Naga Babas and Nagas
[Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh is the birth place of Narmada. Ten miles distant from that locality, looking splendid with the beauty of Nature, is a small village in the midst of hills. The name of that village is Twaleswar. In an ashram there lives one illustrious Naga Baba addressed by all as Sri. Kamalagiri Baba. It was on the festival day Chaitra Pournami, 1997, that a devout disciple of Master EK, and a close associate of Sri MRL who has made it his life mission to spread the teachings of Master EK, Sri MSRK was first blessed with the good fortune of having this Naga Babas darshan. The many interesting facts revealed to him in the course of the conversation about nagas and the sect of nagababas are presented in this article.]
Hermits who worship nagas are referred to as Naga Babas. There are many varieties among them. The spiritual leader of Naga Babas lives at Atri Ashram, in Sonmuda, a village five kilometres distant from Amarkantak. But this Naga Baba mostly keeps out of sight. Except on very rare occasions he does not grant darshan to anyone. Hordes of devotees wait around the Ashram premises for weeks on end, just to have a glimpse of him. Some loiter near the caves hoping to see him when he goes there to meditate. But it is very rarely that such fortune is granted to some singularly lucky devotee. Sri MSRK is convinced that it is because of the blessings of his guru that he was able to see Baba. MSRK was surprised to learn that people in the vicinity believe Baba to be 1500 years old. He did not doubt their words because conquering biological laws is no big deal for an evolved saint whose identification is ever with the Divinity within and never with the outer shell referred to as physical body. Aging, the inevitable result of bondage to the biological clock does not apply to Godmen who by transcending Time conquered the finite needs of food and sleep and who need no other sustenance than the will to continue in the physical form for as long as they wish to.
The Naga species : There is a special place for nagas (Snakes) in our ancient Indian culture. As a matter of fact it can be said that nagas have a unique place in creation itself. Among the seven basic types, Deva, Rakshasa, Yaksha, Gandharva, Naga, Pitru and Manusha, there is an inalienable bond between nagas and manushyas (human beings). The birth place of nagas is the nether world, Patala. This species is endowed with "rajoguna" or fierceness. That is why these creatures have more of wrath than other living things. But to those who adore them and offer them worship they show a great amount of kindness and grace. But towards those who are planning to harm them they develop hatred and vengefulness. This species, endowed with remarkable longevity can subsist mostly on air, and has a soft corner for the customs and habits of mankind and for the beautiful scenic spots on this earth. Among the still widely prevalent Indian traditions are the treating of nagas as incarnations of Divinity, offering worship to them and building temples for them where all the ordained ritualistic forms of prayer are conducted. In some families nagadevatha is worshipped as a time honoured household deity. In those households, no auspicious occasion will be celebrated without first offering worship to nagadevatha. Some families observe the custom of naming all, or at least some of the children after the Naga Deity. Elders say that through the installation of an idol of Naga and its regular worship, many defects regarding progeny and marriage would be eliminated. Many diseases of children pertaining to the eyes, ears and stomach are also alleviated by the offer of worship to Naga.
Naga worship : In North India, on the fifth day after new moon in the month of Sravana (August), the festival of Naga Panchami is celebrated with great devotion and diligence. In Andhra Pradesh, the fourth day after Deepavali, Nagula Chavithi and the sixth day after full moon in the month of Margasira, Subrahmanya Shasti, are specially celebrated. On these festival days, all people, women in particular, observe fast and pour milk in snake pits and offer worship. Showering kindness on people who offer worship not only to her, but to her abode also, is an instance of the Naga Devathas generous nature. In the same way, in temples, particularly Siva temples, on the banks of rivers or near the roots of banyan trees in villages, the installed idols of Naga receive worship.
Abodes of Nagas : Usually we think that all the snakepits found in forests and mountain regions are the dwelling places of Nagas. But that is not true. Nagas reside not in the pits but in holes way below them, in interior furrows bored underground. Similarly they also live in the caves of mountains and in the huge holes in the trunks of trees. Some types of nagas live under Meath the water in seas, rivers, lakes and ponds.
The Nagas that dwell on the earth wake up during Brahmi muhurtham or early hours of the morning, travel east without being seen by men, finish their bath, offer worship to the Sun God and go back to their habitats. It is for this reason that people are warned against going to the river banks during the early hours of the morning, since polluting the river water would make them incur naga dosha
Categories of Nagas : There are eight categories of Nagas. They are Takshaka, Sankha Pala, Karkotaka Vasuki, Iravatha, Dhanamjaya, Sesha and Anantha. The ancestors of all these species come to the surface of the earth during the early hours of the morning. On each of the week days, a particular type of nagas comes on to the earth. On that day they freely roam about.
Snakes that belong to the Takshaka clan roam about on Sunday, the day they are most poisonous. If a man is bitten by this type of snake on a Sunday, his chances of survival are very slender. If these snakes bite a man on the other days of the week, there won't be a threat to that mans life. In the same way the following types of nagas will roam on earth bearing deadly poison on the days noted against their names,
Monday - Sankha Pala, Tuesday : Karkotaka; Wednesday : Vasuki; Thursday : Iravatha ; Friday : Dhanamjaya; Saturday : Sesha : Usually the nagas belonging to the Anantha clan are never visible to human beings. If at all they come out they exude the fragrance of many sweet-smelling herbs. All these eight categories are derived from the ancestors after whom they are named. Among these species Anantha, Vasuki and Sesha are basically mild natured. Iravatha, Dhanamjaya and Sankha Pala show a rich streak of fierceness. Takshaka and Karkotaka nagas are embodiments of inertia. Ananthanagas are golden-hued. Sesha and sankha pala species are white in colour. Vasuki species are wheat coloured Dhanamjaya Naga is red, while Iravatha Naga is multi-coloured. Usually, Takshaka and Karkotaka species are black in colour. There is also male female differentiation among these species.
The Naga Babas referred to above also exist as inmates of eight distinct monastic orders, depending on which of the eight categories of Nagas they worship. Among them one order of Nagababas cannot be seen by men and they move about in places far away from the human community. They are even scared of people.
Men are afflicted with many types of hardships. They do not know what causes those hardships But they can know the cause if they approach and consult pious astrologers and Godmen who alone can tell what brought on this suffering - the curse of Gods, of planets, of village Deity, of Guru, of ancestors, etc. They will explain which of these curses is responsible for the suffering in the questions life and also suggest ways of atonement.
Kamalagiri Baba explained to MSRK how he liberated devotees who sought his help from the particular type of curse they have been suffering from. He gave the instance of a Railway employee who was not blessed with children even after fifteen years of marriage. Baba studied his birth chart, identified the curse on his life and suggested suitable atonement. Scrupulous following of Babas instruction by the Railway employee and his wife resulted in the couple being blessed with a male child within one year after meeting Baba. Naga Babas message to his devotees is: "If you follow my advice with complete faith, you will get results immediately. The hurdles that delay the fruition of your wishes are your own doubt ridden minds and not the dearth of your Gurus blessings.