|Sub grouping||Water deity, Tutelary deity, Snake deity|
|Other name(s)||N?g? or N?gin?|
|Region||South Asia and Southeast Asia|
The N?ga (IAST: n?ga; Devan?gar?: ) or Nagi (f. of n?ga; IAST: n?g?; Devan?gar?) are divine, semi-divine deities, or a semi-divine race of half-human half-serpent beings that reside in the netherworld (Patala) and can occasionally take human form. Rituals devoted to these supernatural beings have been taking place throughout south Asia for at least two thousand years. They are principally depicted in three forms: wholly human with snakes on the heads and necks, common serpents, or as half-human half-snake beings in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. A female naga is a "Nagi", "Nagin", or "Nagini". Nagaraja is seen as the king of n?gas and n?ginis. They are common and hold cultural significance in the mythological traditions of many South Asian and Southeast Asian cultures. They are the children of Rishi Kashyapa and Kadru.
In Sanskrit, a n?gá () is a cobra, the Indian cobra (Naja naja). A synonym for n?gá is pha?in (). There are several words for "snake" in general, and one of the very commonly used ones is sarpá (?). Sometimes the word n?gá is also used generically to mean "snake". The word is cognate with English 'snake', Germanic: *sn?k-a-, Proto-IE: *(s)n?g-o- (with s-mobile).
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2017)
The mythological serpent race that took form as cobras can often be found in Hindu iconography. The n?gas are described as the powerful, splendid, wonderful and proud semidivine race that can assume their physical form either as human, partial human-serpent or the whole serpent. Their domain is in the enchanted underworld, the underground realm filled with gems, gold and other earthly treasures called Naga-loka or Patala-loka. They are also often associated with bodies of waters -- including rivers, lakes, seas, and wells -- and are guardians of treasure. Their power and venom made them potentially dangerous to humans. However, they often took beneficial protagonist role in Hindu mythology; in Samudra manthan folklore, Vasuki, a n?gar?ja who abides on Shiva's neck, became the churning rope for churning of the Ocean of Milk. Their eternal mortal enemies are the Garudas, the legendary semidivine birdlike-deities.
Vishnu is originally portrayed in the form sheltered by ?e?an?ga or reclining on ?e?a, but the iconography has been extended to other deities as well. The serpent is a common feature in Ganesha iconography and appears in many forms: around the neck, use as a sacred thread (Sanskrit: yajñyopav?ta) wrapped around the stomach as a belt, held in a hand, coiled at the ankles, or as a throne. Shiva is often shown garlanded with a snake. Maehle (2006: p. 297) states that "Patanjali is thought to be a manifestation of the serpent of eternity".
The Mahabharata epic is the first text that introduces n?gas, describes them in detail and narrates their stories. The cosmic snake Shesha, the n?garajas (n?ga kings) Vasuki, Takshaka, Airavata and Karkotaka and the princess Ulupi are all depicted in the Mahabharata.
As in Hinduism, the Buddhist n?ga generally has sometimes portrayed as a human being with a snake or dragon extending over his head. One n?ga, in human form, attempted to become a monk; and when telling it that such ordination was impossible, the Buddha told it how to ensure that it would be reborn a human, and so able to become a monk.
The n?gas are believed to both live on Nagaloka, among the other minor deities, and in various parts of the human-inhabited earth. Some of them are water-dwellers, living in streams or the ocean; others are earth-dwellers, living in caverns.
The n?gas are the followers of Vir?p?k?a (P?li: Vir?pakkha), one of the Four Heavenly Kings who guards the western direction. They act as a guard upon Mount Sumeru, protecting the d?vas of Tr?yastria from attack by the asuras.
Among the notable n?gas of Buddhist tradition is Mucalinda, N?gar?ja and protector of the Buddha. In the Vinaya Sutra (I, 3), shortly after his enlightenment, the Buddha is meditating in a forest when a great storm arises, but graciously, King Mucalinda gives shelter to the Buddha from the storm by covering the Buddha's head with his seven snake heads. Then the king takes the form of a young Brahmin and renders the Buddha homage.
The two chief disciples of the Buddha, Sariputta and Moggall?na are both referred to as Mah?n?ga or "Great n?ga". Some of the most important figures in Buddhist history symbolize n?gas in their names such as Dign?ga, N?g?s?na, and, although other etymons are assigned to his name, N?g?rjuna.
In the "Devadatta" chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the daughter of the dragon king, an eight year old longnü (, n?gakany?), after listening to Mañju?r? preach the Lotus Sutra, transforms into a male Bodhisattva and immediately reaches full enlightenment. Some say this tale appears to reinforce the viewpoint prevalent in Mahayana scriptures that a male body is required for Buddhahood, even if a being is so advanced in realization that they can magically transform their body at will and demonstrate the emptiness of the physical form itself. However many schools of Buddhism and classical, seminal Chinese exegeses interpret the story to repudiate this viewpoint, stating the story demonstrates that women can attain Buddhahood in their current form.
The Naga people were believed to be an ancient tribe and origins of Sri Lanka. There are references to them in several ancient text such as Mahavamsa, Manimekalai and also in other Sanskrit and Pali literature. They are generally being represented as a class of superhumans taking the form of serpents who inhabit a subterranean world. Texts such as Manimekalai represent them as persons in human form.
Stories of n?gas have existed for thousands of years in the Khmer society since the Funan era. According to reports by two Chinese envoys, Kang Tai and Zhu Ying, the state of Funan was established in the 1st century CE by an Indian named Kaundinya I, who married a N?ga princess named Soma. They are symbolized in the story of Preah Thong and Neang Neak, respectively. Kaundinya was given instruction in a dream to take a magic bow from a temple and defeat a N?ga princess named Soma (Chinese: Liuye, "Willow Leaf"), the daughter of the N?ga king. They fell in love during the battle and later married, their lineage becoming the royal dynasty of Funan. Kaundinya later built a capital, Vyadhapura, and the kingdom came to be known as Kambojade?a or Cambodia. The love story is the source of many standard practices in modern-day Khmer culture, including wedding ceremonies and other rituals. The Khmer people believe they are the descendants of the N?gas or the dragons. Many Khmer people still believe they exist, and will one day reappear, coming back home bringing prosperity for their people.
Although many temples from the Funan Era had been destroyed through wars, nature and time, N?gas can still be seen in ancient temples from the Chenla Era and the Angkor Era. For example, like the temple modern day named "The Coiled N?gas Temple" (Prasat Neak Pean) was once called, "Emperor's Wealth Temple" ? (Prasat Reakcha Srey).
N?ga in the Khmer culture represent rain, or a bridge between the human realm () and the realm of gods and devas (/?), and they can transform into half human or fully human. They act as protectors from invisible forces, deities, or other humans that try to harm humans. Furthermore, Cambodian N?ga possess numerological symbolism in the number of their heads. Odd-headed N?ga symbolize the male energy, infinity, timelessness, and immortality. This is because, numerologically, all odd numbers come from the number one (?). Even-headed N?ga are said to be female, representing physicality, mortality, temporality, and the earth. Odd headed N?gas are believed to represent immortality and are carved and used throughout Cambodia.
Odd-Headed Nagas, its Names, Origin and Connotations:
-1 Headed Naga: mostly seen in modern days; carved on objects as protection, temples, monastery, King's residence, residence of a deity (Atitep)
Symbolizes, that even if everything in this world is gone, there's still this Naga left bringing victory and happiness to all
-3 Kalyak: born between the mortal realm and Devas (gods) realm, they live at the bottom of the ocean and is the guardian of wealth, often depicted as evil (nothing to do with the symbolism)
Symbolizes the Trimurti; (left Vishnu, middle Shiva and right Brahma) but also the three realm [heaven (deva realm), earth (human realm) and hell (norok realm)]. In Buddhism, the central head represents Buddha, the right head represents the Dharma and left one represents the monks.
-5 Anontak/Sesak: born out of the elemental elements on Earth, they're immortals
Symbolizes the directions; East, West, North, South and Middle (Ganges river, Indus river, Yamuna river, Brahmaputra river (Brahma's Son River), Sarasvati river). In Buddhism, the dragon heads represent the 5 Buddhas: Kadabak, Kunsontho, Koneakumno, Samnak Koudom Gautama Buddha and Seare Metrey.
-7 Muchlentak: originated from the bottom of the Himalayas, they bring peace and prosperity to humans, they're deities who control the seven oceans and seven mountains called Seytontaraksatakboriphorn. They are also the Naga that sheltered Gautama Buddha for 7 days and 7 nights. Often depicted as guardian statues, carved as balustrades on causeways leading to main Khmer temples, such as those found in Angkor Wat.  They also represent the seven races within Naga society, which has a mythological, or symbolic, association with "the seven colors of the rainbow".
Symbolizes the sun, the moon and five other planets; ? (Moon)[also Monday] (Mars)[Tuesday] (Mercury)[Wednesday] ? (Jupiter)[Thursday] (Venus)[Friday] ? (Saturn)[Saturday] ? (Sun)[Sunday]
-9 Vasukak: Is the king who rules the Earth. For this dragon, when carved on both side, the front heads represent reincarnation and the behind represent death.
Symbolizes power of the nine immortals of the universe; power of the lighting and thunder of the East (), power of the fire of the Southeast (), power of the law and order of the South (), power of the spirits and demonic creatures of the Southwest (), power of the rain of the West (), power of the wind of the Northwest (), power of the wealth and aesthetic of the North (), power of destruction of the Northeast (), power of Brahma (creation and preservation) in the middle.
In Brahmanism and Buddhism, there are 4 different Naga race:
1) The Primitive dragons such as the European dragon who can spit fire.
2) The Spiritual dragons who are the guardians of wealth, they protect treasure in the ocean. They can take on a half human form.
3) The Divine Nag?s, who can travel to heaven, they came from Lord Indra's realm (the divine realm), they can take on a full human form.
4) The Supreme and Divine Nag?, like Vasuki the guardian of Lord Vishnu, who alone can fight all the Garuda race.
All of them have great powers and can set off storms, raining, tempest and create lands from the sea.
In Javanese and Balinese culture, Indonesia, a naga is depicted as a crowned, giant, magical serpent, sometimes winged. It is similarly derived from the Shiva-Hinduism tradition, merged with Javanese animism. Naga in Indonesia mainly derived and influenced by Indic tradition, combined with the native animism tradition of sacred serpents. In Sanskrit the term naga literally means snake, but in Java it normally refer to serpent deity, associated with water and fertility. In Borobudur, the nagas are depicted in their human form, but elsewhere they are depicted in animal shape.
Early depictions of circa-9th-century Central Java closely resembled Indic Naga which was based on cobra imagery. During this period, naga serpents were depicted as giant cobras supporting the waterspout of yoni-lingam. The examples of naga sculpture can be found in several Javanese candis, including Prambanan, Sambisari, Ijo, and Jawi. In East Java, the Penataran temple complex contain a Candi Naga, an unusual naga temple with its Hindu-Javanese caryatids holding corpulent nagas aloft.
The later depiction since the 15th century, however, was slightly influenced by Chinese dragon imagery--although unlike its Chinese counterparts, Javanese and Balinese nagas do not have legs. Naga as the lesser deity of earth and water is prevalent in the Hindu period of Indonesia, before the introduction of Islam.
In Balinese tradition, nagas are often depicted battling Garuda. Intricately carved naga are found as stairs railings in bridges or stairs, such as those found in Balinese temples, Ubud monkey forest, and Taman Sari in Yogyakarta.
Naga are believed to live in the Laotian stretch of the Mekong or its estuaries. Lao mythology maintains that the naga are the protectors of Vientiane, and by extension, the Lao state. The naga association was most clearly articulated during and immediately after the reign of Anouvong. An important poem from this period San Leupphasun (Lao: ) discusses relations between Laos and Thailand in a veiled manner, using the naga and the garuda to represent the Lao and the Thai, respectively. The naga is incorporated extensively into Lao iconography, and features prominently in Lao culture throughout the length of the country, not only in Vientiane.
Phaya Nak (Thai: ; RTGS: phaya nak; lit. 'lord of n?ga' phaya derived from Mon which mean high nobility) or Nakkharat (Thai: ; lit. 'king of n?ga') in Thai beliefs, N?gas are considered the patronage of water. N?gas are believed to live in either water bodies or in caves. According to a popular legend, the Mekong River in northeastern Thailand and Laos was said to be created by two n?ga kings slithering through the area, thus creating the Mekong and the nearby Nan River. The Mekong is synonymous with the unexplained fireballs phenomenon which has long been believed to be created by the n?gas that dwell in the river.
Due to the strong relation with everything water, n?gas in Thai belief also plays a role in rain control. The Nak hai nam (Thai: ; lit. n?ga granting water) concept is used for annual rainfall prediction. It is still practiced nowadays, most notably during the Royal Ploughing Ceremony. The oracle ranges from 1 nak hai nam (1 naga granted water); meaning the abundant rainfall should be observed that year, to maximum 7 nak hai nam (7 nagas granted water); meaning there might not be adequate rainfall that year.
In northern Thailand, the Singhanavati Kingdom had a strong connection with n?gas. The kingdom was believed to be built with aids of n?gas and thus nagas were highly reverend by the royal family. The kingdom, for a period of time, was renamed Yonok N?ga R?j (lit. Yonok the Nagaraja)
The nagas are also highly revered. The Buddhist temples and palaces are often adorned with various nagas. The term naga is also present in various Thai architecture terms including the nak sadung (, the outer roof finial component featuring naga-like structure), and the nak than (, the corbel with naga shape). Moreover, nagas are sometimes linked to medicine. Owing to the naga Shesha's presence in Hindu legend's Samudra manthan of which Dhanvantari (god of Indic medicine) and Amrit (healing potion) were created alongside the universe, the nagas are thus linked to medicine in some extents. The nagas can also be founded substituting the snakes in either Rod of Asclepius or mistakenly Caduceus of several medical institutions' symbols. The former seal of Faculty of Medicine, Srinakharinwirot University, and the seal of Society of Medical Student Thailand are some notable examples using the Caduceus with nagas presence instead of snakes.
Head of N?ga sculpture in Songkhla Province
Illustration of Royal Barge Anantanakkharat, 1873
N?ga sculpture at Suvarnabhumi airport
In Malay and Orang Asli traditions, the lake Chini, located in Pahang is home to a naga called Sri Gumum. Depending on legend versions, her predecessor Sri Pahang or her son left the lake and later fought a naga called Sri Kemboja. Kemboja is the Malay name for Cambodia. Like the naga legends there, there are stories about an ancient empire in lake Chini, although the stories are not linked to the naga legends.
The indigenous Bakunawa, a serpent-like moon-eating creature in Philippine mythology, was syncretized with the N?ga. It is believed to be the cause of eclipses, earthquakes, rains, and wind. The movements of the bakunawa served as a geomantic calendar system for ancient Filipinos and were part of the shamanistic rituals of the babaylan. It is usually depicted with a characteristically looped tail and was variously believed to inhabit either the sea, the sky, or the underworld. However, the bakunawa may have also syncretized with the Hindu deities, Rahu and Ketu, the navagraha of eclipses.
Naga on copper pillar in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh India
Naga (marked 15) in the Varaha panel at Udayagiri Caves
Naga supporting waterspout of Yoni-Lingam, Yogyakarta Java, c. 9th century
Naga temple, Penataran, East Java
Naga bridge at Ubud monkey forest, Bali
Naga at the funeral of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand in 2017