But are they just snakes or is there something more to them? What are the Naga really?
However, the Naga are also known to be capable of changing their shape and may appear human as they please. In these cases, the Naga often interact with people as people indistinguishable from human before presenting their true snake-like nature. One good example of this was Shesha, the Naga supporting the earth upon his head. Originally, he encountered Brahma (one of the great deities of Hinduism) under the guise of a human. Being asked to stabilize the unstable earth, Shesha took his snake form and went beneath the earth before balancing the earth on his many heads.
It is only upon closer inspection that one starts to recognize that the texture of their skin may be very snake-like and that their eyes can be unusual. The typical Naga also has pronounced canines, almost fang-like, which are semi-retractable and only noticeable when the Naga is agitated.
These traits, combined with a renowned talent for flexibility, make the Naga people very snake-like to anyone who would be pressed to describe them in detail. Though, often, their talents and natural beauty trump their intimidating cobra-like traits and many have come to be known as alluring and exotic by those who have come in contact with them.
Also, their venom is supposed to be quite powerful, what with their natural connection to Cobras. This has been one of the primary reasons for worship of Garuda, whom is immune to their venom and is said to be able to grant protection against lesser venoms as a result.
They are also considered to be nature spirits in control of rains and rivers. With the protection of the Naga, villages are given rain, fertile soil and protection against drought. However, a wrathful Naga can bring about the same droughts they prevent or, alternatively, severe floods.
Their venom is also something of an exaggeration. Though Naga saliva is actually somewhat toxic to other people, it is not of the same quality as a Cobra’s venom and for many people will only cause a severe allergic reaction or a similarly severe infection. This is not to be taken lightly, however, as the impacts of such infections can be as bad or worse than the venom of some snakes.
As for their attachment to rain, modern Alter researchers theorize that the Naga dancers were, at one time, much like the rain dancers of the North American continent. Though the effectiveness of these dances is up for question, the memory of this ceremonial act could have carried on to form the basis of the belief that they were nature spirits with power over the elements.
However, when they are not acting as the aggressive persecutors of people, they have a tendency to be of great help to divine beings. One of the more famous Naga of Buddhism is Mucilinda who protected Buddha from the elements after his enlightenment, shielding him from a torrential downpour with his cobra-like hood. Mucilinda did not receive any reward for this and instead seemed to have been overjoyed to help someone of such enlightenment.
First, Nagas are prolific dancers. Due to their skeletal structure and stamina, they’re incredibly graceful, flexible and capable of achieving poses that many others could not. As a result, you’ll often find them being professional dancers in forms that require a lot of fluid, nearly inhuman motions.
Second, Nagas are actually somewhat playful with people. Though they are typical people with a wide variety of personality, they all enjoy using their talents to make others uncomfortable or simply amazed. After all, if you could do this:
Wouldn’t you show it off?
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