Now the maternal naga ancestor, Kadru, once enslaved Vinata, mother of birds. To ransom her, the Garuda stole amrita, the elixir of immortality, from the gods. Before the serpents could even have a taste, Indra stole it back again, however, a few drops of amrita fell to earth. The serpents slid through it which is why their skin now has the capacity of renewal. The grass upon which the nectar fell explains why serpents have forked tongues. Although they did not get to drink the amrita, the split in their tongues caused by the sharp-edged dharba [or, durva grass provided them a Blessing in disguise. According to Kurt Schwenk, ("Why snakes have forked tongues," Science vol. 263, 1994) the evolutionary success of advanced snakes is partly due to their special tongues. The forked tongue allows the snake to simultaneously sample two points along a chemical gradient, which is helpful in instantaneous assessment of trail location. It may also play a role in mating.

Naga and Fertility

Because of its shape and its association with renewal, the serpent is a phallic Symbol. This powerful emblem of fertility is Thought to bring plentiful harvests and many children -- images of Nagas adorn houses and shrines and temples. It is said that when a king once banned Snake worship, his kingdom suffered a drought, but the rains returned once the king himself placated Vasuki.

Role of the Naga in Buddhism

Nagas are said to have raised their hoods to protect The Buddha, and other jinas spiritual victors] like the Jain saint Parshva. However, at least 1500 years before Buddha Shakyamuni's Enlightenment when Ananta or Muchilinda with his many heads sheltered him, the mythic image of Nagas doing homage to a great yogi was well-known.