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Indian Cobra

Scientific NameNaja Naja Linn.
Common NameIndian Cobra / Spectacled Cobra, Nag (Hindi), Nallapambu (Tamil), Naga (Sanskrit)
Distribution Throughout India in wild forests and cultivated areas.
Conservation StatusNot Evaluated
Cobra adorning Lord Shiva

In religion and mythology

Snakes, especially the cobra have been one of the most significant symbols in Hindu religion and mythology and are mostly associated with wealth, power and fertility.

The cobra is most commonly associated with Lord Shiva, who wears a Cobra coiled around his neck. This symbolises the power the Lord has over the deadliest of creatures.

Lord Vishnu also rests on a coiled cobra, the Adi-sesha in Vaikuntam. Adi-sesha is believed to have been asked by Lord Brahma to bear the weight of the entire world on his head. Some of the avatars or manifestations of the Adi-sesha are Lakshmana and Balarama, who are always with the Lord.

The Cobra is also sacred to the Buddhists, who believe that a cobra (which actually the serpent King Muchalinda) protected Lord Buddha from a raging storm by spreading its hood, while he was meditating.

Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi on the serpent Adishesha

There is great veneration for the snakes in south India, especially Kerala. Most houses have a snake shrine referred to as the ‘ sarpa kavu ' (sacred serpent grove) in their backyard with a ‘ nagakal ' (carved snake-stone). Women offer milk and light a lamp at the nagakal to propitiate the snake-Gods.

Nagakal (Snake stone)

Nagapanchami is an important Hindu festival associated with snake worship. It is celebrated on the fifth day in the month of Shravana (July – August).

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