The Naga (Sanskrit: नाग) were one of the ancient most kshatriya (warrior) tribes of India. They spread throughout India during the period of the epic Mahabharata. The demi-god tribe called Suparnas (in which Garuda belonged) were arch-rivals of the Nagas. The Naga clans in Kerala and Kashmir seems to be the original and indigenous abode of all of them. Places like Thiru-Ananatha-Puram in Kerala and Anantnag in Kashmir attests these to be true.
- The Great Serpent Ananta (Shesha) was the first among all the Naga kings. Thiru-Anantha-Puram is known as the adobe of Great Serpent Ananta. References are found as Kerala was mentioned as Patala the Nether world in far ancient history. The Nair clan is known as the descendants of Great Serpent Ananta.
- The second Naga chief Vasuki had the kingdom near Kailasa (hence the connection of Vasuki with lord Siva).
- The third chief Takshaka, in Takshasila both not far from Anantnag.
- The kingdoms of other Nagas like Karkotaka and Airavata (near Iravati River (Ravi), one among the five rivers of Punjab) were also not far away.
- Arjuna's wife Ulupi was from one of such Naga kingdom, located presumably in the Gangetic Plain. There are now many Naga worshiping places in South India, especially in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
Naga race belonging to northern region of present India was almost exterminated in a genocide by Janamejaya, the Kuru king in Arjuna's line, who conducted the massacre of Nagas at Takshasila. As a result, a large number of people from Northern Naga clan has sought refuge in Kerala and inhabited in places called Mannarasala Nagaraja Temple and Puranattukara. This massacre was stopped by Astika, a Brahmin whose mother was a Naga (Vasuki's sister Jaratkaru).
Nāgas in Hindu religion
A festival of Nāga panchami is celebrated in Hindus to pay respect to Nāgas. The five Nāgas worshipped on Nāga panchami are Ananta, Vāsuki, Taxak, Karkotaka and Pingala. According to a Puranic myth Brahma’s son Kashyapa had four wives. Kashyapa’s first wife gave birth to Devas, second to Garudas, third to Nāgas and fourth to Daityas. The third wife of Kashpa was called Kadru, who gave birth to Nāgas. So Nāgas are also known as Kadroojā. They were the rulers of Pātāl-Loka. There is a Sanskrit shloka to remember important nine Nāgas as under: (Dainik Bhaskar 30 July 2006)
एतानि नवनामानि च महात्मनाम् । Etāni navanāmāni cha mahātmanām
Nagwanshis had a number of ruling dynasties as Dhaka/Dhata son of Dhatusena of Nagsena Nag see (Dhamapada in Buddism) and other are branches such as Takshak/Taxak Nag, Bachak/Badak Nag, Kilkil/Kalkal Nag, Karkotaka, Kaliramna etc. Mathura, Padmavati, Kantipur, and Thiruvananthapuram were capitals of Naga dynasty. Nagas of Padmavati were called Bhaarshivas as they were ardent worshippers of Lord Shiva and carried 'Shiva-linga' as their Royal insignia. (Bhaarshiva or भारशिव = भार ('weight') + शिव (Lord Shiva)).
Nagavanshi clan is found also in Nagaur and Sikar districts of Rajasthan and Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh. In Madhya Pradesh, Nagwanshis are found in Badwah and Khargone. Nagvanshi kshatriyas are also found in parts of Maharashtra. Other important Nagavanshi Clans are found in Karnataka (Tuluva Nadu) and Kerala.
- Christophe Jaffrelot (1999). The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics: 1925 to the 1990s : Strategies of Identity-building, Implantation and Mobilisation (with Special Reference to Central India). Penguin Books India. pp. 206–. ISBN 978-0-14-024602-5. Retrieved November 1, 2013.