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Naag means Sarp - snakes. Large snakes which may have more than one head are called Naag. Accordng to various Puran, Naag are the children of Kashyap Jee and Daksh's daughter Kadroo. Kadroo gave birth to 1,000 Naag. Among them 26 Naag are well known - Shesh, Vaasuki, Karkotak, Shankh, Airaavat, Kambal, Dhananjaya, Mahaaneel, Padya, Ashwatar, Takshak, Ailaapatra, Mahaapadm, Dhritraashtra, Balaahak, Shankhpaal, Mahaashankh, Pushpdant, Subhaavan, Shankhromaa, Nahush, Raman, Paanini, Kapil, Durmukh, and Patanjalimukh.

Kashyap Jee said - "Hey Gautam Jee, Now I tell you about the origin of Naag told by Shiv Jee. In earlier times Brahmaa Jee created many Naag and planets. Anant Naag is the form of Soorya (Sun), Vaasuki is the form of Chandramaa (Moon), Takshak is the form of Bhaum (Mangal), Karkotak is the form of Budh (Mercury), Padm is the form of Brihaspati (Jupiter), Mahaapadm is the form of Shukra (Venus), Kulik and Shankhpaal are the form of Shani (Saturn).

Anant, Vasuki, Takshak, Karkotak, Padm, Mahaapadm, Shankhpaal and Kulik are the Lord of the eight directions starting from east, southeast etc. Padm (lotus flower), Utpal (leaf), Swastik, Trishool (trident), Mahaapadm (large lotus flower); Shool (spear), Kshatra, and Ardh-Chandra - these are the eight weapons of the eight Naag respectively. Anant and Kulik are of Braahman caste; Shankh and Vaasuki are of Kshatriya caste; Mahaapadm and Takshak are of Vaishya caste; and Padm and Karkotak are of Shoodra caste.

Anant and Kulik Naag are of white complexion and are born from Brahmaa Jee; Vaasuki and Shankhpaal are of red complexion and are born from Agni; Takshak and Mahaapadm are of light yellow color and are born from Indra; and Padm and Karkotak are of black complexion and are born from Yam Raaj.
[Bhavishya Puraan, 1/7]

The generic name for the various snakes is Naag, frequently represented as gigantic snakes of the cobra species with expanded hoods and many lesser heads, or with human head and serpent body. The spectacle marks on the cobra's head are associated with Shiv. They form the girdle of Shiv and adorn his person. His sacred thread is the serpent, his hair is knotted with one serpent and he has serpents for bangles and anklets.

The Naag inhabit the kingdom of Paataal. It is the most beautiful realm of all the worlds of Heaven, Earth and Hell. Bhogvatee Nagaree, means delightful city, the capital of Paataal Lok is a jewel-walled city of incalculable riches where stands the fabulous Mani Mandap, jewel-palace of the Naag king.

According to Varaah Puraan, Lord Brahmaa's son Kashyap had four wives. Kashyap's first wife Aditi gave birth to Devtaa, second wife Vinataa to Garud, third wife Kadroo to Naag (snakes) and fourth wife Danu to Daityas (demons). The third wife Kadroo was the mother of 1,000 Naag. Some prominent names are Shesh, Vaasuki, Takshak, Anant, Kanwal, Karkotak, Kaaliya, Ashwatar, Padma, Mahaapadm, Shankh, Kulik and Pingal.

When all these snakes started tormenting human-beings, Brahmaa cursed them that they would be annihilated. The snakes got terrified and promised to mend their ways. They then requested Brahmaa to give them a place to live in. Brahmaa instructed them to go to three different netherworlds - Sutal Lok, Vital Lok and Paataal Lok. He also warned them that during Vaivaswat Manvantar Janamejaya would perform a grand Yagya aimed at destroying the wicked snakes but the virtuous among them would manage to survive.

On Shraavan Shuddh Panchamee (The fifth day of the Bright half of the Hindu month Shraavan - July-August) the entire snake family get a new lease of life .This day is considered a sacred day by Hindu. The festival Naag Panchamee is celebrated on this day. The five Naag worshipped on this day are Anant, Vaasuki, Takshak, Karkotak and Pingal.

In Hindu mythology Lord Vishnu is said to sleep while floating on the cosmic waters on the serpent Shesh Naag. In the Puraan Shesh Naag is said to hold all the planets of the Universe on his hoods and constantly sings the glories of Vishnu from all his mouths. He is sometimes referred to as "Anant-Shesh," which means "Endless Shesh". Shesh loosens Mount Mandar (Mandaraachal Mountain) for it to be used as a churning rod by the Asur and Dev to churn the Milky Ocean in the Heavens in order to make Som, the divine elixir of immortality. As a churning rope another giant serpent called Vaasuki is used.

Braahman associate Naag with Shiv who coiled them around his neck and with Vishnu who rests on a 100 headed Naag. The snakes represent freedom in Hindu mythology because they cannot be tamed and long life as they live long.

A human tribe of Mongolian race which called itself Naag and who have been described in Hindu mythology as ruling the netherworld (Paataal Lok), later confused with serpents. Actually Naag were ruling the easternmost part of India which was later named Naagaaland. Naagpur and Naagaur were also named after the Naag tribe. In MBH, Bheem went to netherworld where he received special powers from Naag king. Pareekshit has also been described to have been killed by a Naag (Takshak serpent); while he was most likely killed by a human Naag.
[Aangiras, p 196]

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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 02/26/14