Friday, February 6, 2009
"Nagas" found in Hinduism and Buddhism
Nāga (Sanskrit: नाग, IAST: nāgá, Indonesian: naga, Javanese: nogo) is the Sanskrit and Pāli word for a deity or class of entity or being, taking the form of a very large snake, found in Hinduism and Buddhism. The use of the term nāga is often ambiguous, as the word may also refer, in similar contexts, to one of several human tribes known as or nicknamed "Nāgas"; to elephants; and to ordinary snakes, particularly the King Cobra and the Indian Cobra, the latter of which is still called nāg in Hindi and other languages of India. A female nāga is a nāgī or nāginī.
IN the Hindu epic "Mahabharata" the Nagas has a mixture of human and serpent-like traits. Sometimes it characterizes them as having human traits at one time, and as having serpent-like traits at another. For example, the story of how the Naga prince Sesha came to hold the world on his head begins with a scene in which he appears as a dedicated human ascetic, "with knotted hair, clad in rags, and his flesh, skin, and sinews dried up owing to the hard penances he was practising." Brahman is pleased with Shesha, and entrusts him with the duty of carrying the world. At that point in the story, Shesha begins to exhibit the attributes of a serpent. He enters into a hole in the Earth and slithers all the way to bottom, where he then loads the Earth onto his head. (Book I: Adi Parva, Section 36.)