Definition - What does Sheshanaga mean?

Sheshanaga is one of the primal beings of creation according to Hindu philosophy. He is a many-headed coiled snake that constantly sings of the glories of Vishnu from his many mouths and is often depicted carrying Vishnu. Some consider Sheshanaga to be a servant of Vishnu or a manifestation of Vishnu.

The name comes from the Sanskrit shesha which means “remainder” and can be interpreted as “that which remains when all else ceases to exist.” This is because, in Hindu philosophy, when the world is destroyed, Sheshanaga remains exactly as he is.

Yogapedia explains Sheshanaga

Sheshanaga is referred to in many different Hindu teachings. The Mahabharata states that Sheshanaga was the eldest of a thousand snakes born to sage Kashyap and his wife Kadru. Many of Sheshanaga’s brothers were cruel and determined to harm others, which disgusted Sheshanaga. Determined to follow a different path, he renounced them and undertook austere penances, living on air and meditating. Sheshanaga asked Brahma for a boon, to be able to control his mind to keep performing his penances. Brahma granted this, asking in return that Sheshanaga go beneath the earth to bring it stability. Sheshanaga thus went to the netherworld and stabilized the earth with his hood, which he is said to do till this day.

It is also believed that when Sheshanaga uncoils, time moves forward and creation happens, and when he coils back the universe ceases to exist.

Sheshanaga is reported to have descended to Earth in the form of two different avatars, Lakshmana, who was the brother of Rama and Balarama, who was the brother of Krishna.

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