Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala and Patala.
These are the seven underground worlds occupied by the snake gods and goddesses in Hindu mythology.
Heaven, earth and underworld
Swarga, Prithvi and Patalam
These are dreamy worlds, with swaying serpents who have gems on their heads, the light from which illumines their surroundings.
There is no pain, just sweet smells, tinkling music and beauty all around.
Why did humans worship snakes?
Across multiple cultures?
Fear and fascination are two sides of the same coin.
Early humans venerated the things they feared, from fire as agni, to the oceans as varuna to the snakes at naga.
Snakes suffuse myths
from African to Aztec cultures
Also Egypt, Asia and of course, India.
Part of it was the evolutionary pull.
After all, we as a species came from the oceans.
We wrote about snake worship in the Padma Purana, Bhagavatha Purana, Vayu Purana
Language of the Snakes
Prakrit, not Sanskrit
Cognitive science says that each of us has a “reptilian” brain inside us.
Naturally, snakes infused the thoughts and imagination of early Indians, or for that matter, early humans all over the earth.
Prakrit, the commoner’s language of India (as opposed to Sanskrit which was the language of literature and royalty) was called the “Language of the Snakes,” according to Sanskritist, Andrew Ollett.
This snake pit in Bangalore
lies in the middle of a cemetary
To this day, snake worship exists all over India.
Women pour milk into snake pits.
They pray to snakes when they get pregnant.
The man in the photo is Dheena
Says that snake pits are born of cow dung
The man in the photo, Dheena, said that snake pits are born of cow dung. Lots of it.
When left undisturbed, the cow dung becomes the beginning of a snake pit, which grows till its “eyes are opened,” and the holes are revealed.
Nobody knows when this will happen, says Dheena.
But once the eyes are opened, snakes take refuge in the pit and it becomes holy.
Snakes guarding caves
filled with jewels
This fascination with snakes is global.
The emerald ring here shows six cobras as guarding the gem.
This is a typical tale: cobras guarding a cave of gems.
Snakes and the spirit
Hooded cobras hiding a wealth of riches inside their mouth, their forked tail speaking two-toned riddles, their unblinking eyes hypnotizing the unsuspecting, their slithering bodies accessing parts of the earth and the spirit, hitherto unknown.
Fierce snake goddesses
worshipped by pregnant women
Nag devata temples, or Nagamma temples as they are called in Tamilnadu existed since tribes roamed India.
Over the centuries, they have morphed into fearful, yet wish-fulfilling goddesses.
Sleeping on a snake
in the milky ocean
It isn’t just the goddess who is linked to snakes.
Shiva and Vishnu, the most compelling gods in the Hindu pantheon are as well.
Vishnu rested in yoganidra on the serpent Adisesha before churning the primordial waters and creating a lotus from his navel, atop which was Brahma the creator. And thus the world began.
Shiva wore a snake around his neck and ingested the poison that came up when another serpent, Vasuki helped churn the ocean for amrita, the nectar of immortality.
Snake rising up the spine
called the kundalini
In the chakra system, two intertwined serpents, ida and pingala run up the spine, touching the chakras in between.
Snakes therefore are deeply connected to the kundalini shakti.
Mythology, psychology, dreams, and jewellery. If you know how to look, snakes are everywhere.
The swastika symbol which Hindus consider holy began with a snake.