Naga and Nagini, The Land of Patala-loka
Along the Mekong river, deep within a hidden cave, a light shines in the darkness. The hood of a half serpent/half human being emerges and hands you a crystalized tear, you feel the power emanating from it as you take the sacred treasure and pocket it. You hold in your hands a sacred "Naga Eye", now sit with Sadhu as he tells you the origin of your newfound gift.
The word Naga in Sanskrit means ‘serpent’, these are half-human and half-cobra semi divine beings; think of them in the context of demigods and cryptids at the same time. Ancient texts in Buddhism, Jainism and Hindu culture have numerous stories, songs, poems and sightings that describe the Naga. Though they are often benevolent they can also be destructive and coldly calculating in approach to humans. They are not exactly shape-shifters, but are able to transform as wholly human or wholly serpent. Where they call home is in a kingdom underground known as Naga-loka or Patala-loka, which is reached through many cave systems. Known entrances and areas suspect of holding portals to the kingdom are found within India, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia to name a few countries. Nagas can be found in the rivers, caves and forests, but tend to stay within hidden caves close to their portals.
Patala-loka is described as being a resplendent kingdom adorned with jewels and precious metals which powers the palaces they live within. This kingdom is structured in the same way as the Fae and Djinn, there's a hierarchy and various tribes, they have jobs, trades, laws, and a complex way of living much the same as our own. 3 omnipotent Nagas are said to rule the kingdom, they are Shesha (or Ananta), Vasuki and Takshaka. They have divided territories and respectfully collaborate together to establish order and harmony for their race. Takshaka is considered to be the tribal king of the serpent beings and worshipped in highest regard. Shesha was said to have served Vishnu directly. Vasuki lorded over the oceans in the beginning, all 3 dwell within the kingdom which was built after Brahma dictated they make way for humans to inhabit the world above.
In modern Hinduism, on Naga-panchami day every year is the annual celebration of the Nagas.
Female Nagas are referred to as ‘Naginis’ and are beautiful to behold as much as the male equivalent is handsome. The dynasties of Manipur in northeastern India, Pallavas in southern India, and the ruling family of Funan (ancient Indochina) each claim origin over the creation of the Nagi. The Nagi is the offspring of a human being breeding with a Naga or Nagini. They are said to be completely human in appearance, but besieged with divine power.
Naga Eyes are a precious stone that come in various colors and are found on the floors of riverbeds and deep within caves. These are believed to be the literal crystallized tears of a Naga or Nagini. In Thailand it is a common sight to see them displayed in temples or sold as powerful amulets. The Mekong river which passes through Thailand is said to have the highest amount of sightings and greatest quantity of the highest quality Naga Eyes. There is a cave in the northeast sector of the Khon Kaen province where a particular Naga lives that has made regular appearances to locals and gives blessings on a regular basis. An entire Wat was built around the Naga's cave entrance and he is considered to be a very venerable Luang Por and teaches the Dhamma, he even has disciples and will gift his tears to worthy acolytes and villagers. Master Thanaphol told me about this cave/Wat and how he'd visited and met the Naga.
In Buddhism they speak of an almighty king, one that unites the purported 3 within Hinduism. Muchalinda is said to be supreme ruler within Theravada traditions and is even spoken of in Tibetan ancient texts. He would be the king of kings to all Naga and Nagini. Muchalinda was said to have sheltered the Guatama Buddha (Siddhartha/Shakyamuni Buddha) for a period of 7 days in severe rains whilst he was in deep meditation. Phra Nak Prok amulets depict this illustration and are said to be highly blessed specifically for individuals born on a Saturday.
In Malay and Orang Asli traditions, the Chini Lake located in Pahang is said to be the home of a Naga named Sri Gumum. This Naga is said to protect the city and its people and dates back to an unknown ancient civilization within that area, whose name was lost to time. I find it interesting that there is more than one account within varying cultures of Nagas and Naga-like beings that protect or are engaged with a village or town.
In the temple of Angkor Wat located in Cambodia is a statue of a Naga depicted with 7 heads which are meant to pay homage to the 7 races and types of Naga.
The 7 races of Naga-
Earth and Hidden types- Their domain is land and they are guardians and collectors of gems and precious metals.
Water types- The ocean, rivers and lakes are their domain, they covet rubies, emeralds and gold above anything else.
Sky and Divine types- These Naga inhabit the low heavens and the air itself, they are considered part Elemental and of a different class of Nagas, the clouds and rains are sometimes of their doing.
Heavenly types- Guardians of the temples belonging to various Gods and Goddesses. They maintain their post and are said to die defending the gates before letting anyone or anything through.
King types- The aforementioned kings are considered to be of higher class and genetic structure, thus belonging to an exclusive category.
Naga lore is very rich, they are similar to the Djinn and Fae in the way that they have various tribes, rules of society and families. They die physical deaths and can live upward from 500 to 10,000 years. The Naga are actually a subspecies of dragons and highly skilled in magick. The descriptions of Naga do vary in size and color, but they all contain a jewel in the hood of their head while in snake form and it is in the middle of their throat while they are in their human or mixed form. The jewel will range in color depending on the Naga type, but the function is the same. The jewel can light up in darkness just as a flashlight does, it can even shine so brightly that it blinds or even burns and cuts like a high grade laser. The jewel is usually swallowed when not in use and then regurgitated when needed.
History within the Naga culture states that a great war was nearing between the Earth types and the Water types, but the Mahayana Buddha had diffused it and to this day many Naga follow Buddhism of differing traditions to varying degrees. Something I find fascinating is the historical notations of descendants from Nagas. I spoke briefly on the Nagi, but there’s been accounts documented of lineages of ancestry tied to a Naga parent with human and Nagi offspring carrying forward many generations.
"Dynasty of Kashmir, 8th century AD, descended from Naga named Karkota.
Members of the ruling class in the Principality of Bhadarvih, the king known as Vasuki is credited to many of their lineage.
The Rajas of Chuita (Chhota) Nagpur, their bloodline was founded by a Naga named Pundarika.
Dynasty of Pallavas came from the son of Chola Nod who was a Nagi born from a Nagini."
The Naga has only one known natural predator and it is not surprising to find that predator is none other than the mighty Garuda. In some instances, Garuda are known to hunt lone Nagas in similar fashion to a pack of wolves prowling in nature for an easy meal. Along with a Naga's jewel, they also are highly venomous and capable of delivering a bite that is said to burn and rot the body of a Garuda to jelly.
Think of what that could do to a human..
In the same venom however is the essence of immortality, and some Yogis, Brahmans, and Monks are deemed worthy and given the bite of immortality and not the burning poisonous bite. When it comes to humans though, we are no competition. Similar to Medusa of Greek mythology using a stare to turn victims to stone, the Naga can stare at a mortal and drop them dead on the spot. This ability only works on humans and is not viable against a Garuda due to the Garuda's own mystical properties.
Naga have also been known to work with mages, protect magical objects, and even bring magicians sacred artifacts. Naga are said to have respect for human kings and have both protected them and brought them gifts in the past. Sometimes these gifts are temporary and the moment they touch the ground they disappear and wind up back in the Naga-loka. Guatama Buddha’s alms bowl was believed to have been a gift from the Nagas. King Udayana was given a magical lute with the ability to capture elephants after he freed a Naga named Vasunemi from a Snake Charmer.
Snake Charmers are something we've all heard of, but the practice of charming snakes is also practiced with magical incantations and used in a negative manner to ensnare Nagas and have them be subservient slaves. Think of how King Solomon enslaved the Djinn and used them to build the first temple in the city of Jerusalem. He used a magic ring containing a ruby which is the only known stone to be perfect for the binding of Djinn. This is similar to how the snake charmers use specific incantations to summon and bind Naga to do their bidding.
The Mekong is the world’s 12th-longest river and the 7th-longest in Asia. The estimated length is somewhere around 4,350 km (2,703 mi). It travels from Tibet through China and across much of South East Asia. It is all along the Mekong where the majority of modern day sightings come from and a bit of research will turn up videos and eye witness accounts. Maybe if you take a trip to Asia and do some exploring, just maybe you'll meet a Naga. The only question though is, will it be a favorable or unfortunate encounter?
I wanted to end this with a personal story, one of my Abbotts from Thailand gifted me 2 amulets in particular that hold a special story. Thanaphol gave me a Lek Lai made of silver and told me it was harvested from a Naga cave, I asked him for more details and this is what he told me…
“This Lek Lai is one of a few that were left in the cave with offerings for the Naga (the cave and Naga I mentioned earlier), he shined his jewel upon the ones he would give back and swallowed the rest. You now have the light of the Naga in this Lek Lai.”
He also gave me a Naga Mit Mor, the Mit Mor is a holy knife similar to a Tibetan Phurba. They are used in exorcisms and are complex tools that monks are trained to use in combating spirits and to give blessings to lay people and can even be used as tools for healing work. They are crafted from nails that have saturated in the energies culminated from years of mantra and ritual practices. These nails come right out of the temple ceilings or walls and are usually quite old, they are then flattened out and shaped as a blade and inscribed with Pali spells. Mit Mor are also crafted from pure Lek Lai and these are said to be the most powerful Mit Mor. When I asked Master about this particular Mit Mor and why it had the prefix of Naga, this is what he said…
“This holy knife was blessed by the Naga associated with our temple, he etched the Pali you see on it with his nail. He ate the yak whose bone forms the handle and casing, he gives this to you, it is not mine to give, I only share.”
Whether you believe my personal stories or my Abbott’s is entirely up to you, but I've seen enough weirdness in the presence of my masters to know when they speak in metaphors and when they speak literally. I believe Master Thanaphol and I may or may not have proof of this Naga by experience and evidence. I do hope that many of you get the chance one day to spend time with Theravada Buddhist Monks. I'm not telling you to convert, but just seek out a temple and learn more about the Thai culture and some of the reasons why the monks do what they do. There just may be something to it….