From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
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. The celebration of Nag Nathaiya or Nag Nrithya is associated with the tale of Lord Krishna dancing upon and subduing Kāliya.

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 giant serpent and became terrified. She started running and reached Vrindavan where she told the people that she had seen a giant serpent in river Yamuna. Lord Krishna was very angry at hearing this and wanted to teach a lesson to Kāliya as he had troubled his Radha. He went to river Yamuna searching for Kāliya, who upon seeing Krishna, wrapped Krishna's legs and squeezed him. The Gokul people came to see that Krishna was in the river. Yashoda was afraid of the snake and ordered Krishna to return at once. Meanwhile Kāliya attempted to escape, but Krishna stamped his tail, and warned him to not trouble anyone again. Saying this Krishna returned to the people. The next day Krishna, his friends, and Radha were playing a ball game across the Yamuna and the ball fell in the Yamuna, Radha tried to go to get it back but Krishna stopped her and said that he would get it back. When he went in the Yamuna the snake wrapped him up and pulled him in the Yamuna. The Gokul people heard commotion and all the people of Nandagokula were concerned, and came running towards the bank of the Yamuna. They heard the news that Krishna had jumped into the river where the dangerous Kāliya was staying. In the bottom of the river, Kāliya had wrapped himself around Krishna's body. Krishna expanded himself, so that Kāliya had to release him. Krishna immediately regained his original form, and then started to jump on all of Kāliya's heads so as to release the poison in the snake so that he could no longer fill the Yamuna with poison. Krishna suddenly sprang onto Kāliya's head and assumed the weight of the whole universe, beating him with his feet. Kāliya started vomiting blood and slowly began to die. But then Kāliya's wives came and prayed to Krishna with joined palms, worshiping Krishna and praying for mercy for their husband. Kāliya, recognizing the greatness of Krishna, surrendered, promising he would not harass anybody. Seeing this, Krishna pardoned him. Krishna said your mistake it not yet completely forgiven, he then began to dance on top of Kāliya. After the dance Krishna asked Kaliya to leave the river and go to Ramanaka Dwipa. Ramanaka Dwiwhere and Krishna promised that Kāliya would not be troubled by Garuda iji.[1]

The people who had gathered on the banks of Yamuna were terrified looking at the water which had changed to a poison color. Slowly Krishna rose up from the bottom of the lake dancing on the head of Kāliya. When they saw Krishna, everyone were happy and they began an ecstatic dance performed on the heads of Kāliya. 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]