|"Theoretical speculation is futile unless it is supported by quantitative evidence."|
Nāga is the Sanskrit and Pāli word for a deity or class of entity or being, taking the form of a very great snake specifically the King Cobra, found in Hinduism and Buddhism. The use of the term nāga is often ambiguous, as the word may also refer, in similar contexts, to one of several human tribes known as or nicknamed "Nāgas"; to elephants; and to ordinary snakes, particularly the King Cobra and the Indian Cobra, the latter of which is still called nāg in Hindi and other languages of India. A female nāga is a nāgī or nāginī. A Naga appears in the videogame "The Ocean Hunter", as a giant oarfish that lives on the deep sea, along with Charybdis, an anglerfish and Scylla, a Giant Squid
In the great epic Mahabharata, the depiction of Nagas tends to be negative, and they are portrayed as such.
The epic calls them "persecutors of all creatures", and tells us "the snakes were of virulent poison, great prowess and excess of strength, and ever bent on biting other creatures" (Book I: Adi Parva, Section 20). At the same time, nagas are important players in many of the events narrated in the epic, frequently no more evil nor deceitful than the other protagonists, and sometimes on the side of good.
The epic frequently characterizes Nagas as having a mixture of human and serpent-like traits. Sometimes it characterizes them as having human traits at one time, and as having serpent-like traits at another. For example, the story of how the Naga prince Sesha came to hold the world on his head begins with a scene in which he appears as a dedicated human ascetic, with knotted hair, clad in rags, and his flesh, skin, and sinews dried up.
Brahma is pleased with Shesha, and entrusts him with the duty of carrying the world. At that point in the story, Shesha begins to exhibit the attributes of a serpent. He enters into a hole in the Earth and slithers all the way to bottom, where he then loads the Earth onto his head.