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8th century Nagaraja carving, temple ceiling, Alampur, Telangana.jpg
8th century Nagaraja carving, Alampur, Telangana
Sanskrit transliterationNāgarāja
Wylie transliterationKlu'i rgyal po

Nāgarāja "King of the nāga" (Sanskrit: नागराज nāgarāja) are the figures that appears in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. These are the kings of the various races of Nagas.


A statue of Nagaraja

Hindu texts refer to three main beings by this title: Shesha, Takshaka and Vasuki. All of them are the children of rishi Kashyapa and Kadru.


Shesha, also sometimes known as Ananta, is the eldest brother: a devotee and a Mount of Vishnu , he represents the friendly aspect of snakes, as they save food from rodents. Vishnu is always in continuous meditation (Yoganidra) with Ananta forming a bed for him; thus, this posture is called Ananta-Sayana.


Vāsuki is a serpent king in Buddhism and Hinduism. He is a devotee of Shiva, who always wears the nāga around his neck. Vasuki also has a sister named Manasa.


Takshaka is a Nagaraja. In the Mahabharata, he ruled the Khandava forest, which was then burnt by the Pandava Arjuna. Later, Takshaka slew Parikshit, the grandson of Arjuna.


An ancient temple of Nagraj or snake god Vasuki is in Gujarat's surendranagar district's "Thangadh" town. Thangadh's land is also known as land of snake. People do worship Vasuki nag as the rustic god of Thangadh.

At Nagercoil in Kanniyakumari district of Tamil Nadu, a temple dedicated to Nagaraja exists.

There is another famous temple named Mannarasala in Alleppey district of Kerala. The deity in this temple embodies both Anantha and Vasuki into one. A temple devoted to nagraja exists in kaippattoor of Ernakulam district in Kerala, India. It is known as thekkanattil nagaraja kshetram.

A temple devoted to Nagaraja exists in Poojappura of Thiruvananthapuram District in Kerala, India. It is known as Poojappura Nagarukavu Temple. The uniqueness of this temple is that here the family of the Nagaraja including Nagaramma (Queen of Naga) and Nagakanya (Princess of the Naga kingdom) is placed inside a single temple.

Also at Thiruvananthapuram is an ancient abode of Serpent Wisdom known as Thuppanathu Kavu, located at Vazhamuttam. The three serpent deities evoked in this ancient temple are Nagaraja Vasuki (relating to Lord Shiva), Naga Yakshi (Serpent Queen/ wife of Nagaraja) and Naga Kanyaka. Turmeric powder, Noorum Paalum and Naagaroottu are offered to them. Accompanied by the Naga Gods and Goddesses at Thuppanathu Kavu are the goddess Vanadurga and the goddess Rajarajeswari.

Kukke Subramanya is a Hindu temple located in the village of Subramanya, Karnataka. In this temple Kartikeya is worshipped as Subramanya, lord of all serpents. The epics relate that the divine serpent Vasuki and other serpents found refuge under Subramanya when threatened by Garuda.


A Nagaraja with his wife in Buddhist Ajanta Caves.

There are many Nagarajas mentioned throughout various Buddhist texts. There are four major royal races of Nagarajas in Buddhism as the Virupakkhas, the Erapathas, the Chabyaputtas and the Kanhagotamakas.[1] Nāga Kings appears in the audience for many of Gautama Buddha's sermons in Buddhist scriptures. The duties of the Nāga Kings included leading the nāgas in protecting the Buddha, other enlightened beings, as well as protecting the Buddha Sasana.

Some of the most notable Nagarajas occurring in Buddhist scriptures are Virupaksa, Mucalinda, Dhrtarastra, Taksak, Vasuki, Nanda, Upananda, Sagara, Balavan, Anavatapta, Varuna and Utpala.


Virūpākṣa (Sanskrit; Pali: Virūpakkha) is a major deity in Buddhism. He is one of the Four Heavenly Kings and a dharmapala. He lives on the western part of Sumeru. He is leader of the nāgas.[2]

Statue of Virūpākṣa. Jōruri-ji, Japan.
A statue of Mucalinda sheltering Gautama Buddha (Naga Prok attitude). Sculpture in Nong Khai, Northeastern Thailand.


It is said that four weeks after Gautama Buddha began meditating under the Bodhi Tree, the heavens darkened for seven days, and a prodigious rain descended. However, the mighty King of Serpents, Mucalinda, came from beneath the earth and protected with his hood the one who is the source of all protection. The subject of Buddha meditating under the protection of Mucalinda, also known as Naga Prok attitude is very common in Southeast Asian Buddhist art.[3]


Buddhist literature features a Nāga King named Dhṛtarāṣṭra(Sanskrit; Pali: Dhataraṭṭha). He was the father of Gautama Buddha in a past life when the latter was a bodhisattva named Bhūridatta. He is mentioned in several Buddhist texts such as the Bhūridatta Jātaka, the Mahāmāyūrī Vidyārājñī Sūtra and the Mahāmegha Sūtra.[4]


Apalāla(Pali, Sanskrit) is a water-dwelling Nāga-king in Buddhist mythology.[5] He story of conversion to Buddhism by the Buddha (Pali: Apalāladamana) can be found in Buddhist texts such as Samantapāsādikā and Divyāvadāna; this is one of the most popular legends in Buddhist lore and art.[6][7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Book of Protection: Paritta". Retrieved 2021-04-15.
  2. ^ "Virūpakkha". Buddhist Dictionary of Pali Proper Names. Retrieved 2019-02-17.
  3. ^ Thanissaro, Bhikkhu. "Muccalinda Sutta: About Muccalinda".
  4. ^ "Bhuridatta Jātaka". Sutta Central. Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  5. ^ "Between Buddha and naga king: Enter the yin and yang of the Swat River". The Express Tribune. 2014-08-26. Retrieved 2019-04-12.
  6. ^ Rose, Carol M. (2001). Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. p. 22. ISBN 0-393-32211-4.
  7. ^ Hastings, James (1922). Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics. Charles Scribner's & Sons. p. 127.
  8. ^ Matthews, John O. (2005). The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures: The Ultimate A-Z of Fantastic Beings From Myth and Magic (The Element Encyclopedia). New York: Sterling. p. 32. ISBN 1-4027-3543-X.
  • H.Oldenberg: The Vinaya Pitakam. London 1879, pp. 24–25

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