But what are the Nagas? What do they represent? And why are they so represented in Khmer (Cambodian) art?
The Nāgas are mythical half-serpent half-human beings of Hinduism. They are considered the guardians and protectors of nature's treasures. They are a symbol of fertility and immortality, and are thus known to bring prosperity.
The Nāgas are also considered water spirits, mediators between heaven and earth, and symbolize the rainbow that connects the terrestrial world to the divine world.
According to legend, the first sovereign of Cambodia, Queen Neang Neak, was none other than the daughter of the King of Nāgas.
These mythical beings have thus been greatly represented on the archaeological site of Angkor in Cambodia, where they can be found in different forms according to the mythological episodes represented.
But even though the Nāgas originate from Hindu mythology, their popularity is also explained by pre-Indian beliefs about spirits inhabiting lands and waters.
Beliefs that have thus found an echo in Hindu and Buddhist stories, and which were incorporated into Khmer art.
Because yes, we find the Nāgas in Hindu mythology, but also in Buddhism.
Indeed, the Nāga also appears in the life of the Buddha. One day, during the long meditation of the Buddha after his awakening, a violent storm arose and caused the waters to rise. However, the Buddha did not notice this and continued to meditate despite the danger. It was then that a Nāga by the name of Muchalinda, appeared between the roots of the tree under which Buddha was meditating, and wrapped around him in order to protect him until the waters receded.
Thanks for coming this far! Moreover, on the occasion of the Khmer (Cambodian) New Year, we have prepared a capsule collection inspired by Khmer mythology, the famous Nāga and the Buddha! 🎉🇰🇭
Discover this collection now by clicking on the image below 🙌