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Krishna dancing over the subdued Kaliya Naag, and his wives asking Krishna for his mercy. From a Bhagavata Purana manuscript, c. 1640.

Kaliya (IAST:Kāliya, Devanagari: कालिय), in Hindu traditions, was a poisonous Naga living in the Yamuna river, in Vrindavan. The water of the Yamuna for four leagues all around him boiled and bubbled with poison. No bird or beast could go near, and only one solitary Kadamba tree grew on the river bank. It is association with Lord Krishna dancing and subduing the snake which is celebrated as Nag Nathaiya or Nag Nrithya.

The proper home of Kāliya was Ramanaka Dwipa, but he had been driven away from there by fear of Garuda, the foe of all serpents. Garuda had been cursed by a yogi dwelling at Vrindavan so that he could not come to Vrindavan without meeting his death. Therefore, Kāliya chose Vrindavan as his residence, knowing it was the only place where Garuda could not come.

Once sage durvas came as a guest and was served by Radha after this when Radha was having a walk across river yamuna she saw a gaint serpant and got terrified and started running and reached Vrindavan and told to the people that she had seen a gaint serpant in river Yamun.Lord Krishna got very angry hearings this and wanted to teach a lesson to kaliya as he had troubled his Radha.So he went to river Yamuna searching for Kāliya . Kaliya wrapped Krishna's legs and squeezed it when all the Gokul people came to see this Krishna was in the river and Yashoda got afraid of the snake and ordered Krishna to return at once mean while kaliya tried to escape but Krishna stamped his tail and warned him to not trouble anyone again.Telling this Krishna returned .The next day when Krishna and his friends along with Radha were playing a ball game across Yamuna the ball fell in Yamuna, when radha tried to bring it back Krishna stopped her and said he would get it back when he went in the Yamuna the snake wraped him pulled him in Yamuna . When the Gokul people heard this all the people of Nandagokula got tensed and came running towards the Yamuna bank as soon as they heard the news that Krishana jumped into the river where the dangerous Kaliya was staying. Meanwhile, in the bottom of the river, Kaliya wrapped himself around Krishna's body. Krishna became so huge that Kāliya had to release him. He immediately regained his originally form, and Krishna started to jump on all his heads so as to release the poison and not fill Yamuna with poison and he suddenly sprang into Kāliya's head and assumed the weight of the whole universe, beating him with his feet. Kaliya started vomiting blood and slowly began to die. But then the naga's wives came and prayed to Krishna with joined palms, worshipping Krishna and praying for mercy for their husband. Kāliya, recognizing the greatness of Krishna, surrendered, promising he would not harass anybody. So Krishna pardoned him .Saying this Krishna said you mistake it not yet forgiven and threat he would dance on top of him. After dancing aton him Krishnahna asked Kaliya to leave the river and go to Ramanaka Dwipa. Ramanaka Dwiwhere he promiced that he will not be troubled by Garuda iji.[1]

The people who had gathered on the banks of Yamuna were terrified looking at the colour of water which was changing to poison colour. Slowly,Krishna rose up from the bottom of the lake dancing on the head of Kaliya. When they saw Krishna, everyone were happy and they were thrown into an ecstatic dance performance on the heads of Kaliya. This episode is remembered as the 'Kaliya naag mardan' in South India.

And at the last, as per Puranas, Kaliya was pushed into patala loka and is there till today.

Statue depicting Kaliya daman. Taken at Swaminarayan Temple, Bhuj, Kutch
Krishna Conquers the Serpent Kaliya (Page from a Dispersed Bhagavata Purana Series)- Brooklyn Museum


Kaliya Daman, c. 1880.

The history of Krishna and Kāliya is told in Chapter Sixteen of the Tenth Canto of the Bhagavata Purana. Kaliya,is also a rajpot caste in India.

Krishna standing on serpent Kaliya at Nag Nathaiya festival, Ganges river in Varanasi

In Punjab there were two small states of rulers belonging to this Kaliraman. These were Sinpura and Bhagowal.

From Mathura they went to Kabul-Ghazni with other Jats - Yadavas. They founded the Kingdom of Garh - Ghazni. During rise of Islam they came back to Bhatner- Sirsa. According to their bards they founded the old village of Patan and Siswad. From Patan Chaudhary Sishu came to Sisai. His brother Sunda founded village Sandwa and Salaywala.

Oothukkadu in Tamil Nadu, TIRUVARUR district, is said to have a svayambhu (self-formed) image of this scene.

See also[edit]


  • Sister Nivedita & Ananda K.Coomaraswamy: Myths and Legends of the Hindus and Bhuddhists, Kolkata, 2001 ISBN 81-7505-197-3

External links[edit]