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Nāga


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1 A generic term for a naked (from Skt. nagna) warrior-ascetic. Originally formed into ākhāṛās or ‘regiments’ in order to act as guardians of public order, and to protect trade routes in northern India, from at least the 17th century, Nāgas were being used by local kings in order to fight their enemies (including Muslims and the British). Originally organized on sectarian principles, and further subdivided into various smaller groups, the Nāgas and their military power have gradually been attenuated into something resembling athletic associations. They remain, however, prominent participants in various festivals, notably the Kumbh(a) Melā, during which they are the first to enter the waters of the sacred river. Said to have been recruited by Śaṅkara himself for the protection of his monastic order, the best-known Nāgas are probably those affiliated to the Śaiva Daśanāmis.

2 The inhabitants of the predominantly Christian state of Nāgaland (in north-eastern India).

Subjects: Hinduism.


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