by Jan JM
The ancient traditions and scriptures from different continents talk
about a race of serpent beings endowed with superhuman powers. The
scriptural and folkloric resources are used to present more complete
picture of them and their ancient and recent interaction with
My comments in the quoted texts appear in [ ].
Introduction: Arrival of the Serpent
Recently there has been an unprecedented increase of interest in UFO
and paranormal issues in official media. Some consider this to be a
result of leaks from the intelligence community. The fact is that
there has been wide and profound change of public attitude in this
An example of this is how the alien
image underwent a significant change during the years, from the
ridiculed "little green men" of the cartoons in the early fifties to
the classical "grays" as benevolent "space brothers" in seventies.
Later, however, they have become more and more malicious and
associated with the phenomena of cattle mutilation and human
abduction. This picture is probably the one most often associated
with the word "aliens" nowadays.
But in the past few years there appeared a new type of aliens: the
"reptilians" (also called "reptoids," "sauroids" etc.). The media
and market became flooded by reptile/dragon/dinosaur characters. The
entertainment industry made them almost omnipresent, from children
toys and cartoons to most successful movies. This phenomena is
analyzed to some extent in the file The Cult of the Serpent and
UFO researcher John Rhodes
devoted a whole website to it (http://www.reptoids.com).
Several "alien files" available on the internet (Crimram files,
Secrets of the Mojave,
etc.) present a compilation of manifold information about aliens in
earth's history, presence and possible future as well as many of the
related incidents regarding space and underground explorations. They
also include quotations from various scriptures including the Bible
and the Vedas.
(Note: The term "Veda," literally
"knowledge," the indologists usually apply to the four Vedas: Rg,
Sama, Yajur and Atharva. However, in broader sense, it is also used
for the related literature as the Puranas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas,
Itihasas etc. In this sense I will be using it in this article.)
The fact that in these files the reptilians are associated with the
Nagas of the ancient Vedic tradition is one of the reasons I have
decided to write this article. I wished to add to the wealth of
information by using the Vedas as very valuable, yet so far
underused resource, together with other sources.
As this topic is very extensive I possibly could not cover it in its
entirety. Chapter Two presents a brief overview and further chapters
concentrate mainly on the Vedic references to Nagas presented mainly
in the chapter 4.2.
For the references to the recent
encounters with reptilians please refer to the bibliography listing.
2. The Saurian
Connection: Historical Background of the Serpent
The snake (serpent spirit) has been a symbol of wisdom, eternity,
healing, mystery, magical power, and holiness throughout most of the
ancient non-western world. Its symbol is used today in medicine, and
other healing professions, and its live descendants are hailed as
sacred and used in everything from cancer drugs to sex potions.
Serpent was worshiped in ancient
Babylon, Mexico, Egypt, as well as many other places all over the
The following passage is written by Soror Ourania (from "Thelemix
and Therion Rising") from the Gnostic point of view.
"The word Naga is rooted in Sanskrit
and means "serpent."
[Further meanings from the
Sanskrit-English Dictionary by Monier Monier-Williams: m. "not
moving," a mountain (in Atharva Veda); the number 7 (because of
the 7 principal mountains; any tree or plant (in Mahabharata);
In the East Indian pantheon it is
connected with the Serpent Spirit and the Dragon Spirit. It has
an equivalence to the Burmese Nats, or god-serpents. In the
Esoteric Tradition it is synonymous for Adepts, or Initiates. In
India and Egypt, and even in Central and South America, the Naga
stands for one who is wise.
"The [buddhist philosopher]
Nagarjuna of India, for example, is shown with an aura, or halo,
of seven serpents which is an indication of a very high degree
of Initiation. The symbolism of the seven serpents, usually
cobras, are also on Masonic aprons or certain systems in the
Buddhist ruins of Cambodia (Ankhor) and Ceylon. The great
temple-builders of the famous Ankhor Wat were considered to be
the semi-divine Khmers. The avenue leading to the Temple is
lined with the seven-headed Naga.
And even in Mexico, we find the "Naga"
which becomes "Nagal." In China, the Naga is given the form of
the Dragon and has a direct association with the Emperor and is
known as the "Son of Heaven"... while in Egypt the same
association is termed "King-Initiate." The Chinese are even said
to have originated with the Serpent demi-gods and even to speak
their language, Naga-Krita. For a place that has no serpents,
Tibet, they are still known in a symbolic sense and are called
"Lu!" (Naga). Nagarjuna called in Tibetan, [becomes] Lu-trub.
"In the Western traditions we find the same ubiquity for the
Naga, or Serpent. One simple example is the Ancient Greek
Goddess, Athena. She is known as a warrior Goddess as well as
the Goddess of Wisdom; her symbol being the Serpent as displayed
on her personal shield. Of course, in Genesis the Serpent is a
Naga who instructs the new infant (humanity) in what is called
the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Christian church has,
unfortunately transformed the Initiate-Teacher into a tempting
and negative demon-character.
An apocryphal tradition says that
Apollonius of Tyana, while on a visit to India, was taught by
the "Nagas" of Kashmir. (See The Life of Apollonius, by
Philostratos) It is felt by many scholars of the Western
Tradition that the life of Apollonius was taken from the New
Testament, or that the narratives of the New Testament have been
taken from the life of Apollonius. This is felt because of the
undisputed and clear similarities of construction of that
"Naga is one of a handful of rare words surviving the loss of
the first universal language. In Buddhism, Wisdom has always
been tied, symbolically, to the figure of the Serpent. In the
Western Tradition it can be found as used by the Christ in the
Gospel of Saint Matthew (10:16), "Be ye therefore wise as
serpents, and harmless as doves."
"In all mythological language the snake is also an emblem of
immortality. Its endless representation with its tail in its
mouth (Ouroboros), and the constant renewal of its skin and
vigor, enliven the symbols of continued youth and eternity.
"The Serpent's reputation for positive medicinal and/or
life-preserving qualities have also contributed to the honors of
the Serpent as STILL seen by the employment of the caduceus
[staff around which two snakes are wrapped]. To this very day,
the Hindus are taught that at the end of every Universal
Manifestation (Kalpa) all things are re-absorbed into Deity
during the interval between "creations." He reposes upon the
Serpent Shesha (Duration) who is called Ananta, or Endless."
3. Serpent in
3.1. Indoeuropean (Slavic) folklore
The Slavic folklore often mentions snakes as the guards of treasures
hidden underground or in caves closely following the Vedic
tradition. Some of the snakes are said to possess a crown which is
an interesting detail as we will see later.
Although one may be tempted to discount the folklore as unreliable
source there is certain evidence which seems to support it.
Czech herpetologist Jiri Hales writes in his book "Moji
pratele hadi ("My friends, the snakes") about his travels around
eastern Slovakia in '70 in search of unusually great snakes and
mentions several interesting accounts he heard from the local
people. One even involves a military unit which was called to
destroy an alleged 15 ft long snake. (Snakes of such length are
unknown in this part of the world.)
Another account pertains to a ranger who
noticed a number of snakes in the forest crawling in one direction
and out of curiosity followed them. Thus he has come upon a great
"snake king" with a crown on his head surrounded by many snakes.
Scared, he quickly left that place. Other accounts involve small
children who claimed to play with great snakes and even communicate
Hales concludes that these accounts are
credible as they include many details which a layman could not
possibly make up without personal experience.
3.2. North America: Hopi tribal
The Hopi legend is that there were two races, the children of the
feather who came from the skies, and the children of the reptile who
came from under the earth. The children of the reptile chased the
Hopi Indians out of the earth. These evil under-grounders were also
called Two Hearts.
The Hopi Indian Legend of Creation tells of three different
beginnings. One story says that Hopi have arisen from an underground
paradise through an opening called Sipapu. The underground paradise
was wondrous with beautiful clear skies and plentiful food sources [cf
bila-svarga]. It was because of the existence of those called Two
Hearts, the bad ones, that refuge was sought in the upper world by
the Hopi, the peaceful ones. The underworld was not destroyed but
was only sealed up to prevent the Two Hearts from rising upon to the
The second story tells of the descent of the Hopi from the Blue Star
of a constellation called the Seven Sisters. One version tells of
their travel to earth on the back of Enki, the eagle. Grandfather,
the Great Spirit, allowed the first man to select his home from the
many stars of the universe. Enki told first man of his home earth,
and brought him to visit.
First man's exploration of the earth
convinced him that this was where he wanted his children to be born
and to grow. First Man returned to the heavens to tell Grandfather
of his decision. Grandfather was pleased and granted to first man
the right to call earth his home. First man soon returned to the
green place or Sakwap with his family shortly afterwards. (Many of
the hero stories throughout time and through many different cultures
refer to a valiant group of seven.)
These two legends remind of the story of Kashyapa Muni and his two
wives, Kadru, the mother of serpents, and Vinata, the mother of
Garuda, the divine eagle, mentioned later.
3.3. Western Africa
The Legend of Da
The world was created by Nana-Buluku, the one god, who is
neither male nor female. In time, Nana-Buluku gave birth to twins,
Mawu and Lisa, and it is they who shaped the world and control it
still, with their fourteen children, the Vodou, or lesser gods.
In the beginning, before Mawu had any children, the Rainbow Serpent,
Da, already existed - created to serve Nana-Buluku. The creator was
carried everywhere in Da's mouth. Rivers, mountains, and valleys
twine and curve because that is how the Rainbow Serpent Da moves.
Wherever they stopped for the night, mountains arose, formed from
the serpent's dung. That is why if you dig down deep into a
mountain, you find riches.
Now, when Nana-Buluku had finished creating, it was obvious that the
earth just couldn't carry everything - all the mountains, trees,
peoples, and animals. So, to keep the earth from capsizing, the
creator asked Da to coil beneath it to cushion it - like the pads
the African women and girls wear on their heads when they are
carrying a heavy load.
Because Da cannot stand heat, the creator made the ocean for the
serpent to live in. And there Da has remained since the beginning of
time, with his tail in his mouth. Even though the water keeps Da
cool, he sometimes shifts around trying to get comfortable, and
that's what causes earthquakes.
Nana-Buluku tasked the red monkeys who live beneath the sea to keep
Da fed, and they spend their time forging the iron bars that are the
serpent's food. But sooner or later the monkey's supply of iron is
bound to run out, and then Da will have nothing to eat. Famished
with hunger, he will start to chew on his own tail, and then his
writhings and convulsions will be so terrible that the whole earth
will tilt, overburdened as it is with people and things, and slip
into the sea.
This legend mentions the serpent serving the creator god. This
serpent resembles Ananta Shesha, who serves Vishnu as a bed and
supports the universal structure. They are both situated at the
bottom of the universe on the great ocean called Garbhodaka.
involves the destruction of the earth and the abodes of the
Norse demigods (called Asgard). It is said that during Ragnarok the
world is destroyed with flames by a being called Surt, who lives
beneath the lower world (appropriately called Hel) and was involved
in the world's creation.
By comparison, the Bhagavata Purana
(3.11.30) states that at the end of Brahma's day, "the devastation
takes place due to the fire emanating from the mouth of Sankarshana."
Sankarshana (Ananta Shesha) is a plenary expansion of Krishna who is
"seated at the bottom of the universe" (Bhagavata Purana 3.8.3),
beneath the lower planetary systems.
In the Norse lore there can be found more connections to the Vedic
tradition but they go beyond the present topic.
Tibetan Buddhist perspective of the Nagas comes from Cho-Yang's
"Year of Tibet Edition":
"Among all the creatures of the six
realms, humans are the most fortunate, and have the best
opportunity for attaining the ultimate achievement. Gods and
demi-gods dwell in immeasurable happiness, exhausting the fruits
of their positive karma, and are too distracted with worldly
pleasure to seek liberation from cyclic existence. Hungry ghosts
and hell beings are too disturbed with suffering and animals are
too dumb. Humans, who enjoy both pleasure and pain are the only
ones who can seek liberation. (...)
"Unseen forces are believed to be as numerous as those we can
see: in every pond, forest, tree, house, dwell creatures big and
small, important and humble which occasionally appear to humans
in various forms, as well as in visions and in dreams.
"All these creatures are believed to be ruled by the protectors
of the ten directions. These deities include gods from the Hindu
pantheon such as Brahma and Indra. They are gods, and though
they are immensely powerful and believed to control all the
forces of the universe they are not beyond the wheel of cyclic
existence and thus cannot be an object of refuge for humans
aspiring for liberation. They may or may not be sympathetic to
the Buddhist doctrine, but their help and cooperation can be
cultivated and is considered essential, since they control all
other non-human creatures, gods, demi-gods and ghosts. Tantric
rituals always include an offering to them at the beginning to
assure their non-interference.
"The creatures dwelling in individual places are called Sa-dag
or land owners, or guardian deities. They belong to the realm of
demi-gods or ghosts - not all ghosts are miserable creatures,
some are wealthy and powerful demons. They may appear to people
as ghosts, demons, or in dreams in an infinite variety of forms,
including the human one and may either help or harm depending on
their disposition. Many of the creatures in lakes, ponds and
rivers are nagas, or serpent beings who belong to the animal
realm. They sometimes appear in the form of snakes, or as half
snakes and half humans with elaborate jeweled crowns. They are
believed to be infinitely wealthy and to owe their present form
to a previous life of unethical generosity.
[Comment: This is called
bhogonmukhi-sukrti, or pious activities that bestow material
opulence. They are of godless nature but involve kindness to
other beings, with a view toward material happiness.]
"Human activity is bound to encroach on the well-being of living
creatures including those of other realms. Coming to a plot of
land and inadvertently building a house, cutting trees or mining
and digging natural resources will upset nagas and sa-dags just
as it does animals and insects in such a situation. It is said
that sa-dags and nagas equate the unauthorized use of land and
natural resources they occupy to pilfering their personal
The weaker ones among them will
undergo great hardship or die off, while the more powerful will
react with anger and strike back at the offenders, inflicting
disease, death, and sudden catastrophe. They will not
necessarily strike at the humans having committed the harm, as
most cannot identify the actual offenders, but at any human they
see, and innocent people may fall ill or die for no apparent
reason, or the whole area be affected with epidemics or cases of
"The following story was related by a Dema Locho Rinpochey, from
Drepung, and occurred in the 1950s in Tibet. One day, one of the
monks who was responsible for having the trees in the debating
square watered, developed a large sore on his thigh. Suspecting
it was caused by harm from nagas, he asked Rinpochey to consult
an oracle in a nearby village - a nun who was possessed by nagas
- to find out the cause of his illness. The naga, speaking
through the oracle admitted having caused the harm: 'Yes, it was
I who struck at that monk.' When Rinpochey asked the reason, it
replied: 'I was angry at humans for other reasons and I saw this
monk's luck was down and that he was vulnerable, so I caused him
to develop this sore'.
"Humans are most vulnerable to nagas and sa-dags when their luck
is low, as it is said that any weakness is immediately apparent
to these other-worldly creatures. In order to avert unlucky
circumstances which may bring one harm, people hang up strings
of different prayer flags bearing the image of a horse. The
'wind-horse' or Lung-ta is the symbol of one's luck. The Tibetan
expression 'His wind-horse is running' or 'is broken' refers to
this luck, and the prayer flags fluttering in the wind, a
tradition of Bon origin, is believed to give the upper hand to
"Since humans cannot survive without some form of land
exploitation and building, Tibetans take certain measures to
prevent unnecessary mishaps. While the hanging of prayer flags
is like a general preventive measure, that of avoiding harm
which has no direct cause, more particular measures are sought
when any kind of digging is involved. Whenever choosing a site
for building, whether for a mandala, temple or house, a lama is
consulted as to the method by which the nagas and sa-dag on the
site might be appeased and treated.
The lama will know something about
them either through dreams, divination or clairvoyance.
According to Buddhist tantric practice, there are other ways of
performing rituals. These are: peaceful, increasing, forceful
and wrathful. The methods that apply to pacifying creatures of
other realms are peaceful and wrathful, and the rituals used are
extremely varied, in type as well as in tradition.
"Generally, in either case, a ritual based on sutra called Tashi
Sojong is performed, to bring good luck and please the dwellers.
If performing tantric rituals, the lama will offer tormas to the
sa-dag or nagas abiding on the land. Tormas are conical-shaped
offering cakes which have been blessed in three ways by a highly
realized being by mantras, where they are purified from any
defilements of ordinariness, by meditational stabilization, by
which they are made infinite and by gestures, or mudras, which
ensure that the recipient is satisfied.
The idea of this ritual is to offer
gifts to the sa-dag and nagas in exchange for use of their land.
It is a deal, a give and take situation like selling a house,
and if the 'sellers' are satisfied, things will proceed
smoothly. There are some situations, however, where the land may
be owned by particularly powerful sa-dags, who will not want to
give in to humans and will do their utmost to create obstacles
and harm. Such places are known as 'rough'. The spirits and
demons inhabiting them will be unyielding in their views and
generally delight in causing harm to human trespassers causing
illness and bad dreams. If the lama examining the land sees such
a situation, he will either declare the site unfit for building,
or deal with the situation using the wrathful method.
"Through the possibilities are vast, the most commonly used
wrathful method for clearing a site from negative forces, is the
'throwing of ritual cakes' which is like using a bomb to send
harmful creatures to another existence. The motivation of the
lama is one of compassion, and knowing that the purpose of the
project is beneficial one and that the being causing the harm is
accumulating negative karma, he will actually help it by
transferring its consciousness to another realm where it will be
of less harm to other beings. Only a person with a higher level
of realization is qualified to perform such a ritual.
"When obstacles are removed, the Lu Thaye, a very powerful naga
believed to be constantly moving under the ground is dealt with.
Sudden digging would disturb him, but his movements in a
particular spot can be plotted astrologically, and a spot on the
plot can be found where no part of his body would be present at
the time of the first, symbolic digging. This would be followed
by offerings of ritual cakes to pacify him. This done, the
building could proceed without further interference.
"In some cases, sa-dags and nagas not only take offense at
encroachment on their land, but at harm inflicted on certain
animals they feel are their own. The following is a story which
took place about eighty years ago in a remote area of Kham. The
head of a group of nomads, feeling he was above the law against
hunting wild animals which prevailed in his land, one day
decided to go shooting. He went off with his rifle and spotted a
beautiful stag. He aimed at it, and saw something like a golden
stirrup between its antlers. He put down his rifle and stared,
but could see nothing. He aimed and put down his rifle two or
three times, seeing the stirrup appear and disappear, hesitated,
and finally shot.
The stag was hit by the bullet but
escaped, leaving a trail of blood. That night, the man returned
home, unable to find the carcass of the animal he had hoped to
kill and suddenly became very ill. As he lay dying, he related
to his kin the incident with the stag, regretting he had shot it
and mumbling he should have known better, seeing such an unusual
object as a golden stirrup between its antlers. He died that
very night and his family concluded he was the victim of a
revengeful sa-dag to whom either the stag belonged to or of
which he had taken the form.
"Incense and vase-offering rituals, which were routinely
performed by the Tibetan government and also by private
individuals and lamas were not only meant as a remedy in case of
drought or other calamities, but also as a regular preventive
measure to bring about positive conditions. Non-human creatures
were known for their liking of fragrant smells, and the
tradition of sang-so, which was originally practiced by the Bon
to appease and please local deities, was later practised by
Buddhists for the same purpose. In the case of vase-offering
rituals, vases were filled with different precious metals and
cereals, blessed by mantras, meditative stabilization and
gestures and placed in lakes or other places throughout the
country where nagas were known to dwell, as a boon to them.
These gifts could be likened to
presents offered by the king of one country to that of another,
aimed at pleasing the recipients who reciprocated with timely
rain, pure water and a disease free environment. They had ways
of showing their liking in particular ways. Dema Locho Rinpochey
recalls a time when Drepung Loseling college decided to renovate
a small retreat house on one of their estates, a few hours from
Lhasa. The place had a spring and was known for its important
naga and sa-dag population. The college called on Rinpochey to
perform a ritual to keep the nagas out of the way during the
time of the restoration work.
This involved attracting them into a
mirror which was transformed, by the lama's concentration, into
a very pleasant abode in which they were asked to remain, as
honored guests, until their usual dwelling was once more fit to
stay in. Rinpoche also offered a bathing ritual to the spring,
purifying any defilements it would have undergone during the
work. He said that the next morning, the caretaker pointed out
that the water was much more abundant than usual, a sign that
the nagas who dwelled in it were pleased."
4. Serpent in
4.1. Middle East
"The possibility that an ancient
reptilian-saurian race may exist below the surface of this
planet is not an idea which is relatively new. This infernal yet
physical race has been referred to in spiritual and historical
records which date back to the beginning of time. Ancient Hebrew
history, for instance, records that our human ancestors were not
the only intelligent, free-will beings who inhabited the ancient
world. Genesis chapter 3 refers to the "Serpent," which
according to many ancient Hebrew scholars was identified with a
hominoid or bi-ped reptilian being.
The ancient Hebrew word for
"Serpent" is "Nachash" (which according to Strong's
Comprehensive and other Biblical concordances contained in
itself the meanings: Reptile, Enchantment, Hissing, Whisper,
Diligently Observe, Learn by Experience, Incantation, Snake,
etc. all of which may be descriptive of the serpent-sauroid race
which we have been referring to).
The original "Nachash" was not
actually a "snake" as most people believe, but actually an
extremely intelligent, cunning creature possessed with the
ability to speak and reason. It also stood upright as we've
said, as did many of it's descendants, the small "saurian"
predators which ambled about on two legs."
Cult of the Serpent" file, edited by
In the book of Genesis Elohim punished
the Serpent for deceiving Eve by ordering him to crawl on his
stomach from that time on. They (Elohim) also created enmity between
human and serpent race.
The book of Revelation describes eschatological accounts when the
enmity between human and serpent race escalates into an open
"...And there was war in heaven:
Michael fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his
angels... and the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent,
called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world..."
There are other interesting biblical
references to serpents and dragons in Psalms 44:19, 74:13, 148:7,
Issaiah 13:22, etc.
4.2. India: Nagas of the Underworld
The Nagas are a race of serpent beings. Most often they manifest
themselves with half-man, half-serpent bodies, although sometimes
they assume the shape of a dragon, or appear in the guise of a
cobra. They can take many different forms including snakes, humans
with snake tails and normal humans, often beautiful maidens. A
precious gem is embedded in their heads endowing them with
supernatural powers including invisibility. Some are demoniac, some
neutral or sometimes helpful.
Nagas are divided into four classes: heavenly, divine, earthly or
hidden, depending upon their function in guarding the heavenly
palace, bringing rainfall, draining rivers or guarding treasures.
In Burma, the Nagas combine elements of the dragon, snake and
crocodile. They have guarded and protected several royal Burmese
personages. They also give rubies to those they favor.
They inhabit lakes and rivers, but their real domain is a vast
underground region called Bila-svarga, or subterranean heavens.
There they guard great amounts of jewels and precious metals. Here
they dwell with their seductive mates, the Naginis who sometimes
One such account is to be found for example in the Mahabharata.
Arjuna, the son of King Pandu, was "abducted" by Ulupi, the Naga
princess who enamored him, into the parallel realm in the river
Ganges near Hardwar. After spending a night with her and begetting a
son called Iravan, he returned back.
This incident is also mentioned in the
Bhagavata Purana 9.22.32.
R. Thompson in his book "Alien
Identities" uses this account to give an example of parallel
The Mahabharata story follows:
"When his residence was thus crowded
with divinity, the darling son of Pandu and Kunti then went down
into the Ganges water, to be consecrated for holy rite. Taking
his ritual bath and worshiping his forefathers, Arjuna, happy to
take his part in the rite of fire, was rising out of the water,
O king, when he was pulled back in by Ulupi, the virgin daughter
of the serpent king, who could travel about at her will and was
now within those waters. Holding onto him, she pulled him down
into the land of the Nagas, into her father's house.
"Arjuna then saw in the most honorable house of the Naga king,
whose name was Kauravya, a carefully attended fire. Dhananjaya
Arjuna, son of Kunti, took over the duty of the fire, and
without hesitation he made the offering and satisfied the sacred
flames. Having done the duty to the fire, the son of Kunti then
said laughingly to the daughter of the Naga king, "Why have you
acted so boldly, O shy and beautiful woman? What is the name of
this opulent land? Who are you and whose daughter are you?"
"Ulupi said: "There is a serpent named Kauravya, born in the
family of Airavata. I am his daughter, O Partha, and my name is
Ulupi, lady of the snakes. I saw you, Kaunteya, when you went
down into the waters to take your ritual bath, and I was stunned
by Cupid. O Kuru child, now that the god of love has stirred me
up so, you must welcome me, for I have no one else, and I have
given myself to you in a secluded place."
"Arjuna said: "Dharmaraja Yudhisthira has instructed me to
practice celibacy for twelve months, and I agreed; thus I am not
my own master. I would like to please you, but I have never
spoken an untruth. How can I avoid a lie and also please you,
snake woman? If it could be done without hurting my religious
principles, then I would do it."
"Ulupi said: "I understand, son of Pandu, how you are wandering
the earth, and how your elder brother has instructed you to
practice celibacy: "There will be a mutual accord that if any
one of us mistakenly intrudes upon the others during their time
with Drupada's daughter, then he must remain in the forest for
twelve months as a celibate brahmacari." That was the agreement
you all made. But this exile you agreed upon is in regards to
Draupadi. You all accepted the religious vow to be celibate in
relation to her, and so your religious vow is not violated here
"Your eyes are very big and handsome, and it is your duty to
rescue those who are in pain. Save me now, and there will be no
breach of your religious principles. And even if there is some
very subtle transgression of your religious principles, then let
this be religious rule, Arjuna, that you gave me back my life.
My lord, accept me as I have accepted you, for it will be an act
approved by decent people; And if you will not accept me, then
know that I am a dead woman. O strong-armed one, practice the
greatest virtue, which is the act of giving life. I come to you
now for shelter, for you are an ideal man.
"Kaunteya, you always take care of the poor and helpless people,
and I have gone straight to you for shelter and am crying out in
pain. I beg you, for my desire is so strong. Therefore you must
please me by giving yourself; it is proper for you to make me a
"Sri Vaisampayana said: "Thus addressed by the virgin daughter
of the serpent lord, the son of Kunti, basing his actions on the
religious law, did for her all that she desired. The fiery hero
Arjuna spent the night in the palace of the Naga king, and when
the sun rose he too rose up from Kauravya's abode."
Similar story is recorded in the
Harivansha, which is the addendum to the Mahabharata. Yadu, the
founder of the Yadava family, went for a trip to the sea, where he
was carried off by Dhumavarna, king of the serpents, to the capital
of the serpents. Dhumavarna married his five daughters to Yadu, and
from them sprang seven distinct families of people.
Kumudvati, the Naga princess, married Kusha, the son of Rama, as
described in the scripture Raghuvansha.
The following account touches upon the issue of underground
The Vishnu Purana speaks about the Gandharvas, descendants of sage
Kashyapa and his wife Muni. Therefore they are also called Mauneyas.
(According to Hindu Dictionary by Manurishi Foundation, the Mauneyas
are a class of Gandharvas, who dwell beneath the earth, and are
sixty millions in number.) They were fighting with the Nagas in the
subterranean regions, whose dominions they seized and whose
treasures they plundered.
The Naga chiefs appealed to Vishnu for
relief, and He promised to appear in the person of Purukutsa, son of
King Mandhata, to help them. Thereupon the Nagas sent their sister
Narmada to this Purukutsa, and she conducted him to the regions
below, where he destroyed the Gandharvas. (According to the Ramayana
similar Gandharvas were defeated by Bharata, the brother of Rama,
and Hanuman.) The ninth khanda of the Bhagavata Purana also briefly
mentions this story.
The Bhagavata Purana narration is based on the incident which
happened to King Pariksit. He was cursed by a young brahmana to die
within seven days as a result of a snakebite. The boy thought the
king had offended his father, who did not welcome the king in his
ashrama being absorbed in deep meditation. Thus the king left after
putting a dead snake on sage's shoulder.
The king decided to accept the curse as
a will of providence and sat down at the bank of Ganges to prepare
for his death. At that time the great young sage Shuka, the son of
Vyasa, arrived there and the king asked him to explain the most
important knowledge meant for a person about to die. Thus the sage
started to narrate the great Purana. As a result the king attained
His son Janamejaya, however, became angry at the serpents and to
revenge his father's death he started a great sacrifice meant to
destroy all the serpents but later he stopped it to please the sage
Astika, their relative. (Astika's father was the sage Jaratkaru who
married Manasa, the sister of the Naga king Vasuki.) The whole story
is narrated in the Mahabharata, Adi Parva.
The origin of the Naga race is described in the Mahabharata,
"Long ago, in the godly millennium,
Prajapati Daksha had two brilliant and sinless daughters,
amazing sisters who were gifted with great beauty. Named Kadru
and Vinata, they both became wives of the primordial sage
Kashyapa, a husband who was equal in glory to the Prajapati.
Being pleased with his religious wive, Kashyapa, with much
happiness, offered them both a boon. Hearing of Kashyapa's
joyful intention to let them choose an extraordinary boon, the
two excellent women felt an incomparable joy.
"Kadru chose to create one thousand serpent sons, all of equal
strength, and Vinata hankered to have two sons who would exceed
all of Kadru's sons in stamina, strength, valor, and spiritual
influence. Her husband awarded her only one and a half of these
desired sons, knowing that she could not have more. Vinata then
said to Kashyapa, "Let me have at least one superior son."
"Vinata felt that her purpose was satisfied and that somehow
both sons would be of superior strength. Kadru too felt her
purpose fulfilled, since she would have one thousand sons of
equal prowess. Both wives were delighted with their boons. Then
Kashyapa, that mighty ascetic, urging them to carry their
embryos with utmost care, retired to the forest.
"After a long time Kadru produced one thousand eggs, O leader of
brahmanas, and Vinata produced two eggs. Their delighted
assistants placed the two sisters' eggs in moist vessels, where
they remained for five hundred years. When the years had passed,
the sons of Kadru hatched from their eggs, but from Vinata's two
eggs her two sons were not to be seen. That austere and godly
woman, anxious to have children, was ashamed. Thus Vinata broke
open one egg and saw therein her son. Authorities say that the
upper half of the child's body was fully developed, but the
lower half was not yet well formed."
This son was Aruna, the charioteer
of Surya, the sun god. His brother was the powerful Garuda,
divine eagle, who became the carrier of Vishnu. Garuda is an
avowed enemy of serpents who are his food. Krishna mentions him
among the most prominent representatives of His power: "Among
the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlada, among subduers I am
time, among beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuda."
Nilamata Purana, the ancient history of
Kashmir, is centered around the original inhabitants of Kashmir, the
Nagas. In the verses 232-233 it mentions their capital:
"O Naga, the dwelling of the Nagas
is the city named Bhogavati. Having become a Yogi that Naga-chief
(Vasuki) dwells there as well as here. But with his primary
body, Vasuki, protecting the Nagas, shall live in Bhogavati. O
sinless one, you (also) dwell here constantly."
Bhogavati is also mentioned in the
Bhagavata Purana 1.11.11. Its another name is Putkari.
Bhagavata Purana gives the following description of
Bila-svarga, the subterranean regions compared for their
opulence to heaven (5.24.7-15):
"My dear King, beneath this earth
are seven other planets, known as Atala, Vitala, Sutala,
Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala and Patala. I have already
explained the situation of the planetary systems of earth. The
width and length of the seven lower planetary systems are
calculated to be exactly the same as those of earth.
"In these seven planetary systems, which are also known as the
subterranean heavens [bila-svarga], there are very beautiful
houses, gardens and places of sense enjoyment, which are even
more opulent than those in the higher planets because the demons
have a very high standard of sensual pleasure, wealth and
influence. Most of the residents of these planets, who are known
as Daityas, Danavas and Nagas, live as householders. Their
wives, children, friends and society are all fully engaged in
illusory, material happiness. The sense enjoyment of the
demigods is sometimes disturbed, but the residents of these
planets enjoy life without disturbances. Thus they are
understood to be very attached to illusory happiness.
"My dear King, in the imitation heavens known as bila-svarga
there is a great demon named Maya Danava, who is an expert
artist and architect. He has constructed many brilliantly
decorated cities. There are many wonderful houses, walls, gates,
assembly houses, temples, yards and temple compounds, as well as
many hotels serving as residential quarters for foreigners. The
houses for the leaders of these planets are constructed with the
most valuable jewels, and they are always crowded with living
entities known as Nagas and Asuras, as well as many pigeons,
parrots and similar birds. All in all, these imitation heavenly
cities are most beautifully situated and attractively decorated.
"The parks and gardens in the artificial heavens surpass in
beauty those of the upper heavenly planets. The trees in those
gardens, embraced by creepers, bend with a heavy burden of twigs
with fruits and flowers, and therefore they appear
extraordinarily beautiful. That beauty could attract anyone and
make his mind fully blossom in the pleasure of sense
There are many lakes and reservoirs
with clear, transparent water, agitated by jumping fish and
decorated with many flowers such as lilies, kuvalayas, kahlaras
and blue and red lotuses. Pairs of cakravakas and many other
water birds nest in the lakes and always enjoy in a happy mood,
making sweet, pleasing vibrations that are very satisfying and
conducive to enjoyment of the senses.
"Since there is no sunshine in those subterranean planets, time
is not divided into days and nights, and consequently fear
produced by time does not exist.
"Many great serpents reside there with gems on their hoods, and
the effulgence of these gems dissipates the darkness in all
"Since the residents of these planets drink and bathe in juices
and elixirs made from wonderful herbs, they are freed from all
anxieties and physical diseases. They have no experience of grey
hair, wrinkles or invalidity, their bodily lusters do not fade,
their perspiration does not cause a bad smell, and they are not
troubled by fatigue or by lack of energy or enthusiasm due to
"They live very auspiciously and do not fear death from anything
but death's established time, which is the effulgence of the
Sudarshana chakra of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
"When the Sudarshana disc enters those provinces, the pregnant
wives of the demons all have miscarriages due to fear of its
"The planetary system below Talatala
is known as Mahatala. It is the abode of many-hooded snakes,
descendants of Kadru, who are always very angry. The great
snakes who are prominent are Kuhaka, Taksaka, Kaliya and Susena.
The snakes in Mahatala are always disturbed by fear of Garuda,
the carrier of Lord Vishnu, but although they are full of
anxiety, some of them nevertheless sport with their wives,
children, friends and relatives.
"Beneath Mahatala is the planetary system known as Rasatala,
which is the abode of the demoniac sons of Diti and Danu. They
are called Panis, Nivata-kavacas, Kaleyas and Hiranya-puravasis
[those living in Hiranya-pura]. They are all enemies of the
demigods, and they reside in holes like snakes. From birth they
are extremely powerful and cruel, and although they are proud of
their strength, they are always defeated by the Sudarshana
chakra of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who rules all the
planetary systems. When a female messenger from Indra named
Sarama chants a particular curse, the serpentine demons of
Mahatala become very afraid of Indra.
"Beneath Rasatala is another planetary system, known as Patala
or Nagaloka, where there are many demoniac serpents, the masters
of Nagaloka, such as Shankha, Kulika, Mahashankha, Shveta,
Dhananjaya, Dhrtarashtra, Shankhacuda, Kambala, Ashvatara and
Devadatta. The chief among them is Vasuki. They are all
extremely angry, and they have many, many hoods - some snakes
five hoods, some seven, some ten, others a hundred and others a
thousand. These hoods are bedecked with valuable gems, and the
light emanating from the gems illuminates the entire planetary
system of bila-svarga."
Serpents have their special place in most spiritual traditions (as
already shown above) where they symbolize either good or
evil. In the Vedic tradition they are inherently related to some
of its most important personages.
Shiva ("auspicious One"), is one of the members of the trimurti
(Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva).
He is in charge of the material mode of
ignorance (tamo-guna) bringing destruction of the universe:
"Yamaraja said: My dear servants,
you have accepted me as the Supreme, but factually I am not.
Above me, and above all the other demigods, including Indra and
Candra, is the one supreme master and controller. The partial
manifestations of His personality are Brahma, Visnu and Siva,
who are in charge of the creation, maintenance and annihilation
of this universe. He is like the two threads that form the
length and breadth of a woven cloth. The entire world is
controlled by Him just as a bull is controlled by a rope in its
(Bhagavata Purana 6.3.12)
His position is between the living
beings (jiva-tattva) and the Supreme Lord, Vishnu (vishnu-tattva),
in the category of his own, shiva-tattva.
Shiva is usually depicted in painting and sculpture as white or
ash-colored, with a blue neck (from holding in his throat the poison
thrown up at the churning of the cosmic ocean, which threatened to
destroy humankind), his hair arranged in a coil of matted locks (jatamakuta)
and adorned with the crescent moon and the Ganges (he allowed her to
trickle through his hair).
He has three eyes, the third eye
bestowing inward vision but capable of burning destruction when
focused outward. He wears a garland of skulls and a serpent around
his neck and carries in his two (sometimes four) hands a deerskin, a
trident, a small hand drum, or a club with a skull at the end.
His paraphernalia symbolizes: moon - time measurement in months,
three eyes - tri-kala-jna ("knower of three phases of time - past,
present, and future"), snake around the neck - time measurement in
years, necklace of skulls with snakes - changing of ages and
begetting and annihilating of mankind.
His association with the serpents is
obvious from his epithets: Nagabhushana, Vyalakalpa ("having
serpents as ornaments"), Nagaharadhrik ("wearing
serpent-necklaces"), Nagaraja, Nagendra, Nagesha ("king of Nagas"),
Nakula ("mongoose," one who is immune from the serpent venom),
Vyalin ("one who possesses snakes"), etc. Shiva is the main object
of worship at Benares under the name Vishveshvara ("master of the
One of his features is time (Bhagavad-gita 11.32: "Time I am,"
Bhagavata Purana 3.5.26-27, Brahma-samhita 5.10), the separating
factor between the material and spiritual world (Bhagavata Purana
3.10.12) and a medium to perceive the Lord's influence (Bhagavata
Shiva's female consort is known under various names as Uma, Sati,
Parvati, Durga, Kali, and Shakti. The divine couple, together with
their sons - the six-headed Skanda and the elephant-headed Ganesha -
are inhabiting the Mount Kailasa in the Himalayas as well as the
Mahesha-dhama on the border of the material world (Devi-dhama) and
the spiritual world (Vaikuntha or Hari-dhama).
In the Brahma-samhita he is said to be another form of Maha-Vishnu,
and is compared to a yogurt. Yogurt is nothing but milk, yet it is
not milk. As yogurt is prepared when milk is mixed with a culture,
the form of Shiva expands when the Supreme Personality of Godhead is
in touch with material nature. Since Shiva and Vishnu are aspects of
one God, Shiva occurs as one of Vishnu's names listed in the Vishnu-sahasranama.
The original father, Krishna, says, aham bija-pradah pita: "I am the
seed-giving father." That pita (father) is Lord Shiva, Shambhu, and
material nature (goddess Durga) is considered the mother.
By their sexual union are all
conditioned souls inserted into the material nature. The
impregnation of material nature is wonderful because at one time
innumerable living beings are conceived. Bhago jivah sa vijneyah sa
canantyaya kalpate (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 5.9). In this way Shiva
is connected with both creation and destruction.
Because of his marginal position between
material and spiritual realm he is seemingly full of contradictions
but these are reconciled on the transcendental level.
5.2. Ananta Shesha
Some of the Nagas are many-headed. Ananta, also called Shesha, the
king of the Nagas, has unlimited heads. According to the Bhagavata
Purana 5.25.3, He is the source of Rudra, an expansion of Shiva.
When Krishna lists the most prominent representatives of His power,
He says, ananta casmi naganam - "among the Nagas I am Ananta" (Bhagavad-gita
"My dear Lord, at the end of each
millennium [here Brahma's life] the Supreme Personality of
Godhead Garbhodakashayi Vishnu dissolves everything manifested
within the universe into His belly. He lies down on the lap of
Shesha Naga, from His navel sprouts a golden lotus flower on a
stem, and on that lotus Lord Brahma is created. I can understand
that You are the same Supreme Godhead. I therefore offer my
respectful obeisances unto You."
(Bhagavata Purana 4.9.14)
Ananta is called Shesha as He is the
residue or remainder of the universe during cosmic dissolutions. He
is elaborately described in the Bhagavata Purana, 5th khanda,
chapter 25. Ultimately He will destroy the world:
"At the time of the final
devastation of the complete universe [the end of the duration of
Brahma's life], a flame of fire emanates from the mouth of
(Bhagavata Purana 2.2.26)
Sage Patanjali, the author of
Yoga-sutras, is considered by some to be an incarnation of Shesha.
He is the author of the Mahabhashya, the celebrated commentary on
the Grammar of Panini, and a defense of that work against the
criticisms of philosopher Katyayana. His name allegedly represents
that he fell as a small snake from heaven into the palm of Panini (pata
- fallen, anjali - palm).
South Indian Vaishnava philosopher and spiritual leader Ramanuja
(11th century) is also considered an incarnation of Shesha.
"The foremost manifestation of
Krishna is Sankarshana, who is known as Ananta. He is the origin
of all incarnations within this material world. Previous to the
appearance of Lord Krishna, this original Sankarshana will
appear as Baladeva, just to please the Supreme Lord Krishna in
His transcendental pastimes."
(Bhagavata Purana 10.1.24)
"According to expert opinion, Balarama, as the chief of the
original quadruple forms, is also the original Sankarshana.
Balarama, the first expansion of Krishna, expands Himself in
five forms: (1) Maha-Sankarshana, (2) Karanabdhishayi, (3)
Garbhodakashayi, (4) Kshirodakashayi, and (5) Shesha. These five
plenary portions are responsible for both the spiritual and
material cosmic manifestations. In these five forms Lord
Balarama assists Lord Krishna in His activities.
The first four of these forms are
responsible for the cosmic manifestations, whereas Shesha is
responsible for personal service to the Lord. Shesha is called
Ananta, or unlimited, because He assists the Personality of
Godhead in His unlimited expansions by performing an unlimited
variety of services. Shri Balarama is the servitor Godhead who
serves Lord Krishna in all affairs of existence and knowledge.
Lord Nityananda Prabhu, who is the same servitor Godhead,
Balarama, performs the same service to Lord Gauranga by constant
(Chaitanya Charitamrta, Adi-lila
5.10, purport by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)
Balarama appeared as Krishna's older
brother and took part in Krishna's childhood pastimes in Vrindavana.
He is the first direct expansion of Krishna. Balarama only had one
wife, Revati, daughter of King Raivata, and by her He had two sons,
Nishatha and Ulmuka. He is represented as having fair complexion,
and clad in a dark-blue vest (nilavastra). His special weapons are
the club (khetaka or saunanda), the plow (hala), and the pestle (musala).
Thus He is called Phala, Hala, Halayudha
("plow-armed"), Halabhrit, Langali ("plow-bearer"), Sankarshana
("one who attracts everything"), Musali ("pestle-holder"). As he has
a palm for a banner, he is called Taladhvaja.
He represents guru-tattva, the principle
of spiritual master.
"May the Supreme Personality of
Godhead in His incarnation as Dhanvantari relieve me from
undesirable eatables and protect me from physical illness. May
Lord Rsabhadeva, who conquered His inner and outer senses,
protect me from fear produced by the duality of heat and cold.
May Yajna protect me from defamation and harm from the populace,
and may Lord Balarama as Shesha protect me from envious
(Bhagavata Purana 6.8.18)
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Freed from all sinful
reactions are those who rise from bed at the end of night, early
in the morning, and fully concentrate their minds with great
attention upon My form; your form; this lake; this mountain; the
caves; the gardens; the cane plants; the bamboo plants; the
celestial trees; the residential quarters of Me, Lord Brahma and
Lord Shiva; the three peaks of Trikuta Mountain, made of gold,
silver and iron; My very pleasing abode [the ocean of milk]; the
white island, Shvetadvipa, which is always brilliant with
spiritual rays; My mark of Shrivatsa; the Kaustubha gem; My
Vaijayanti garland; My club, Kaumodaki; My Sudarshana disc and
Pancajanya conchshell; My bearer, Garuda, the king of the birds;
My bed, Shesha Naga; My expansion of energy the goddess of
fortune; Lord Brahma; Narada Muni; Lord Shiva; Prahlada; My
incarnations like Matsya, Kurma and Varaha; My unlimited
all-auspicious activities, which yield piety to he who hears
them; the sun; the moon; fire; the mantra omkara; the Absolute
Truth; the total material energy; the cows and brahmanas;
devotional service; the wives of Soma and Kashyapa, who are all
daughters of King Daksha; the Rivers Ganges, Sarasvati, Nanda
and Yamuna [Kalindi]; the elephant Airavata; Dhruva Maharaja;
the seven rshis; and the pious human beings."
(Bhagavata Purana 8.4.17-24)
Although Garuda enmity toward
serpents is known from this verse it is clear that both Garuda
and Shesha Naga are servants of the Lord Vishnu, or Krishna.
Although this overview of the position of a Serpent in different
traditions is far from exhaustive the conspicuous similarity of
accounts from different cultural contexts hints that the Vedic
tradition spread in the distant past over large parts of the world.
This is also supported by the tradition itself.
In this article we have traced the Serpent in various traditions,
places and contexts which ultimately lead us to the transcendental
realm. On this level the duality of "good" and "bad" ceases to exist
as everything is of absolute nature.
This puts an end to the Serpent
Om tat sat
Alien Identities, by Richard L.
Thompson (ch. 7.2.6-7, 9.5-6)
Bhagavad-gita, translation by
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Bhagavata Purana, translation by
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
The Bible (KJV)
The Cult of the Serpent (file,
edited by Branton)
Hindu Dictionary, by Manurishi
Indian Serpent-Lore or The Nagas
in Hindu Legend and Art, by J. Ph. Vogel
Mahabharata, translation by
Hridayananda das Goswami
Rajatarangini, by Kalhana
Sanskrit-English Dictionary, by