Snakes or serpents have been the inseparable parts of various mythologies on Earth. They are described in the ancient and medieval scriptures. Lord Shiva has a snake as garland around His neck. He is Vasuki, who controls and guides other serpents as mentioned in the Vedas. A serpent is generally perceived to be the sign of danger. However in the spiritual context, it is a divine symbol. Throughput the Vedas, serpents are glorified and worshipped. They are the great devotees of the Lord.
In the Bhagvata Purana and the Mahabharata it is mentioned Kadru, Sage Kashyapa’s wife, gave birth to a thousands of serpent of whom the eldest was Shesha followed by Vasuki. Except Shesha and Vasuki, other serpents had a tendency to act cruelly, endangering the existence of other living beings.
Disturbed by and angry at such acts of his brother, Sesha left home for performing tapasya (penance). He lived on air above this material body of Earth and meditated in places such as Gandhamadhana, Badrikashrama, Gokarna, Pushkara and Himalayas; undisturbed and spiritually absorbed. Lord Brahma pleased with his tapasya offered him a boon. He wished to be in the same meditational state serving the lotus feet of the Lord and His divine forms. The wish was granted.
However Brahma considering the disturbances caused to Bhumi (earth) asked him to stabilize her from beneath. This was due to some powerful demons that could literally hide other in the netherworlds. Shesha agreed and settled down at the Patala region which below earthly planets in order to stabilize her. Vasuki, the snake around Shiva’s neck, is vividly described in the Bhagvatam Purana in the event of samudra manthan, the Churning of Milky Ocean which features the origin of amrita, elixir or Nectar of Immortality. He becomes the churning rope between gods and demons who churn the Milk Ocean in order to derive amrita.
He is one of the greatest devotees of Lord Shiva. He acts as the reminder of the Divine and death. To those who are divine, he reminds them of Shiva and offering worship to Him. And to those of demonic nature, he reminds them of death or danger. He is dear to Shiva as it is he who guides the souls through transmigrating various body to reach the lotus feet of Shiva. Vasuki’s plenary expansion Taksaka bit King Parikshit, the grandson of Arjuna, and after which the King attained liberation.
Lord Shiva is popularly worshipped in southern parts of India so are Vasuki and other snakes. Hindu women pray to the wives of Vasuki or Nagas called Naginis who protect women and offer them fertility. It is believed if one harms a snake; they suffer from naga-dosha that causes delays in marriages and breakups in relationship. This dosha is counteracted by the performance of Sarpa Dosha Nivaran puja wherein Lord Shiva is worshiped and glorified which pacifies the Nagas.
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