Snakes & Tales: Do Nag People Exist?

Don’t we all get goosebumps when we see a snake clip on social media or on television, forget about seeing one in real life, it would scare one to death!  Is this the fear of venom that could poison us to death?  This fear, despite holding the malice in our hearts against others, which is no lesser poisonous than snake venom. Let me spare you all readers of all this “Gyan” and take you into the mystical world of Nag people.

Snake People or otherwise popularly known as “Nag” in Hindi (thanks to Bollywood), carry a fair share of mentions in Hindu mythology. In Puranas, Nag people are described as both human beings and also at some places as snakes. These people were the worshipper of Snakes. In Mahabharata, there’s a dedicated chapter on a fierce fight between the King of Nag people “Takshak” and “Pandavas”. As per “Gandharva” Veda, powerful Aryans sometime made ‘Gandharva Vivah’ with the young girls of Nag clan. These young girls would then be thrown into promiscuity so as to lure in powerful male rulers from enemy states & put them to permanent sleep. It is said that these young girls from Nag clan could carry poison in their body which would be transmitted into male partner ‘s body during sexual intercourse.  In Mahabharat, Arjun (a Pandava) made Gandharva Vivah with “Ulomi” a Nag girl.

Nag people lived for long in secluded parts of the Himalayas who had Nag as their tribe emblem.  But how come Nag people ended up there in the Himalayas?

It all started when king Takshak opposed construction of Indraprastha city (now known as Delhi) by Pandavas as it was surrounded by beautiful “Khandav Van” (Khandav Forest), the humble abode of Nag people.  Lord Krishna supported Pandavas & set fire to the Khandav Van. A large number of Nag were killed in Khandav Van fire. King Takshak begged Lord Krishna to save pregnant Nag females and infants and then Lord Krishna ordered the entire Nag clan to go away as farther as possible from the city.  King Takshak along with remaining Nag clan then moved to the Himalayas, far far away from the humans.

It is a  also a popular  belief here that Lord Krishna after having conquered the mighty snake king ‘Kaliyanag’, who ruled the Yamuna river, commemorated as the ‘Kaliya daman’  in the scriptures, advised him to leave  the river Yamuna and settle somewhere  amidst  the snowy peaks,  Kalinag followed  by  many of his disciples,  came over  to stay around here and have stayed here ever since.

In Uttarakhand, Berinag is an area with a number of temples dedicated to the ‘Nag Devta’ (Snake God) like Dhaulinag, Kalinag, Feninag, Bashukinag, Pinglenag & Harinag.  The most famous snake temple which is in Berinag (called as ‘Veninag’ locally) itself, is dedicated to one of the several manifestations of  King Takshak.

The Legends have it that the place came to known as Berinag in commemoration of Nagveni dynasty king Beni Madhava,who ruled the region.  It is also believed  that when  the ‘Pant’ Gotra (surname) people migrated to the Himalayan region in Uttarakhand from Maharashtra, in order to settle here, they saw numerous snakes of various hues & shapes, lying coiled all around the place in very large numbers and as a mark of reverence to them, they built a snake temple here in the fourteenth century A.D.

Near Kathmandu (in Nepal), there is a lake which is known as “Naghrid”. Legends have it that there lived the king of nag clan ‘Rajkotak’. An annual fair is still organized there. Some of the localities still call themselves descendants of Nags and speak language Nagbhasha.

But do Nag people still exist? Do they live among us?  Well, in Uttarakhand, in some parts the Pant clan can still be seen frequently visiting Nag temples. Especially in Berinag, the popularity of Nag Temples gives the popular Hindu Gods’ temples stiff competition.

I, at times, believe that all this Nag clan thing is nothing but a myth as no concrete evidence is there. (at least I never met any Nag girl during my stay of 20+ years in Uttarakhand)

But I also think that the long existed co-existence of Humans & Nags is still apparent. The festival of ‘Nagpachami’ is the proof of an inter-religion adaptation. But still, mythology & legends only give us sly innuendos of any such real existence.

What do you think of Nag People? Have you ever come across any such legends? Please drop me note 

Also, you can find me on Instagram at: Ajay Joshi





Bhana & Gangnath: Why Kumaon Worships The “Sinister​ Couple”!

A king’s son falls in love with a village girl and then they both try breaking the taboo. After much struggle comes the happy ending where the society adores the couple.

To all the romantics reading this, Bhana & Gangnath’s story is a complete exception to this cliche. It is a story where what society would call nowadays, a philanderer  (Gangnath), made a move towards a married woman. And the woman, Bhana, who always thought of love as a fantasy started feeling loved.

Committing to adultery is often cited as a ground for shame & banish by our society. But nothing could stop the inevitable.

Does it make Bhana & Gangnath’s act of love amoral & deplorable?  Far be it for you & I to decide!

Maharaja Vaibhav Chand, the king of Dotigarh (now western Nepal) was a prosperous man.  He had had it all but an heir to carry forward the reigns of Chand dynasty in Dotigarh.  Despite having several intercourses with various women, he had been unable to father a child. An eerie calm seemed to have possessed him as future seemed bleak & fear of losing Chand’s rule in Dotigarh was scudded across in front of his eyes.

Then came a day when Maharaja Vaibhav Chand was in Haridwar & he saw a Nepali women selling flowers on the bank of Ganges. The women despite being in rugged attire attracted Maharaja’s full attention. Her name was Fyunli who then traveled back to Nepal as Queen Fyunli Vaibhav Chand. With the arrival of Queen Fyunli, Maharaja Vaibhav Chand seemed to be alive again. Queen Fyunli soon became pregnant and delivered a boy.  When she delivered the boy, there was a sudden darkness in the sky indicating the sign of an auspicious child.

On Queen’s demand to know the future of this child, Maharaja called upon an astrologer.  The astrologer told the child had exclusive stars. It was predicted that the child would rule for 12 years and then something abysmal would happen.  The child was named Gangnath as Queen Fyunli met Maharaja Vaibhav Chand on the banks of river Ganges.

Gangnath grew up to be a flirt and started debilitating the Chand’s reputation.

It was a dark night when Gangnath had a dream of Bhana. Bhana, the daughter of Bhavani Pant & wife of Kishan Joshi appeared in Gangnath’s dream.  When Gangnath woke up, he found a blood-written letter under his pillow on Bhana. After reading the letter, which contained a eulogy of Bhana’s beauty, Gangnath became restless. He started playing his nine tone flute.  The first tone reached to Indra in heaven, the second one reached to the hell, the third one reached to the palace while the fourth one reached to Bhana. The remaining tones traveled across the universe.

Hearing the flute sound in the palace, Queen Fyunli became worried.  Gangnath’s dream was no less than a nightmare for Queen Fyunli.  Gangnath decided to renounce the royal life and travel to Joshikhola (now Nainital) to seek his love Bhana. Queen Fyunli tried her best to stop her adamant son by offering him 7 wives as present but nothing seemed to stop Gangnath from meeting Bhana.

Bhana, after hearing the fourth tone of Gangnath’s flute realized her eternal love for Gangnath. Bhana was no ordinary woman but an earthly form of Goddess Parvati. Her marriage to Kishan Joshi was more of a business arrangement her father Bhavani Pant made against some land.

After traveling for over 15 days, Gangnath finally reached Joshikhola where he met Bhana. Bhana was all alone as her husband was traveling for work. She welcomed Gangnath and offered him tasty food.

Bhana & Gangnath’s covert affair soon resulted in Bhana getting pregnant with Gangnath’s child.

Bhana’s husband had 22 other brothers and these Joshi brothers upon knowing the case of fornication that took place between Bhana & Gangnath, beat Gangnath to death and tried killing the embryonic child by bringing out the child from Bhana’s body. Bhana begged for her child’ life so she was ostracized from the society immediately and was left at the mercy of her faith in love.

Like Bhana, Gangnath was no ordinary man but an incarnation of Lord Shiva in the Kalyuga. It has been said that on the third day of his death, Gangnath took rebirth as Bhana’s Child. As soon as the child took birth, Joshikhola witnessed unrest. An earthquake jolted & destroyed the entire Joshikhola. The people of Joshikhola got a mysterious disease. Darkness surrounded the entire place.

The people of Joshikhola realized their mistake and bowed down in front of Bhana & her Child.  Joshikhola people recognized the true forms of Gangnath and Bhana and recognized them as the deity.

Bhana asked Gangnath to forgive the Joshi brothers. Furious Gangnath although forgave the Joshi brothers but pledged to never allow Joshi community to enter his temple. Till today, people with Joshi surname are not allowed to enter Gangnath temples across Kumaon in Uttarakhand. To keep Gangnath calm, Joshi community worships Gangnath in presence of a third representative who performs the holy worship on their behalf.

Being a Kumaoni Joshi, I myself witnessed this anomaly of worshipping. I still find the whole incident incomplete as why Lord Shiva had had to take the form of Gangnath? After mulling it over & doing some background check, my understanding is that Gangnath belonged to “Rajput” community while Bhana belonged to “Brahmin” community.

Any marriage between the above two communities has long been forbidden in Kumaon. Had Bhana & Gangnath eloped & lived reclusive lives, there would not have existed this amazing story. Every time a Kumaoni millennial like me visits these local temples,  he or she just realize that till today, nothing much has deviated from the story.