Artefact of the Month


Did you know that Naga worship is one of the most ancient cult traditions in the Indian Subcontinent?

The sculpture that you see before you depicts Nagaraja and Nagarani. This ritualistic object is thought to have originated the 13 th century during the Alupa dynasty. The artefact was kindly donated to the museum by Ogikere Basadi.

Nagaraja and Nagarani are represented in an anthropomorphic form; their upper parts are human, whereas their lower parts are entwined in serpent form. Their hands are holding what looks to be fruit, with their other hands bending around each other’s waists in a show of intimacy. The intricate designs show canopies of serpent hoods.

This particular form of iconography is very common. Nagaraja and Nagarani were particularly numerous in medieval Karnataka. Dakshin Kannada is especially known for Naga worship, as it is very common in the region.

Ancient Indians both feared and revered snakes. Snakebites were once a very common cause of death; however, snakes were, and remain to be, worshiped in temples as well as in their natural habitats. Some worshipers offer snakes milk, incense and prayers. In Hindu ritual and spiritual
tradition, a snake is not an evil creature, but a divinity representing eternity as well as materiality, life ad well as death and time as well as timelessness. Snakes symbolise the three processes of creation: creation, preservation and destruction.