Skip to main content

4 Mystical Depictions of Snakes in Hinduism

A Yoga Trainer, Therapist and Research Scholar, delving deep into the world of ancient knowledge.

Modern medical science uses the symbol of the Greek God of medicine Asclepius. This is called Caduceus which is a shaft or a rod with two serpents coiled around it. Ancient civilizations revered and worshipped these snakes as god. Hinduism has enigmatically depicted these reptiles. The snakes are intricately related to major deities and are also worshipped as a divine power.

Three important Gods of Hinduism are called the Trinity Gods. Universe is governed by these three.

Lord Brahma is the creator of the Nature and all living beings.

Lord Vishnu is the preserver.

Lord Shiva is the destroyer of the nature which is again created by Brahma.

This karmic cycle of creation, preservation and destruction is explicitly explained in Hinduism. Mention of snakes has deeper spiritual connotation.

Caduceus, the symbol of Greek God of Medicine, Asclepius has two snakes

Caduceus, the symbol of Greek God of Medicine, Asclepius has two snakes

1.Lord Vishnu and Sheshanaga

Lord Vishnu is said to be resting on the Ananta Sajya which is the coiled body of a giant snake named Sheshanag . They are resting in the middle of the cosmic ocean along with Goddess Lakhsmi in the vast emptiness of universe. Whenever Lord Vishnu incarnated on earth, Sheshanaga always accompanied him. Lord Krishna had him as his elder brother Balarama in Tretha yuga. Infant Krishna was protected by the hooded Sheshanaga during the turbulent weather when father Vasudeva carried him to Nanda house. Or else his uncle Kansh would have killed him. In the Dwapar yuga, he came along with Lord Rama as his younger brother Lakshman.

Born to Sage Kashyap and Kadru, Sheshanaga was ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu and did years of meditation seeking his blessings. He is married to Naglakshmi. Their daughter Sulochana was married to Prince Meghanatha, the son of Lanka king Ravana. He was the forefather of the Naga tribe who were semi divine creatures. They were half humans and waist down half serpents like mermaids. They actively interacted with humans and dwelled in the netherworld or the Patala loka.

Buddhanilkantha Temple in Nepal, Idol of Lord Vishnu Lying on Shesha Naaga

Buddhanilkantha Temple in Nepal, Idol of Lord Vishnu Lying on Shesha Naaga

2.Lord Shiva and Vasukinaga

Vasukinaga, the younger brother of Sheshanaga, is seen resting around Lord Shiva neck. Lord Shiva is referred to as Neelkantha because he drank the poison to save the nature. Poison was one of the products emerging out of the Samudramanthan which was rejected by all. The gods and demons churned the Kshirasagara or the Ocean of Milk with Mount Mandara as the churning shaft entangled by the Vasukinaga. Tail was pulled by the gods while the mouth part was held by the demons to move the mountain to churn the ocean. Many valuables emerged out of this which were distributed among the gods and demons. This event has deeper spiritual meaning attached to it. One should meditate and introspect to discover all the bounties of cosmos within oneself. The poison of ego is to be discarded to attain salvation.

Vasuki Naaga Wrapped Around Lord Shiva's Neck

Vasuki Naaga Wrapped Around Lord Shiva's Neck

Local people of Bausi believe that the mountain used in Samudramanthan is present in form of Mandara mountain in their region. Banka district near Bhagalpur in Bihar, is that place where this churning took place. Hindu and Jain pilgrims visit their temples atop this hill.

A specific temple is devoted to Vasukinaga near the Shiva Jyotilingam Vaidyanatha temple in Jharkhand State. Mandara mountain is less than 200 km from these temples.

Most of the images of God and Goddess of Hinduism are painted by Raja Ravi Varma. He painted the human forms of deities, by his imaginations based on the descriptions given in the religious texts. With the advent of printing press last century, he was able to print his paintings as the lithographs were affordable. Due to the printing press, his paintings of deities, became accessible to the common man. Earlier, people worshipped the idols in the temples but now they had their own Gods and Goddesses in their own Pooja room.

Temple of Vasukinaag at Bausi, Bihar.

Temple of Vasukinaag at Bausi, Bihar.

3.Manasa Devi

Sister of Sheshanaga and Vasukinaga, Manasa Devi, is the worshiped as snake goddess. People of Nepal and India believe that she protects them from snake bites and other diseases like measles and chickenpox.

Special Pooja is performed on the occasion of Naag Panchmi which falls on the fifth day of Savana month of lunar Hindu calendar. People make offering of milk and sweets to snakes either in the temple or in the open field.

Scroll to Continue

Kaalsarpdosa in one’s horoscope, is the obstacle in prosperity stated in the birth chart of an individual according to planetary constellations. Such people perform special rituals to please the snake god to overcome this problem.

Country side ladies having problem in child bearing worship Manasa Devi. They place stone tablets with snake carved on it, under the peepal tree in hope of having healthy child. Similar practices and rituals are widely prevalent in southern parts of India.

Stone tablets depicting snakes under a peepal tree

Stone tablets depicting snakes under a peepal tree

4. Kundalini or the sleeping Cosmic Snake

In Sanskrit kundalini means coil or a ring. The human body has three abstract energy pathways through which cosmic energy flows. It is normally compared to coiled snake which is sleeping at the base of the spine. With years rigorous practicing the Kundalini Yoga under the expertise of spiritual Master, one can harness this energy.

There are three naadi or nerves, which are not present physically like neurons or blood vessels. These are passages of energy. It flows like the electricity passing through the wires. As we cannot see the actual current flowing through these wires, similarly we cannot see the flow of this energy inside the body.

1.Left pathway is called Ida.

2. Right pathway is Pingala.

3. The centre one, Sushmana, is the most important.

People on the spiritual path tend to awaken their Kundalini to align themselves with the cosmic power. There are seven chakras present on the spine starting from root to the top of the head. Various mantras and meditations are recommended for the activation of each chakra.

Rising up with Kundalini energy

Rising up with Kundalini energy

In Hinduism, snakes have significantly interwoven in its basic tenets, scriptures and philosophical discourses. All the ancient civilizations revered and worshipped snakes in some form or the other. Snake is the most mystical of all the wild animals having the power to kill when disturbed. Yet they choose to remain elusive. Our ancestors knew the importance of symbiotic existence of all creatures big or small. So next time when you see snake deities, contemplate for some inner spiritual meaning.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Nidhi Gautam


Nidhi Gautam (author) from Mumbai on October 23, 2020:

Vishnu Purana and Shiva Purana are the holy Hindu texts. This article has been based on the contents of these books.

Punam Sinha Shreyasi on October 20, 2020:

Very informative

Excellent article

Ishita on October 19, 2020:


Aditya Kumar on October 19, 2020:

Woww great I am only now knowing about all this

Radhakrishna Raju on October 19, 2020:

I found this really informative, got to know many facts I never knew before.

Pooja Sri on October 19, 2020:

Love your articles, keep it up

Ashna Gautam on October 19, 2020:

Woww so intriguing !!

Related Articles