11th SEPTEMBER 2015 VASUKI – SNAKE KING

The Curse of Kadru

BY: SUN STAFF

Feb 11, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — Kadru, the daughter of Daksha and the wife of Kashyapa, is described in the Vedas as being the ancestral mother of the Nagas (snakes). In the Varaha Purana, the sage Mahatapa explains that the line of the Nagas originated with Kadru, with along with Kashyapa had numerous progeny, most notably Vasuki, Anant, Kambal, Karkotak, Padma, Mahapadma, Shankh, and Kulik, among others. When the Nagas began tormenting the human beings, Lord Brahma cursed them with annihilation during the Swayambhuva manvantar, due to the curse of their own mother, Kadru.

The serpents became terrified and promised to remediate their offensive activities. Begging Lord Brahma to give them a place to live in, he instructed them to go to three different netherworlds: Sutal, Vital and Patal. He also warned them that during Vaivaswat manvantar, Janamejaya would perform a grand yagya with the objective of destroying all of the demoniac among them, with only the virtuous Nagas surviving. The yajya of Janmejay took place on Panchami, which became known as the destroyer of all sins. Devotee who worship the Nagas offer them milk on this day.

Kashyap Rishi’s Queens, Kadru and Vanita
Vasuki Naga Temple, Kashmir

Kadru’s Wager

Kadru once made a wager with her sister Vinata, the stakes being that the loser would be enslaved to the winner. Eager to secure victory, Kadru attempted to fix the bet by requesting the cooperation of her Naga offspring. When her children balked at the request, Kadru grew angry and fulfilling the curse of Lord Brahma, she cursed her progeny to die a fiery death in the snake-sacrifice of King Janamejaya.

King Janamejaya was the son of Pariksit, who was Abhimanyu’s son. Abhimanyu was the son of Arjuna and Subhadra, and Sri Krishna’s nephew. Since Arjuna was Yudhisthira’s brother, Janamejaya was also the great-grandson of Yudhisthira.

Being aware of the curse made against them by mother Kadru, Vasuki, the king of the snakes, understood that his brethren would need protection. He therefore approached the renowned ascetic Jaratkaru with a proposal of marriage to the snake-goddess, Manasa, Vasuki’s own sister. Out of this union of Jaratkaru and Manasa was born Astika, known as “a son of the splendor of a celestial child,” and it was he who became the savior of the Nagas.

In the Twelfth Chapter, Second Skandha of the Srimad Devi Bhagavatam is described the pastime of the birth of Astika, protector of the Nagas. The Devi Bhagavatam is one of the Upapuranas, being comprised of 18,000 verses from Veda Vyasa glorifying the Devi (goddess).

In accordance with Kadru’s curse, Janamejaya prepared a snake sacrifice, which is described in the Puranas. He erected a sacrificial platform and hired brahmans and others trained to conduct the yajnic rites. Following the proper form, the priests lit the sacrificial fire, duly fed it with clarified butter. Uttering the required mantras, they began calling the names of Nagas. The potency of the rite was such that the Nagas were summoned by name into the fire, in which they were mortally consumed.

As the sacrifice continued and countless Nagas lost their lives to the fire, Astika came to the rescue less the entire race be lost. He approached Janamejaya and praised the sacrifice in such eloquent terms that the King offered to grant him a boon of his choosing. Astika promptly requested that the sacrifice be terminated. Though initially regretful of his offer, Janamejaya was true to his word, and thus brought the sacrifice of the Nagas to an end.
The Revenge of Janamejaya on the Nagas

The Mahabharata further describes the reasons for King Janamejaya’s inclination to take revenge on the Nagas. Janamejaya ascended to the throne of Hastinapura upon the death of his father, King Pariksit, the lone descendant of the House of Pandu. King Pariksit had died of snakebite due to a curse by a sage, which was consummated by the Naga leader, Takshak. Consequently, Janamejaya held a deep grudge against the serpents for this act, and was intent on wiping them out altogether.

Just as Janamejaya was about to begin the Sarpa satra sacrifice, Vyasa arrived with a host of other rishis. The sages told Janamejaya that to avenge himself on all Nagas, for the action of one, who was after all consummating a curse, would be unrighteous and an act not worthy of one descended from the Pandavas themselves. To satisfy Janamejaya’s wish to know more about the pastimes of his forefathers, Vyasa’s disciple Vaishampayana narrated the Mahabharata, right at the spot where the homa was to be held.

The fire yajna was started on the banks of the River Arind at Bardan, now known as Parham (a corrupted form of ‘Parikshitgarh’). A masonry tank said to have been built by King Janamejaya to mark the site of the sacrificial pit, known as Pariksit Kund, still exists there in Mainpuri district. Close to the village are the ruins of a fort and other artifacts which date back to the time of Emperor Pariksit.

Nagas

and Nagarajas, Naginis in Hindu and non-Hindu mythologies in a more concise focus (for people who have more time)

I set up a new website at http://www.manasadevi.net/and I am happy to announce this.

On February 21, 2013, my necklace of Lord Ganesh miraculously fell on the ground when I was leaving my director at my workplace here. I took it up from the ground and, to my amazement, the silver chain was not broken, neither was it released. I put the intact chainover my head back as if nothing happened. The picture of the chain shows the image on the right. It is not possible that, as you see on the picture, such a chain would suddenly fall down on the ground without being broken or without its fixing mechanism being released. And finding a half-meter white snake (White Cobra?) trail at my home on the carpet in 2011 is a definite clue for me that I should continue with my devotion to Manasa and the Nagas, although I do not belong to the mainstream. Some of my paranormal experiences are described here – the above paranormal experience with Lord Ganesh happened on Jaya Ekadashi. The importance of Jaya Ekadashi was narrated to Yudhishtira by Lord Krishna and is found in the Padma Purana and the Bhavisyothara Purana. On this day, both Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva are worshipped.

Of the celestial Naga snakes I am Ananta.
(Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 10, verse 29)

The word “nag” (or nagaa) is used even today in most Indian languages (it means the cobra).

Manasa Devi is worshipped with the following mantra:

O DeviAmba Ma Hona ShashaDharVandana CharuKanti Badanya
Dansarurasundara SulalitNayana Sevita SiddhiKameh
Rupe Rasya Manditandago KanakManiGaneh NagRatneRanekeh
Bandeh Sashtananga Darukuchyugla Bhogini Kamrupa

OR

Om Hreem Shreem Kleem Aim Manasa Devyai Swaha

The Rig Veda Brahmana mentions “Serpent Queen” – The serpent queen is this (earth), for this (earth) is the queen of what creeps…The above text is available at the following link.

Although it is not clear whether Rig Veda speaks directly of Manasa or not, one thing is sure – the snake cult is one of the oldest in the world.

Naga is the Sanskrit word for a deity or a class of mythological beings found in Hinduism and Buddhism. They dwell in underground premises of our Earth. There are legends about Nagas in the folklore of present tribal Hindus of Southern India (Adivasis) and the aboriginals of Australia. In these legends, the Nagas inhabited a big continent that existed somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. It sank and the remnants of it formed the Indonesian archipelago and Australia. These Nagas are said to have developed a subterranean civilization technologically much more advanced than ours and they are thought to possess superhuman powers. In a Cambodian legend, the Nagas were a reptilian race of beings who possessed a large empire or kingdom in the Pacific Ocean region. The seven-headed Naga serpents depicted as statues on Cambodian temples such as Angkor Wat possibly represent the seven races within the Naga society.

I made a new version of FreeBSD distribution – MaheshaBSD-2.0. Manasa Devi, snake Goddess, is its logo.

You may donate to this project.

Nagas are so called “snake people”. They are mentioned in many Hindu texts. Arjuna married a Naga princess Ulupi (source: Bhagavadgita) and there is also a Tamil text Kanzul Karamat, which describes one Muslim saint as he was captured and transported in Sri Lanka’s Kataragama to a subterranean palace where he received a mysterious robe.

There is a Naga Purana, or Nilamata Purana, which has its origin in Kashmir.

The chief of the Nagas is Varuna, a Vedic god. A female Naga is called Nagini. King of the Nagas is Vasuki. The difference between Varuna and Vasuki is that Varuna may not always be necessarily solely associated with all the matters of the Nagas. Vasuki himself is a serpent and Varuna is not. Vasuki’s sister is Manasa Devi.

In Sanatana Dharma you may also come across a supernatural expansion of Lord Vishnu called Shesha. Vishnu once assumed a form of the gigantic divine snake with thousands of heads.

The underground kingdom (of the Nagas) describe, for example, the Puranas – one such a story is related to Lord Vishnu’s Vamana, or “dwarf incarnation”, which occurred in Treta Yuga (the second age) – much earlier than the events described in the Ramayana. Lord Vishnu appears to king Mahabali. Mahabali was king of the Indian region (formerly kingdom) presently known as Kerala (a state in south India bordering with Tamil Nadu), who stands behind the most popular legend here – the Onam legend, which has over many years transformed into the festival celebrating the return of King Mahabali from the underground to Kerala every year (it is believed that Mahabali visits Kerala for a short time to see if his people are doing well). Read how Lord Vishnu tested this king.

Manasa Devi

Manasa Devi is Hindu cobra (snake) Goddess, Queen of the Nagas. She is believed to be the daughter of LordShiva. The story of Her birth starts when Lord Shiva was sexually aroused on the banks of the Kalidaha pool, a pond in West Bengal in the town called Rajnagar. It is dedicated to Goddess Kali. Manasa Devi is associated with a very rich merchant (Chand Saudagar). Other stories say that She is the daughter of sage Kashyapa and Kadru. She is worshipped mainly in Bengal and in northeastern India, chiefly for the prevention and cure of snakebites, but also for fertility and prosperity.

The Manasa’s vahana (vehicle) is either the swan or the snake. The Sij plant(Euphorbia Hguhria called Sehund or Sij in Hindi), of the cactus family, is sacred to Manasa, as it can cure poisons. Astika, an ancient Hindu rishi (sage), is the Manasa’s son that She conceived with Jaratkaru.

The Bengali historian Dineshchandra Sen (1866-1939) brought a few important aspects of the Manasa worship to the notice in his book entitled History of Bengali Language and Literature. This excellent book is available for free in thearchive.org archive here.

A beautiful song dedicated to Manasa Devi.

Neta Devi (and Manasa Devi continued)

Neta Devi is tightly related to Manasa Devi and both these (snake) goddesses are mentioned in a few Indian Puranas and in other sources as well. One of the sources (that will point you to a number of references), too, is the book entitledMyths of the Hindus & Buddhists by Sister Nivedita. Neta Devi (eye) and Manasa Devi (moon) are both related to a woman known as Behula. Behula was an archetypal Bengali woman full of love. She was the daughter-in-law of Chand Saudagar (mentioned above) who denied worshiping Manasa Devi. According to an Indian myth, two beautiful apsaras, Usha and Aniruddha, were tricked byManasa Devi and Neta Devi, and these two apsaras thus went to earth to be born as mortals – one as the Chand’s seventh son Lakhinder and the other one as his (Lakhinder’s) wife Behula. With their tricky plan they (Manasa and Neta) already made the six Chand’s sons die of snakebite (because he refused to worship them).

Manasa Devi was born out of the Lord Shiva’s semen when Lord Shiva was aroused to passion and dropped His semen on a lotus flower, Padma in Sanskrit (however, other sources say that Her father was Kasyapa). Manasa therefore claimed the same right to be worshiped as Lord Ganesh and Lord Skanda(Murugan), but Parvati did not like this. She (Manasa Devi) therefore had many quarrels with Parvati. Lord Shiva finally took Manasa Devi to a deserted place and created a companion Neta for Her from His tears. Thus, Manasa Devi and Neta Devi are sisters and both are very important.

When Chand finally yielded and started offering a flower to Manasa with his left hand (and without looking at Her idol in fear that he would displease Shiva), this made Manasa Devi so happy that She resurrected all of the Chand’s sons and restored the Chand’s fortunes.

The symbol of Manasa Devi is the sun rising over the half moon, but the half moon with the sun wedged into the half moon (not separated from it) – the symbol that looks exactly like an eye (you may see it in temples in India and in other places where Manasa Devi has Her devotees). Manasa Devi is often called “the one-eyed goddess”, as Parvati burned one of Her eyes. The Sanskrit word “manasa” is also tightly related to the word Manasarovar (derived from the two words: “mana” and “sarovara” – lake, but also the name Manasa Sarovara is used), the lake at the foot of Mt Kailash, the holiest mountain of Shaivism, Bön, Jainism, and Buddhism.

I am sorry to say that there is not much information about Neta Devi. But if you pray to Manasa Devi, I would also suggest praying to Neta Devi.

Manasa Devi is mentioned in the Puranas and also in the Manasamangal Kavya – a poem that belongs to Mangal-Kavya, a group of Bengali (Hindu) religious texts (poems) composed sometimes after the 12th century and later. Manasamangal Kavya is the oldest of them. Some texts dedicated to celebration of Manasa Devi are also taken from the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, the origin of which is tightly associated with the region of Bengal (where the worship of Manasa Devi has been in vogue for many years). The said texts are taken from the second part of the Brahma Vaivarta Purana called Prakriti khanda, which deals with goddesses (Shaktis – the manifestations of Prakriti, the basic nature of intelligence on which the universe stands; Prakriti khanda celebrates the greatness of Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Savitri in the creation of the world). These texts are used also for purposes of celebrating Manasa Devi. During the Manasa puja ceremony people bath the statues of Manasa Devi with milk and recite the hymns taken from Prakriti khanda. Poems that people dedicated to Manasa Devi are known asManasa Mangal in Bengal.

In Chapter 38 (Book 9) of the Devi Bhagavatam Purana it is written: “You should worship Manasa Devi, the giver of all siddhis, on the Samkranti day (when the Sun enters another sign) in every year;” here I can say that also this is the reason why the worship of Manasa Devi is based on the moon calendar. The Naga deities are traditionally associated with number 5, so worshipping them requires a devotee to dedicate milk/prayer either on Friday (fifth day of the week), or on the fifth lunar day.

Chapter 48 of the Book 9 (Devi Bhagavatam Purana) says: “Now the radical mantra as stated in the Vedas is ‘Om Hrim Shrim Klim Aim Manasa Devyai Svaha‘. Repetition of this, five lakhs of times, yields success to one who repeats.

In the Book 9 of the Devi Bhagavatam Purana, Chapter 1, the following text is written (starting with verse 71): “Then comes the Manasa Devi, the daughter of Kasyapa. She is the dear disciple of Shankara (Lord Shiva) and is therefore very learned in matters of Shastras. She is the daughter of Ananta Deva, the Lord of Snakes and is very much respected by all the Nagas. She Herself is very beautiful, the Lady of the Nagas, the mother of the Nagas and is carried by them. She is decorated with ornaments of the Snakes; She is respected by the Nagendras (Lords of Snakes) and She sleeps on the bed of Snakes.

In Chapter 48 (Book 9) of the Devi Bhagavatam Purana it is written: “I meditate on the Devi Manasa, whose color is fair like that of the white champaka flower, whose body is decked all over with jewel ornaments, whose clothing is purified by fire, whose sacred thread is the Nagas (serpents), who is full of wisdom, who is the foremost of great Jnanins, who is the presiding deity of the Siddhas, who Herself is a Siddha and who bestows Siddhis to all.

The Vedas, too, contain a reference to the Nagas (snakes), for example, the Sama Veda (4.6.13, Sukta 13 – Charm against Snake Poison) says: “I have surrounded the race of the serpents.

Nag Panchami

Nag Panchami is a festival for celebration of the Nagas (both deities and cobras) on the fifth day after Amavasya of the month of Shraavana (beginning in late July and ending in the third week of August).

Nagini

Nagini is the word used to call the female counterparts of deities called “snake deities” in Hinduism.

Khodiyar Maa

The story of Khodiyar Maa started in around 700 AD and begins with a childless man – Mamaniya Gadhvi, who had a superb relationship with the then ruler – Maharaj Shilbhadra. The ruler’s ministers envied this exceptional relationship and prepared a way to get rid of Mamaniya Gadhvi. They were not very successful to persuade the ruler, but they succeeded in persuading the ruler’s wife (queen). One day the ruler’s doorkeepers did not allow him to enter the palace. Mamaniya asked why. He was told that a childless man is not worth of the king’s presence. Mamaniya returned home and asked Lord Shiva for help. WhenLord Shiva did not appear, he decided to give his life away as a final sacrifice. Just when he was about to end his life, Lord Shiva appeared and took him to the Snake KingdomNaglok (or Naga Loka) to see the King of Snakes – Nagdev. After hearing his story full of humiliation, the Nagdev’s daughters decided to help him.

The picture of Khodiyar Maa is copyrighted and taken from http://www.flickr.com (search for the key word “Khodiyar Maa” to see more pics).

When Mamaniya returned home, together with his wife, as advised by the Nagdev’s daughters, he prepared eight cradles in expectation of a great event. One day eight snakes crawled into his house and Mamaniya had suddenly seven daughtersand one son. One of the daughters was Khodiyar Maa. After showing many miraculous powers, people consider her to be goddess and she has temples and shrines too. Her vehicle is crocodile and she has many other names such asKhodal, Trishuldhari, Maavdi

Vasuki

Vasuki is King of the Nagas. Manasa and Neta are his two sisters.

Colors, numbers, mantras, and symbols

Eight (8) is the token number of Naga. The color of Manasa and Neta is pearl white; that of Taksaka is glistening red. Nagas have five colors: 1) white (Vasuki, Mahapadma, Manasa, Neta), 2) red (Taksaka, Kulika), 3) black (Karkotaka), 4) rosy color of the lotus (Padma), 5) yellow, it is the Sankhapala’s color.

According to Indian astrology, the God of the fifth date is snake. This is why the number 5 is very important for the Nagas, but also for Lord Shiva. Nagas are therefore considered to be the Lord Shiva’s gems.

To summon the Serpent Lord, chant the following mantras:
Om Nagadevathaya Vidhmahe
Jwala Malaya Dhimahi
Tanno Ananda Prachodayat

The mantras for the eight (8) snake power jewels are (the vowels like “aa” are pronounced with accent like in the English word “are”)
Om Puuh Anantamukhii Swaahaa
Om Puuh Karkodamukhii Swaahaa
Om Puuh Padminii Swaahaa (Padmavati)
Om KaalaJiihvaa Puuh Swaahaa
Om Mahaapadminii Swaahaa
Om Vaasukiimukhii Swaahaa
Om Hum Hum Puurvabhuupamukhii Swaahaa
Om Shankhni Vaayumukhii Hum Hum

Nagarajas and Naginis in Hindu and non-Hindu mythologies in a more concise focus (for people who have more time)

Does the underworld really exist?

1)
In the middle of the last century an American ufologist George Wight tried to explore the caves and underground realms of our Earth. He believed that there are not only civilizations in the universe, but also bellow our surface. With a little group of enthusiasts he started exploring various caverns until they finally found something really amazing under the surface in the US state of Arkansas. George Wight got into contact with this subterranean civilization and later all evidence and records of him ever existing in the upper world (on the surface) began to mysteriously disappear.

2)
In Slovakia we have a captivating story about a mysterious moon shaft that Antonin Horak described. His article first appeared in a speleological newsletter in USA (in March 1965) where he emigrated after World War II. Mr. Horak had joined the local (Czechoslovak) anti-Nazi movement in World War II and when German soldiers wounded him on one unfortunate day, he hid himself in a nearby village where a man took him into a cave near Zdiar. Mr. Horak spotted there a rock-cut (nearly) vertical tunnel of a crescent-moon shape with no ending. Jacques Bergier, a famous French mystery writer, described the Horak’s finding as one of the biggest miracles waiting for its discovery.

3)
A famous British explorer, Percy Fawcett, reported that in the Brazilian jungle of the Matto Grosso region there had been noticed “eternal lights”, which – as the local Indians say – have burnt continually here for many years. Percy Fawcett was a proponent of the mythological Atlantis and he disappeared here. Some people say that he went into this subterranean world.

4)
Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd, Jr., was a famous US naval officer and his secret diary reveals notes on entering the hollow earth interior: We have let you enter here because you are of noble character and well-known on the Surface World, Admiral. His diary also contains notes on seeing UFO’s with swastikas on them: They are closing rapidly alongside! They are disc-shaped and have a radiant quality to them. They are close enough now to see the markings on them. It is a type of Swastika!!!

Nagas (also called Sarpas) and Agartha in the Hindu mythology

Lord Shiva always wears cobras as decoration around His neck. Snakes symbolize power and fear. The theriomorphic (human-animal) forms of Nagas can be traced back to the times of the Indus Valley civilization (2500-1800 B.C.). Nagas are almost always associated with Lord Shiva and therefore most of their images are found inside Shiva temples. The snake worship (ophiolatry) is an ancient cult that has been practiced all over the world and not only by the Indians. Naga is a Sanskrit word for cobra. In the Hindu mythology, the venom of a Naga or Nagini, albeit deadly, also carries the elixir of immortality.

The Agni Purana says (Part 8, Geography, Astrology and Time Cycles): “Under the earth is the underworld. This too, consists of seven regions and their names are Aata, Vilata, Sutala, Taketala, Mahatala, Rasatala and Patala.”

The Supreme Naga is Shesha, the couch of Lord Vishnu; also known as Ananta, he represents the eternity.

The Mahabharata mentions Nagas as sons of Kadru and Kasyapa. Only the parenthood of Manasa (Queen of Cobras) is disputable. Some stories say that She was the daughter of Lord Shiva.

Nilamata Purana is a Naga Purana dedicated to the region of Kashmir. Nila, King of the Nagas of Kashmir, is described here.

Mayashilpa (an ancient text, part of Shilpa Shastras, a group of Hindu texts describing manual arts) specifies the Seven Great Nagas: Vasuki (sometimes also spelled as Basaki), Takshak, Karkotak, Padam (also spelled as Padma), Mahapadam (also spelled as Mahapadma), Sankhpaul (also spelled as Sankhapala), and Kulika.

The Hindus know the Hollow Earth or Agartha as Patala. In the Markandeya Purana (Canto XXIII – Kuvalayasva’s visit to Patala) it is written: “And drawing him thence, they led the prince to Patala; and in Patala he beheld them both as young Nagas, lustrous with the gems in their hoods, displaying the svastika marks.”

Five most important Nagas

All Great (Maha) Nagas are brothers, Shesha being the eldest of them.

Ananta or Shesha is King of all Nagas; according to the Bhagavata Purana, he is the very Avatar of Supreme God.

Vasuki is the ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and one of the Naga Rajas (Kings of Nagas).

Takshaka or Taxak is mentioned in the Mahabharata (Book 1, Adi Parva, Paushya Parva, Section III.): “Uttanka replied, ‘Sir, Taksaka, the Naga king, disturbed my work, and I had to go to the land of the Nagas.'”

Karkotaka is a powerful Naga king with immense magical powers.

Pingala is related to a mythological story of “Four Great Treasures”.

Eight most important Nagas

Hindu Puranas also describe “eight great snakes” or “Ashtanagas”; the following three Nagas, if added to the above-mentioned list, will make the number eight: Padma, Mahapadma, and Kulika.

Mother Goddess as Snake

Karumariamman, depicted with a five-headed cobra rising above Her crown, is the main south Indian Mother Goddess worshipped predominantly in rural areas of south Asia. She is not a Nagini (a female Naga), but the primordial form of Durga (Mother Divine) that took Her first form as a cobra. Also known as Mari, Maariamma, Amman, she is closely associated with the Hindu goddesses Parvati (Durga). Striking is the phonetic resemblance of Her name Mari to Christian Mary (the mother of Jesus).

Surasa and Naga Mata are alternative names for Snake Mother (Mother Goddess in the form of a cobra).

Hindu Snake Festivals

Nag Panchami is a snake festival celebrated once a year by the Hindus (in the summer). The following five Nagas are worshipped on this auspicious day: Ananta, Vasuki, Taxak, Karkotaka, and Pingala. However, the Hindus may choose other Naga deities in place of the above ones in accordance with their local traditions (for example, Manasa appears among the Nagas worshipped on Nag Panchami).

Naga Chaturthi Osha is a fasting observed by women in Orissa (a state in India) on the 14th day of the bright fortnight of Kartik (September-October).

Other Nagas

The term Nagas also refers to a historical warrior caste of India and some scholars say that this caste used cobra hoods as part of their attire.

Gogaji is a folk deity of Rajasthan (India). He is a warrior-hero of the region venerated as snake god.

Iggutappa, god of snakes, is an incarnation of Lord Subramani (Lord Murugan-Skanda, the younger son of Lord Shiva).

Kaliya was a poisonous and angry Naga living in the Yamuna River.

Ketu is the body of Rahu; they form a head and a tail of one Naga.

Naagarajavu (god of snakes) is adored in Chenkara, a small village in Alappuzha, India.

Nagaraja is a combination of two Sanskrit words – Naga (cobra) and Raja (king). A few great Nagas are Nagarajas – for example, Vasuki, Takshak, and Ananta. The term Nagaraja also refers collectively to all these three snake gods.

Naka tampiran is a common snake deity in many south Indian villages.

Sri Kalahasti represents the three staunch devotees of Lord Shiva: the Spider, the Serpent, and the Elephant.

Asvasena Naga was the son of Takshaka; he lived in the Khandava Forest (an ancient forest mentioned in the epic Mahabharata).

Naginis (female Nagas)

Kadru was the Hindu ancestral Mother of snakes who had a sister Vinata. She is also called the one-eyed goddess like Manasa. She is Sarpamatar, or “Mother of Serpents.” Both Kadru and Manasa have sisters and both also have the name “one-eyed goddess” (see Manasa bellow to learn why the term “one-eyed” is used for this deity).

Manasa, also known as Padmavati (the one that possesses the lotus) or Vishahara (the destroyer of poison), is Hindu Queen of the underworld (analogical to Greek goddess Persephone). She is the sister of Vasuki. Manasa is called the “one-eyed” goddess because Parvati burned one of Her eyes. The reason for doing this was that Parvati was jealous of Manasa.

Neta Devi is the Manasa Devi’s sister.

More information about the picture on the right is here.

Ulupi, Naga princess, was the Arjuna’s wife; they had a son Iravat.

Pearls of Nagas

Naga Mani is a term used for “cobra pearls”; they appear in many colors and have also references within sacred Hindu texts. Some of them, especially in the night, radiate a magic effulgence.

Snakes in mythologies outside India

Snakes were regularly regarded as guardians of the underworld, the messengers between the upper and lower worlds. The Gorgons in the Greek mythology were snake-women whose gaze would turn flesh into stone; the most famous of them was Medusa (with snakes in place of her hair).

America

Ayida-Weddo is a Haitian rainbow snake goddess.

Gukumatz (Kiche Maya) is a feathered snake god and creator.

Kukulkan (“Feathered Serpent”) is the name of an important South American snake deity. The depiction of a feathered serpent divinity is present in other cultures of Mesoamerica. Kukulkan is closely related to Gukumatz of the Kiche Maya and to Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs.

Zombi is the name of a snake deity in some cults of West African Vodun and Haitian Voodoo.

Japan

Mizuchi is a Japanese serpent-like creature.

Yato-no-kami are snake deities in the Japanese folklore.

China

Bashe is a python-like Chinese mythological giant snake that ate elephants.

Gong Gong is a Chinese water god (a sea monster) that resembles a serpent or dragon.

White Snake is a serpent referred to in an old Chinese legend.

Xiangliu is a nine-headed snake monster in the Chinese mythology.

Zhulong is a giant red draconic solar deity in the Chinese mythology. It had a human face and a snake body.

Africa

Mamlambo is a deity in the South African and Zulu mythology described as a large snake-like creature. Mamlambo in Zimbabwe can be identified with Inyaminyami (the Zambezi river serpent deity) and with the Mamiwata deity of West Africa. There is a theory acknowledged by researches that India and Zimbabwe had long ties and that Tantrism could be practiced in Mumbahuru, the “Great Enclosure” (“the house of the great woman”); archeologists found objects of the Indian origin here.

Ancient Europe

Lamia was a Naga-like daemon in the Greek mythology.

Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Queen of the underworld, was a Greek underworld deity; she is the Greek equivalent of the Hindu snake goddess Manasa.

Sirona was a goddess worshipped predominantly in East Central Gaul (a region in Western Europe) in the Celtic mythology. A number of inscriptions depict her as she carries snakes.

Australian aboriginal mythology

Snake deities are: Ungud, Galeru (or Galaru), a rainbow snake; Dhakhan is described as a giant serpent with the tail of a giant fish; Wollunqua (or Wollunka, Wollunkua) is a snake-god of rain and fertility; Julunggul (Arnhem Land) is a rainbow and fertility snake goddess also known as Kalseru; Akurra is a snake deity of the Aboriginal people of South Australia.

Egypt

Mehen, meaning “the coiled one”, refers to a mythological snake deity of ancient Egypt.

Wadjet was an Egyptian snake goddess.

Conclusion

Christians associate snakes with Devil only and it could be that, in our primordial history, snakes did really exist as intelligent creatures, both good and bad. The following verses from the Bible (John 3:14-15) confirm that snake is the symbol of power: And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life.

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Lord Shiva and Snakes share a curious connection with each other. In almost all depiction of Lord Shiva and his accompaniments, there is always a serpent seen wound around his neck. Along with his Trishul and Dumru, the serpent is a constant companion of Lord Shiva. This serpent is supposed to be the King of Serpents- Vasuki. So is the serpent only a symbol of the Lord having consumed the Halahal poison to save the world? Or is there more to it than that?

As we know that religions evolve over time and are built around the realities experienced by the communities it serve. In other words, sociologically speaking, religions are a direct product produced by a community for their own consumption, constitutive and representative of the collective subconscious. Lord Shiva and Serpents come together in one iconography signifying the syncretism of Shaivism and local folk deities. The Puranic stories have integrated the races of Gods, Danavs, Manavs, Gandharvas and Nagas. Different stories exist that talk of the ways in which each of these communities came to be. In the case of the Nagas, one of the stories say that they are said to be descendants of Rishi Kashayapa and Kadru. The folk culture of worshipping the serpents were slowly but steadily, absorbed by the Brahmanical mainstream.

The Padma Puran traces the connection between the folk and the mainstream by a story of Shiva and the Serpents. It is said that once Shiva was out on one of his ascetic tours outside Kailash and found himself in a forest of Lotuses. In that forest he was overtaken by a sudden lust and his semen found their way onto some of the forest. A Serpent Queen was in the spot and she fell pregnant with a child. The Queen was the mother of the Serpent King Vasuki. When the child was born to the Queen Mother, the child was adopted by Vasuki as his own sister. She was named Manasha and came to share dominion over the snake races with her brother. It was however Manasha’s ardent desire to worshipped as a Goddess. Given her semi-divine origins however, she found it difficult to find followers and worshippers. One day when Lord Shiva consumed the deadly poison Halahal to save the world from its wrath, Manasha attended on him and healed him back to health. This deed got her recognition and the title of being Vishahara (remover of poisons).  Shiva found himself attracted to his saviour but Manasha managed to assert the fact that she was in fact Lord Shiva’s daughter.

Upon learning this, Lord Shiva took Manasha to Kailash. His wife Partvati assumed Manasha was a consort of Lord Shiva and decided to be highly cruel to her. During one of their spats, it is said Parvati had taken her fierce Chandi form and blinded one of Manasha’s eyes. Furious, Manasha aimed her toxic gaze upon Chandi and rendered her unconscious. Lord Shiva was deeply pained by this constant strife in Kailash and decided one day to take Manasha back to the forest. He left her under a tree and was grief-stricken at having to act thus.  He used his tears to create a companion for Manasha who was named “Neto” or “Neta”.

With Neto by her side Manasha embarked upon her journey to get worshippers. To her followers she was known to be extremely kind but those that did not accept her divinity, she was wrathful. In one specific example, there was a merchant named “Chand Saudagar” who was a devout follower of Shiva and Durga. He refused to follow or worship the cult of Manasha. The more he resisted, the more adamant Manasa became to have him as a devotee. She sank his trading ships at sea with tidal storms. He would have managed to escape it due to the intervention of Durga, but on Shiva’s insistence she stood back and Manasha got her way. Chand Saudagar was washed to shore however and found a on old friend named Chandraketu, who tried to convince Saudagar to worship Manasha to no avail.

Having lost all his fortune and despite being faced with such adversity, Saudagar still refused to worship Manasha. At which point the Goddess solicited the help of two Apsaras, who agreed to be born as children to Saudagar and his business associate Saha. Saudagar’s little daughter was called Behula and Saha’s son was known as Lakshminder. In due course of time the two fell in love and got married even though Lakshminder was fated to die of snakebite on his wedding night. Saudagar tried to make their bedchambers impervious to snakes but Manasha managed to get one of her serpents to enter, that struck down Lakshminder. Behula prayed desperately to Manasha even as the dead body decomposed on the raft generally floated for all victims of snake bite, with the hope of magical recovery. When the raft reached the village where Neta lived, she took pity on Behula and took her to Manasha. The Goddess promised a new life to Lakshminder if Behula could manage to get Saudagar to worship her. Behula agreed and Lakshminder breathed again. Delirious with joy, Behula narrated the whole episode to her father. Convinced of Manasha’s divinity Saudagar finally agreed to worship Goddess Manasha.

Manasha’s struggle to attain divinity makes her appear as a ruthless Goddess, with her mind bent only on self aggrandisement. One must remember however that the position of worship granted to Manasha who was clearly a folk Goddess into the Hindu pantheon, would not have been an easy one. The fact that the Brahmin classes finally agreed on such a sensitive topic show us the influence the folk culture has on mainstream culture. People of Bengal, who lived close to the river Ganges and in the semi-tropical rain-forested area would regularly come across snakes – a species that is vital to the sustenance of the ecosystem. To get them to worship Lord Shiva, was a tough challenge but perhaps the brilliance of the Machiavellian leaders of the time must be acknowledged in their ability to share religious power. This is a classic example of how the metropolitan centres of power managed to co-opt a regional power to establish hegemonic control.

The end result may be one where Manasha emerges as a slightly maligned Goddess but the acceptance of popular beliefs have led people to be tolerant and eco-friendly, bringing more and more people within the fold of spiritually harmonious existence. That is precisely where the connection between Lord Shiva and Serpents gain credence and relevance even in a contemporary globalised world, peopled by multicultural communities.

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