Incorporation of Snake Cult in Indian Religion

Evolution Deities Aspect Introduction: India has seen the birth of many cults and religions. A lot of factor governs the beginning of these cults. It is common knowledge that many deities in Indian religion were began to worship out of fear. As humans it is soothing for us to believe in a super power which is capable of giving as well as ridding us off our problems. This principle applied for animals too and it became the basis of animal worship in India, as all the existing creatures are either useful of harmful to humans so it is better to worship them.

Naga clan of ancient India were the first clan to begin the snake worship. Not only Hinduism but also Buddhism and Jainism are worshiper of snakes. Worshiping the deities of natural elements like water, springs and rivers also are symbolized by the waving form of snakes. Snakes are mostly depicted as gigantic cobras with many hoods or human upper torsos and serpent body and are believed to live in patal loka. Different religions have adopted snake worship for their own reasons.

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But there has always been a fear of snakes in human beings as they were the reason of many deaths. People also believed that if angered and disrespected snakes will course them and that action may result in sickens or death, and so they started worshiping and offering milk to snakes to please them. Evolution: Worshiping sun and snake with prayers and rituals have been practised in India even before the Vedic times. Snake or serpent worship is one of the oldest “denominations” of Hinduism. There are various myths associated with the beginning of the snake worship in India.

It is believed that the custom of worshiping snakes was incorporated from the “Naga clan” of ancient India, and the Indo-Aryans carried forward the tradition by continuing to worship various snake deities. According to Puranas, snakes were believed to be offspring of Sage Kashyapa and Kadru. Whereas according Brahmanda Purana snakes were produced from water. The Linga Purana has totally different say on this, it believes that the snakes were produced from the first tear Brahma shaded after realising his inability to create universe single-handedly.

Having such a close contact of snakes with varies sages and deities can also be one of the reason of worshiping snakes and association it with mainstream deities. There is mention of snake worship in Atharva Veda too. In Rig Veda, there are hints of snake worship, where earth is considered as the Sarpa-rajni or “the queen of the serpents or the queen of all that moves”. On the walls of temples of Medieval era were founded the engraved paintings of snakes. This shows the existence of snake worship from early medieval era and in fact it started 500 years before Buddha’s birth.

This tradition is still alive in India and in its religions as well as it got spread across different countries of the world. There are eight pre-eminent snakes mentioned in Hindu mythology having their association with one or the other god or goddess. Sheshnaga, a snake with 1000 heads and a messive hood is believed to have been born of what was left after the universe had been created. She is the couch of Vishnu on which lord rests. It is even believed that earth rests on him. This snake is worshiped as manifestation of lord Vishnu.

Ananta, a very long snake, and dark blue in colour is also considered as manifestation of lord Vishnu. This snake is endless, and believed to encircle the whole earth. Vasuki is also considered as one amongst the royal snakes and Naga king with 7 heads. Vasuki means the divine being. He was used as a Churning rope for sumndra manthan. Mansadevi is considered as a queen of snake. She is sister of snake king vasuki. She is goddess who can save mortals from snake bite. Takshaka, saffron coloured snake with 9 hoods is worshiped as lord of nagas.

Kaliya, was a five headed demon serpent living in river yamuna. He was a curse for people of vrindavan and have had also troubled Krishna in childhood. But later Krishna subdued him. Padmaka and padmanabha are two snakes believed to guard the south side of the country. And the last snake kulia is a dusky brown snake with half moon crescent on his head. Deities: In India, snake gods are linked with health, wealth and great securities when one is in difficulty as believed by Hindus. Snake gods are believed to live in their separate world.

Large numbers of deities like lord Shiva and Vishnu are associated with holy snakes or snake gods in one or the other ways, and so are many temples dedicated to the worshiping of snake. Abul Fazal (the court historian of Akbar) stated that there are 700 places sacred to serpents. Lord Shiva: Lord Shiva has many associations with snakes. According to Puranas, Lord Shiva was associated with Naga cult. Shiva has snakes around his neck, arms, hair and sometimes around his body, symbolizing the yogic power of him for destruction and creation.

Snake is compared as yogi living on mountains and forests, who carries nothing, builds nothing, can stay without eating for months living just on air. The Vasuki snake shown curled 3 times around the neck of Shiva symbolizes the time cycle- past present and future. Shiva lingam is also associated with snake and covered with snake hood. In the text of Mahabharata Harivamsa, sheshnaga was connected with Shiva rather than Vishnu as son of him. Lord Vishnu: SheshNaga also called AnantaNag having 1000 heads is the couch of Vishnu, and is also worshiped as a manifestation of Vishnu.

Lord is believed to rest on the Nag during the process of destruction and recreation. Earth is believed to respite on SheshNaga. The snake is believed to be a representation of time and symbol of eternity. This snake is manly worship during the sacred Hindu festival of Nagpanchmi. Balram: Balram, elder brother of lord Krishna, is believed to be personification of the snake Ananta. MansaDevi: MansaDevi is sister of Vasuki and snake king Shesha, and she herself is also considered as queen of the snakes, possessing the special powers over the snake venom.

Her body is ornamented with snakes. She possesses the power of both destruction and recreation almost like the snake shedding its skin and being reborn. If believed some legends, she is daughter of Lord Shiva with a beautiful mortal woman. MansaDevi is worshiped all across the country as a snake Goddess, and is mainly worshiped during rainy season when snakes are most active, to prevent snakebites. She is believed to be a pre Aryan Goddess worshiped commonly in different parts of West Bengal. Lord Buddha: Snake has always been a vital part of Buddhist icons.

The Buddha with naga is called naga Buddha. He is depicted with the coiled up snake serving as cushion with seven heads covering the head of Buddha. Snakes have vital association with Buddha, cause it is believed that during the initial days of Buddha, snake saved the life of lord. According to legend the cobra once tried to harm Buddha but instead saved his life and became his disciple. Parshwanath Parshwanath, the 23rd tirthankar of Jain is most of the time depicted with snake hood over his head. This deity has association with snake before his birth.

He is named Parshwanath after his mother saw a black snake crawling by the side of her bed. Parshwanath had soft corner for snakes since childhood. Nagarajan and Nagarani: Nagarajan and Nagarani are the male and female snake gods. Most of the Hindu temples have idols of both Nagarajan and Nagarani. Sarpa yakshi and Naga yakshi are the consorts of Nagaraja. In villages of southern side of India people worship them in their live form. These gods are offered milk and raw eggs to please them. Mannarasala temple is ancient shrine and internationally renowned pilgrimage centre located near Harippad. .

Shri Rahu and Shri Ketu: Planetary deities of Hinduism Rahu and Ketu are also worshiped as snake Gods and are mostly have their icons in Lord Vinayaka temple next to him. These deities are associated with the accidents and adversity in the life of people as Shri Rahu is both averter and creator of these adversities, whereas shri Ketu is deity of gnan (knowledge). Some people worship these deities out of fear and to maintain their distance from any hardship in life. If worshiped Rahu and Ketu, one can obtain all the desirable things and fortune in life as they are also associated with horoscopic conditions.

Vasuki Vasuki, one of the great kings of Naga with a human head and a gem engraved in his forehead is considered auspicious in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology. According to Hindu mythology, Vasuki served as a rope wrapped around the mountain Mandara, to churn the ocean of milk to decide the victor of immortality between Devas and Asuras. This caused him immense pain which resulted in the exhale of his venom, considered most intoxicating venom ever and enough to destroy all the beings of the universe. To protect everyone from this lord Shiva had to swallow the venom keeping it in his throat.

After which Shiva was named Nilkantha too. Vasuki with eight other snake kings were first one to be present during the first preaching of Lord Buddha and have always been even after that. They are considered responsible to save the life of Lord Buddha and are part of many of the Buddhist icons. Talking about snake gods, Sushavas and Padma Nagas were some tutelary snake deities associated with Wular Lake. Nila who is considered as lord of naga is worshiped in Kashmir (Muslim-Dominated city), specially during festivals and snowfalls.

There are almost 527 Nagasworshiped in Kashmir itself. Vairoti devi, parshva yaksha, Janguli are some deities from Jainism showed with snakes. Kerala has many temples exclusively for snakes. Mpummaikatu and Mannarsala are some 2 main temples of Kerala worshiping snake gods. In some part of Karnataka and Kerala, Snakes are not associated with particular deities but have their own shrine under a neem tree, in corner of the garden. Killing snakes intentionally, especially cobra results in curse by snake till eternity. Sources: http://www. ecoheritage. cpreec. org/Viewcontall. hp? $mFiHPEyWNks6UXr4nWU http://www. indiancultureonline. com/details/Snake-Worship. html http://www. festivalsofindia. in/nagpanchami/Celebrations. aspx http://zenatrophy. blogspot. com/2010/06/buddha-and-snake-king. html http://www. koausa. org/Gods/God9. html http://hubpages. com/hub/THE-SNAKE-GODS-OF-HINDUISM http://www. bibliotecapleyades. net/sumer_anunnaki/reptiles/reptiles15. htm http://www. theholidayspot. com/nag_panchami/nag_panchami_history. htm http://www. indiamike. com/india/yoga-spirituality-and-religion-in-india-f54/snake-worship-in-india-t8470/