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Nāga, aka: Naga; 16 Definition(s)


Nāga means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit. Check out some of the following descriptions and leave a comment if you want to add your own contribution to this article.

The Sanskrit term Nāga can be transliterated into English as Naga, using the IAST transliteration scheme (?).

In Hinduism


1a) Naga (नग).—(Vāsiṣṭha) a sage of the epoch of III Sāvarṇa Manu.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa IV. 1. 79.

1b) A mountain surrounding the back portion of the Śilā at Gayā; here the Pitṛs give bali to Yamarāja and Dharmaraja.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 108. 28.

2a) Nāga (नाग).—Mt. north of the Mahābhadra lake;1 on the north of Meru.2

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa V. 16. 26; Vāyu-purāṇa 36. 31.
  • 2) Viṣṇu-purāṇa II. 2. 30.

2b) As the Yajñopavīta of Śiva, as a source of Mūrchana (Music).*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 32. 19; 61. 53.

2c) Creatures born with human forms above the naval and of snakes below; born of Kaśyapa and Kadru; their capital was Bhogavatī; their chief was Ananta;1 came to Dvārakā with the gods;2 attacked the chariot of the Lord;3 residents of the Naiṣadha Hill, of all talams and especially Pātalam; capital Māhiṣmatī, renowned for Karkoṭaka sabhā; worship Pitṛs;4 Vāsuki, as their overlord;5 when milking the cow-earth Takṣaka was the calf;6 celebrated the marriage of Śiva and Umā;7 to be worshipped in Palace buildings.8

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa I. 11. 11; II. 6. 13; III. 20. 48; XI. 16. 19; 24. 13; Matsya-purāṇa 261. 47-50.
  • 2) Bhāgavata-purāṇa XI. 6. 3; 12. 3; 14. 6.
  • 3) Ib. XII. 11. 48.
  • 4) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 16. 9, 21; 17. 34; 20. 45; III. 69. 26; IV. 2. 26; 6. 72; 9. 72; Viṣṇu-purāṇa II. 5. 4.
  • 5) Matsya-purāṇa 8. 7.
  • 6) Ib. 10. 19-20.
  • 7) Ib. 154. 462.
  • 8) Ib. 266. 46; 268. 17; 273. 71.

2d) Sons of Kaṇḍu;1 country of the.2

  • 1) Vāyu-purāṇa 30. 311; 69. 68; 94. 26.
  • 2) Vāyu-purāṇa 48. 18; 101. 28.

2e) Nine in number ruled from Campāvatī (Padmāvatī, Viṣṇu-purāṇa) seven ruled from Mathurā for 383 years the territory surrounding the Gangā and Prayāga. Sāketa and Magadha were under their control.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 74. 194-5, 267; Vāyu-purāṇa 99. 453; Viṣṇu-purāṇa IV. 24. 63.

2f) Elephants; created for use in the Devāsura wars; other names are Dvirada, Hasti, Kari, Vāraṇa, Danti, Gaja, Kuñjara, Mātanga, Dvīpa, Sāmaja: turning of the tongue due to the curse of Agni and two tusks and enormous strength by curse of the Gods; see also dignāgas.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 7. 34, 334-5.

2g) Elephants born of Sāma.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 7. 334-5.
Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index

about this context:

The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

Kathā (narrative stories)

Nāga (नाग).—Nāgas have been treated in great extent, as the heroine of the story is a Nāga princess. They are divided into eight Kulas or families, namely

  1. Āvanta,
  2. Vāsuki,
  3. Takṣaka,
  4. Karkoṭa,
  5. Kulika,
  6. Śaṅkhapāla,
  7. Mahāpadma,
  8. Padma.

They reside in the nether world (pātāla). They assume different forms at their will. Their movement is unobstructed in all the worlds. They are beautiful, divine and strong. An enemy dies as soon as lie is touched by them. They are indifferent to the wealth of others and therefore they are appointed as the protectors of wealth by people. It is wonderful that they live, like Yogins, only on wind as their food.

Source: Shodhganga: A critical appreciation of soddhalas udayasundarikatha

about this context:

Kathās (कथा) are special kind of Sanskrit literature: they are a kind of a mix between Itihāsa (historical legends) and Mahākāvya (epic poetry). Some Kathās reflect socio-political instructions for the King while others remind the reader of the historical deeds of the Gods, sages and heroes.

Āyurveda (science of life)

Nāga (नाग) is another name (synonym) for Kampillaka, which is the Sanskrit word for Mallotus philippensis (kamala tree), a plant from the Cleomaceae family. This synonym was identified by Narahari in his 13th-century Rājanighaṇṭu (verse 13.99), which is an Āyurvedic medicinal thesaurus.

Source: Wisdom Library: Āyurveda and botany

about this context:

Āyurveda (आयुर्वेद, ayurveda) is a branch of Hindu science dealing with subjects such as health, medicine, anatomy, etc. and has been in use throughout India since ancient times.

Rasaśāstra (chemistry and alchemy)

Nāga (लोह, “Lead”) is the name for a variation of ‘metal’ (dhātu/loha) from the sub-group named Pūtiloha, according to the Rasaprakāśasudhākara (a Sanskrit work on Indian medicinal alchemy (rasaśāstra)). Lead has no varieties.

Source: Wisdom Library: Rasa-śāstra

The lowest metal on the alchemical hierarchy is lead, most commonly called nāga, “serpent” or sīsa/sīsaka, an allomorph of the name of the cosmic serpent Śeṣa; or, more rarely, ahirāja, “serpent king.” The Rasakāmadhenu (2.1.4) and Rasendra-bhāskara (4.108) state that lead arose from the semen of Vāsuki, the king of a mythic race of serpents known for the great wealth it possessed in its subterranean treasure hoards.

This bird-serpent opposition is made most explicit in the ca. sixteenth century Rasakāmadhenu, which identifies gold, at the summit of the hierarchy of metals, with semen shed by Agni, and lead, at the base of the system, with the seed of Vāsuki. Let us also recall here the Rāmāyana myth, related at the beginning of this chapter, in which lead and tin (often used interchangeably) are said to arise from the residue (mala) or after-birth of the generation of gold.

Source: Google Books: The Alchemical Body

Nāga (lead):—That which looks black on cutting, heavy in weight, snigdha (smooth) on touch, melts quickly, looks ujjvala (bright) and black from out side is considered śuddha-nāga (pure lead) and that is useful, not otherwise.

Nāga-bhasma can destroy all the premaha-rogas, vātaja-rogas, specially dhanurvāta-rogas etc., and also twenty types of śleṣmaja-(kaphaja)-rogas undoubtedly.

Source: Indian Journal of History of Science: Rasaprakāśa-sudhākara, chapter 4-5

about this context:

Rasaśāstra (रसशास्त्र, rasa-shastra) is an important branch of Āyurveda, specialising in chemical interactions with herbs, metals and minerals. Some texts combine yogic and tantric practices with various alchemical operations. The ultimate goal of Rasaśāstra is not only to preserve and prolong life, but also to bestow wealth upon humankind.

Āstika (orthodox philosophy)

Great serpents (or dragons, or water creatures). The king of the Nagas protected Buddha from a storm.

Source: Wisdom Library: Indian Philosophy

about this context:

The term āstika refers to six mainstream schools of Hindu philosophy, accepting the Vedas as authorative. They are: Nyāyá (logic), Vaiśeṣika (atomism), Sāṃkhya (enumeration), Yoga (Patañjali’s school), Mimāṃsā (Vedic exegesis) and Vedanta (Upaniṣadic tradition). Together they also go by the name ṣaḍdarśana (‘six systems’).

General definition (in Hinduism)

Nāga (नाग) appears once in the Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa (xi. 2, 7, 12) in the form mahānāga, where ‘great snake’ or ‘great elephant’ may be meant. In the Bṛhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad (i. 3. 24), and in a citation found in the Aitareya-brāhmaṇa the sense of ‘elephant’ is clearly intended. In the Sūtras the mythic Nāga already occurs.

Source: archive.org: Vedic index of Names and Subjects

Naga — serpent spirits classified as one of the eight classes of gods and demons, or as animals or demi-gods. They live beneath the surface of the earth or in the water and are believed to be endowed with magical powers and wealth, as well as being responsible for certain types of illnesses (Wyl. klu’i nad) transmitted to humans. In Indian mythology they are preyed on by the garudas.

Virupaksha, the guardian king of the West, is the leader of the nagas.

The word Naga comes from the Sanskrit, and nag is still the word for snake, especially the cobra, in most of the languages of India. When we come upon the word in Buddhist writings, it is not always clear whether the term refers to a cobra, an elephant or even a Mysterious person of nobility. It is a term used for unseen beings associated with water and fluid energy, and also with persons having powerful animal-like qualities or conversely, an impressive animal with human qualities.

In myths, legends, scripture and folklore, the category naga comprises all kinds of serpentine beings. Under this rubric are snakes, usually of the python kind (despite the fact that naga is usually taken literally to refer to a cobra,) deities of the primal ocean and of mountain springs; also spirits of earth and the realm beneath it, and finally, Dragons. In Indian mythology, Nagas are primarily serpent-beings living under the sea.

However, Varuna, the Vedic God of storms, is viewed as the King of the Nagas, ie. Nagarajah. Here we see the king and queen of water Nagas worshipping Parshva, the Jain Tirthankara of the era before this one. All Nagas are considered the offspring of the Rishi or sage, Kasyapa, the son of Marichi. Kashyapa is said to have had by his twelve wives, other diverse progeny including reptiles, birds, and all sorts of living beings. They are denizens of the netherworld city called Bhogavati. It is believed that ant-hills mark its entrance. The naga Varuna connection is retained in Tibetan Buddhism, where Varuna, Lord of weather, is known as Apalala Nagarajah.

etymology: Naga (Skt. nāga; Tib. ཀླུ་, lu; Wyl. klu).

Source: bimbima: Hinduism

Nāga (नाग): Nāga is the Sanskrit and Pāli word for a minor deity taking the form of a very large snake, found in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. 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 (नाग) in Hindi and other languages of India.

Source: WikiPedia: Hinduism

The race of snakes, the Nagas is said to be the offspring of the great sage Kashyapa and Kadru, a daughter of Daksha prajapathi. They reside in Nagaloka. Their half-brother Garuda, the mount of Lord Vishnu is their natural enemy. Various snakes are mentioned as their king, including Vasuki, Takshaka and Adisesha.

Source: Apam Napat: Indian Mythology

In Buddhism


Nāga, (Ved. nāga; etym. of 1. perhaps fr. *snagh=Ags. snaca (snake) & snaegl (snail); of 2 uncertain, perhaps a Non-Aryan word distorted by popular analogy to nāga1) 1. a serpent or Nāga demon, playing a prominent part in Buddh. fairy-tales, gifted with miraculous powers & great strength. They often act as fairies & are classed with other divinities (see devatā), with whom they are sometimes friendly, sometimes at enmity (as with the Garuḷas) D. I, 54; S. III, 240 sq.; V, 47, 63; Bu. I. 30 (dīghāyukā mahiddhikā); Miln. 23. Often with supaṇṇā (Garuḷas); J. I, 64; DhA. II, 4; PvA. 272. Descriptions e.g. at DhA. III, 231, 242 sq.; see also cpds.—2. an elephant, esp. a strong, stately animal (thus in combn hatthi-nāga characterising “a Nāga elephant”) & freq. as symbol of strength & endurance (“heroic”). Thus Ep. of the Buddha & of Arahants. Popular etymologies of n. are based on the excellency of this animal (āguṃ na karoti=he is faultless, etc.): see Nd1 201=Nd2 337; Th. 1, 693; PvA. 57.—(a) the animal D. I, 49; S. I, 16; II, 217, 222; III, 85; V, 351; A. II, 116; III, 156 sq.; Sn. 543; Vv 55 (=hatthināga VvA. 37); Pv. I, 113. mahā° A. IV, 107, 110.—(b) fig. = hero or saint: S. II, 277; III, 83; M. I, 151, 386; Dh. 320; Sn. 29, 53, 166, 421, 518. Of the Buddha: Sn. 522, 845, 1058, 1101; Miln. 346 (Buddha°).—3. The Nāga-tree (now called “iron-wood tree, ” the P. meaning “fairy tree”), noted for its hard wood & great masses of red flowers (=Sk. nāgakesara, mesua ferrea Lin.): see cpds. °rukkha, °puppha, °latā.

—âpalokita “elephant-look” (turning the whole body), a mark of the Buddhas M. I, 337; cp. BSk. nāgâvalokita Divy 208; —danta an ivory peg or pin, also used as a hook on a wall Vin. II, 117 (°ka Vin. II, 114, 152); J. VI, 382; —nāṭaka snakes as actors DhA. IV, 130; —nāsūru (f.) (woman) having thighs like an elephant’s trunk J. V, 297; —puppha iron-wood flower Miln. 283; —bala the strength of an elephant J. I, 265; II, 158; —bhavana the world of snakes Nd1 448; J. III, 275; DhA. IV, 14; —māṇavaka a young serpent J. III, 276; f. °ikā ib. 275; DhA. III, 232; —rājā king of the Nāgas, i.e. serpents J. II, 111; III, 275; Sn. 379 (Erāvaṇa, see detail SnA 368); DhA. I, 359; III, 231, 242 sq. (Ahicchatta); IV, 129 sq. (Paṇṇaka); —rukkha the iron-wood tree J. I, 35 (cp. M Vastu II. 249); —latā=rukkha J. I, 80 (the Buddha’s toothpick made of its wood), 232; DhA. II, 211 (°dantakaṭṭha toothpick); —vatta habits of serpents Nd1 92, also adj. °ika ibid. 89; —vana elephant-grove Dh. 324; DhA. IV, 15; —vanika cl. hunter M. I, 175; III, 132; —hata one who strikes the el. (viz. the Buddha) Vin. II, 195. (Page 349)

— or —

Naga, (Sk. naga tree & mountain, referred by Fausböll & Uhlenbeck to na+gacchati, i.e. immovable (=sthāvara), more probably however with Lidén (see Walde under nāvis) to Ohg. nahho, Ags. naca “boat=tree”; semantically mountain=trees, i.e. forest) mountain S. I, 195= Nd2 136A (nagassa passe āsīna, of the Buddha); Sn. 180 (=devapabbata royal mountain SnA 216; or should it mean “forest”?); Th. 1, 41 (°vivara), 525; Pv. II, 961 (°muddhani on top of the Mount, i.e. Mt. Sineru PvA. 138; the Buddha was thought to reside there); Miln. 327 (id.); Vv 166 (°antare in between the (5) mountains, see VvA. 82). (Page 345)

Source: Sutta: The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary

naga : (m.) mountain. || nāga (m.), a cobra, an elephant; the iron-wood tree; a noble person.

Source: BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary

about this context:

Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

General definition (in Buddhism)

1. Naga

An eminent Thera of Ceylon, a teacher of the Vinaya. Vin.v.3.

2. Naga

Third of the ten sons of Mutasiva, and therefore a brother of Devanampiyatissa. Dpv.xi.6; xvii.75.

3. Naga

A thera of Ceylon during the pillage by Brahmans Tissa. His sister was an arahant theri named Naga (q.v.). For their story see MA.i.546f.; AA.ii.654f.

4. Naga

An Elder of Karaliyagiri in Ceylon. For eighteen years he gave up teaching the Dhamma, but later he taught the Dhatukatha, and his memory of the contents was perfect. Vsm.96.

5. Naga

See Coranaga, Mahanaga, etc.

-- or --

1. Naga

Chief woman disciple of Sujata Buddha. J.i.38; Bu.xiii.26.

2. Naga

One of the chief women supporters of Phussa Buddha. Bu.xix.21.

3. Naga

A former birth of Asokamala, when she was the wife of Tissa (later Saliya), an artisan of Mundaganga. MT.605.

4. Naga Theri

An arahant of Bhataragama. During the pillage of Brahmana Tissa, when all the villagers had fled, she went with her colleagues to a banyan tree, the presiding deity of which provided them with food. She had a brother, Naga; when he visited her she gave him part of her food, but he refused to accept food from a bhikkhuni. MA.i.546; AA.ii.654.

5. Naga

A class of beings. See Appendix.

6. Naga

An eminent Theri of Ceylon. Dpv.xviii.35.

7. Naga

A woman who lived near the Rajayatana cetiya. Once, seeing sixty monks return from the village with empty bowls, she, although already pledged to work by day, borrowed some money on promise to work at night as well, and gave them food. The monks retired to Mucalindavana and developed arahantship before eating. The deity of the kings parasol shouted applause, and the king, having heard the story, gave Naga the whole island, which thus came to be called Nagadipa. Ras.ii.16f.

8. Naga

A class of beings classed with Garulas and Supannas and playing a prominent part in Buddhist folk lore. They are gifted with miraculous powers and great strength. Generally speaking, they are confused with snakes, chiefly the hooded Cobra, and their bodies are described as being those of snakes, though they can assume human form at will. They are broadly divided into two classes: those that live on land (thalaja) and those that live on water (jalaja). The Jalaja naga live in rivers as well as in the sea, while the Thalaja naga are regarded as living beneath the surface of the earth. Several Naga dwellings are mentioned in the books: e.g., Manjerika bhavana under Sineru, Daddara bhavana at the foot of Mount Daddara in the Himalaya, the Dhatarattha naga under the river Yamuna, the Nabhasa Naga in Lake Nabhasa, and also the Nagas of Vesali, Tacchaka, and Payaga (D.ii.258). The Vinaya (ii.109) contains a list of four royal families of Nagas (Ahirajakulani): Virupakkha, Erapatha,Source: Pali Kanon: Pali Proper NamesA term commonly used to refer to strong, stately, and heroic animals, such as elephants and magical serpents. In Buddhism, it is also used to refer to those who have attained the goal of the practice.Source: Access to Insight: A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist Terms

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

1) Nāga (नाग) is the name of the caitya-tree under which the parents of Candraprabha are often depicted in Jaina iconography, according to both the Śvetāmbara and Digambara tradition. The term caitya refers to “sacred shrine”, an important place of pelgrimage and meditation in Jainism. Sculptures with such caitya-trees generally shows a male and a female couple seated under a tree with the female having a child on her lap. Usually there is a seated Jina figure on top of the tree.

Candraprabha is the eighth of twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras: enlightened beings who, having conquered saṃsāra (cycle of birth and death), leave a path behind for others to follow. His father is Mahāsena and his mother is Lakṣmaṇā according to Śvetāmbara but Lakṣmī according to Digambara, according to the Ācāradinakara (14th century work on Jain conduct written by Vardhamāna Sūri).

2) Nāga (नाग) is the shorter name of Nāgadvīpa, one of the continents (dvīpa) of the middle-world (madhyaloka) which is encircled by the ocean named Nāgasamudra (or simply Nāga), according to Jain cosmology. The middle-world contains innumerable concentric dvīpas and, as opposed to the upper-world (adhaloka) and the lower-world (ūrdhvaloka), is the only world where humans can be born.

Nāga is recorded in ancient Jaina canonical texts dealing with cosmology and geography of the universe. Examples of such texts are the Saṃgrahaṇīratna in the Śvetāmbara tradition or the Tiloyapannatti and the Trilokasāra in the Digambara tradition.

Source: Wisdom Library: Jainism

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