The History of Nagas, now classified as A Tribe in India, mostly settled in the North Eastern part of India is a fascinating one.
The conception that they were a sort of Aborigines of India and are /were not advanced in culture is incorrect.
I have noticed that while checking the History of India one has to have an open mind without prejudices foisted on us on the origin and characteristics of the people of India who remain distributed over a vast area.
There were/are distinct cultural practices and they vary/ed from the others.Yet the undercurrent and the unifying factor is Sanatana Dharma.
Contrary to what is believed Nagas are were a group concentrated in the North eastern parts of India,.
They were spread through out India.
There were three distinct group of Nagas based on the regions they lived in.
There were Nagas in Mathura,
,’Kunti was the biological daughter of the Shurasena, a Yadava chief. Her birth name was Pritha. Kunti was the sister of Vasudeva, the father of Krishna and shared close relationship with Krishna. Her father gave Kunti to his childless cousin Kuntibhoja.
Nagawanshi Aryaka (sansk. आर्यक) was mentioned to be a member of Naga king Vasuki’s palace. He was described as related to Pandava Bhima. He was the grandfather of the father of Kunti, the mother of Bhima. He recognized Bhima as his kinsmen when the Nagas rescued Bhima, a boy then, and brought him to the palace of Vasuki. Bhima was food-poisoned, tied up and thrown into river Ganges at a place called Pramanakoti, by Duryodhana (1,128).’
Takshaka’s Race :- Puchchandaka, Mandalaka, Pindasektri, Ravenaka; Uchochikha, Carava, Bhangas, Vilwatejas, Virohana; Sili, Salakara, Muka, Sukumara, Pravepana, Mudgara, Sisuroman, Suroman and Mahahanu. (Takshaka’s son Aswasena is mentioned as belonging to the Airavata’s race at (8,90). This could mean that Takshaka’s race, was a branch of Airavata’s race.)
Dhritarashtra’s Race :- Sankukarna, Pitharaka, Kuthara, Sukhana, and Shechaka; Purnangada, Purnamukha, Prahasa, Shakuni, Dari, Amahatha, Kumathaka, Sushena, Vyaya, Bhairava, Mundavedanga, Pisanga, Udraparaka, Rishabha, Vegavat, Pindaraka; Raktanga, Sarvasaranga, Samriddha, Patha and Vasaka; Varahaka, Viranaka, Suchitra, Chitravegika, Parasara, Tarunaka, Maniskandha and Aruni. (Dhritarashtra was Airavata’s younger brother (1,3).)
Nagas, Pannagas and Uragas
Nagas were mentioned as born of Surasa and Pannagas another Naga race, was mentioned as born of Kadru at (1,66). Pannagas and Nagas were mentioned as separate but related Naga races at (3,85). Pannagas were mentioned to denote Nagas at (3-172,180,289) (7-142) (9,45) (12,47) (13,98) Nagas destroyed by Arjuna at Khadavaprstha is described as Pannagas (5,124). Pannagas and Uragas were mentioned as separate but related races at (6,65). Uragas were mentioned to denote Nagas at (1-1,172) (3-167,179,187,223) (many other references) Uragas and Nagas were mentioned as separate but related Naga races at (3,158) -in Yaksha territory; also at (7-160,198) At (1,172) is mentioned that Uragas along with Yakshas, Rakshasas, Gandharvas, Pisachas and Danavas as aware of the history of Arya kings..
.’Now coming to the names associated with Naga, Uraga also means snake. This word sounds like a Tamil word. ஊர்வதால் ஊரகன். It has become உரகன். The snake crawls silently and as such one who moves silently as a crawling snake can to be called as Uraga. They must also be underground cave dwellers or just cave dwellers sharing their surroundings with Nagas.
Uraga (pronounced as ‘Ooragan’) is the name of God when appeared in the form of Adisesha, the chief of snakes. There is a temple for Narayana as “Uragan” or “Ooragatthan” in Kancheepuram. The name ooragan signifying the snake (as it crawls) in Tamil must have become Uraga (उरग)….
The presence of a Divya Desa temple in the name “Ooragan” the snake shows that the original etymology of the word Uraga was in Tamil. This testifies the origin of Uragas from south.
Pannaga is also the name of certain Naga people. According to Puaranas, Nagas were those born to Surasa and Pannagas were born to Kadru. Both Naga and Pannaga mean snake. By this meaning and by the Puranic story of Surasa and Kadru as among 13 wives of Kashyapa, people tend to dismiss these names as figments of imagination. Kashyapa is the progenitor name of mankind. Even now if someone says that one doesn’t know the gotra in which one is born, one can take up Kashyapa gotra. This shows that Kashyapa is the ancient and common ancestor or progenitor of human race signifying the male component (Y chromosome). The 13 wives of Kashyapa indicate the 13 different types of mtDNA of different progenitor female components. If we think in these lines we can understand that Surasa and Kadru are some names of ancient lines of population. It is like Daityas and Danavas coming in the lines of Diti and Danu.
Both Naga and Pannaga must have had their early genesis somewhere in the south and south east Asia in the tunnels of the now submerged mountain ranges. Both sound Tamil and have a presence in Sangam literature. There is mention of Naga flower and Punnaga (not Pannaga) flower in the Sangam text of Kurinji Pattu (verse 91). Both these flowers smell good,..
Of these Naga is said to be a kind of ஞாழல் tree type that generally grows in coastal regions. Punnaaga was derived from the word “Punnai tree” Its flower gives a fine smell. (Naga living near the Punnai tree is Punnaga)…
It is from the word Punnaga, the raga called Punnaga varali got its name. This raga is supposed to attract snakes!
In some way the name had changed – from Pannaga to Punnaga or Punnaga to Pannaga. But both refer to snake. The derivation coming from Tamil word Punnai, makes it a word of Tamil origin and the people to be from southern seas who spoke proto Tamil. Punnaga tree is native of South and South East Asian countries. The genesis of Pannaga people must be somewhere here.
Uragan also is a Tamil-derivative related to crawling or moving silently.
Naga, Pannaga and Uraga appear together in the Puranas and Mahabharata. This shows that they had shared some kinship among themselves and moved together. The snake identity is only due to certain characteristics they exhibited like snakes. They were not snakes themselves. Nor they were mythological creatures.
This kind of identifying oneself with something in nature that is well known or well recognised by people had given rise to names like Kinnaras (bird) and Garuda (eagle) to those people who exhibit bird like swiftness or voice (in the case of Kinnaras) and good eye sight like Garuda.( http://jayasreesaranathan.blogspot.in/2016/01/naga-uraga-and-pannaga-of-puranas-who.html )
Nagas seem to have spread throughout India and they intermarried with the other groups in India.
Naga married other groups.
- Naga Nahusha is also mentioned as a king in the Lunar Dynasty of Arya Kings (3,178).
- A king named Riksha in the race of Puru (a branch of Lunar Dynasti is mentioned as marrying the daughter of a Naga in the race of Takshaka (1,95).
- Naga Aryaka is described as the grandfather of Kunti’s father. Kunti is the mother of Pandavas. (1,128).
- Iravat was mentioned as the son of Arjuna and a Naga woman named Uloopi, born in the race of Airavata (6,91).
- Sage Somasrava, the priest of Janamejaya was the son of a Brahmin named Srutasrava and a Naga woman. (1,3).
- Sage Astika was the son of a sage in the race of Yayavara Brahmins (1,13) and a Naga woman (sister of Vasuki) (1-14,15,48). Though but a boy, he had great gravity and intelligence. And he was reared with great care in the palace of the Nagas (1,48). He prevented the massacre of the Naga race by Janamejaya (1-15,56).
- Naga women alias Nakar women of Kerala married Namboodiris of the Aryan race resulting in one of the sub-caste of Nair clan of Kerala.;’
More interesting is the fact that the Chera Kings of Tamil Nadu seem to have had links with the Nagas.
And reference to Nagas is found in Cholas history and Manimekalai, one of the Five Epics of Tamil deals extensively about Nagas, so also Cilappadikaram, another Tamil Epic.
The Thondaman/Pallava Dynasty is recorded to have been through a Nagar Princess.
Remember it was a Chera King Udiyan Cheralaathan fed both Pandava and Kaurava army!
‘The word Naga may have different origins. The word naga or nag means mountain in Sanskrit, although the term Nāga also means cobrain Sanskrit. The Nagas have also been known as “Cheras”, which is a Dravidian term for hill or mountain. They were probably called “Cheras” since they may have been a hill tribe. Sri Lanka has also been known as Cerentivu, meaning “island of Cheras’
The Yakshas and the Nagas are depicted in the Pali epic Mahavamsa as the early inhabitants of Lanka when Vijaya arrived in the island in 500 B.C.According to Manogaran, some scholars also “have postulated that the Yakshas and Nagas […] are the aboriginal tribes of Sri Lanka”. Holt concludes that they were not Tamils, but a distinct group. The practice of dravidian customs such as snake-worshipping, have the Nagas been considered by some scholars to have been Dravidians. Snake-worship is still practiced among Sri Lankan Tamils and the Nair community of Kerala.
Ancient Naga tribes
The Oliyar, Parathavar, Maravar and Eyinar who are widespread across South India and North-East Sri Lanka are all Naga tribes.
Early Tamil literary works such as Kaliththokai mention that many Naga tribes such as Maravar, Eyinar, Oliar, Oviar, Aruvalur and Parathavar migrated to the Pandyan dynastyand started living there in the Third Sangam period 2000 years ago.
The Nagas lived among the Yakkha, Raksha and Deva in Lanka according to the Manimekhalai, Mahavamsa and Ramayana. Meghanatha, the son of Ravana, was married to Sulochana, a Naga princess in Lanka. The allied Nagas fought on the side of the Meghanatha and were defeated by Garuda.
There is a reference to the town Naga Nakar in Tamil Brahmi inscriptions belonging to 200 BCE, which is believed to be denoting Kudiramalai.
An early copper coin discovered at Uduththurai port carries the name Naga bumi in Tamil, referring to the Naga Dynasty of the North.
The Mahavamsa and the Manimekalai mentions a dispute between two Naga kings on Nainativu in northern Sri Lanka’
Considering the fact that,
Vaivaswatha Manu, ancestor of Rama migrated from the Dravida desa(south of Vindhyas)
His Daughter was the founder (along with Budha) of Lunar Dynasty in the South,
Manu meditated near Madagascar,
The word Chera probably derived from Cheral, meaning “declivity of a mountain” in ancient Tamil. The Cheras are referred as Kedalaputho (“Kerala Putra”) in the Ashoka’s edicts (3rd century BCE). The Graeco-Roman trade map Periplus Maris Erythraeirefers the Cheras as Celobotra.
The term Ceralamdivu or Ceran tivu and its cognates, meaning the “island of the Ceran kings”, is a Classical Tamil name of Sri Lanka that takes root from the term Chera, from which the dynasty name is derived.
And this definition of Chera agrees with the definition of Naga.
Lord Rama considered his ancestors as Lemurians.
Krishna and Arjuna married Pandyan Princesses.
According to the Epic Mahabharatha the legendary Malayadwaja Pandya, who sided with the Pandavas and took part in the Kurukshetra War of the Mahabharata, is described as follows in Karna Parva (verse 20.25):‘
“Although knowing that the shafts (arrows) of the high souled son of Drona employed in shooting were really inexhaustible, yet Pandya, that bull among men, cut them all into pieces”.
Malayadwaja Pandya and his queen Kanchanamala had one daughter Thataathagai alias Meenakshi who succeeded her father and reigned the kingdom successfully. The Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple was built after her. The city of Madurai was built around this temple. It is also notable that the etymology of the name Meenakshi came from two Sanskrit words Meenu(Fish) and Akshi(Eye ) which collectively means ‘One who has the eyes of a fish as like Kaamakshi (kaama+ akshi – one who has lustful eyes), Vishalakshi (Vishala+akshi – one who has broad eyes).’
And Malayathwaja belonged to Lunar Dynasty.
Naga Practices spread throughout the world from the Dravida Desa and North east of India I postulate that Nagas were present throughout India and were also a part of Dravida Culture.
The land they lived in, along with Tamils could have been Lemuria/Kumarikandam or Mu’
References and citations.
http://jayasreesaranathan.blogspot.in/2016/01/naga-uraga-and-pannaga-of-puranas-who.html (portions of quotes and Ooragan Image0
Nagabhushani Ambigai Image credit.