Naga Worship and the Mukkuva Culture
September 7, 2010
Dept of Social Work, Coimbatore
Did you know that nagas are believed to live in palaces in the underground city Bhogavati?
The Hindu Mukkuvas of Blangad, a coastline fishing village in Thrissur District of Kerala State, South India, believe this. They worship the nagas, (Sanskrit for serpents), believing them to be the protectors of springs, wells and rivers.
They believe that the worship, if done with devotion and sincerity, can bring auspiciousness and good fortune. “But disaster, misfortune and natural calamities can also result, if there is a compromise of any kind, in the traditional ways of worship,” explains Priya K. R., about the Mukkuvas’ belief.
As Faculty Field Coordinator at the Department of Social Work in Coimbatore, Priya has participated in several such sociological and anthropological studies. Her recent paper titled ‘An Insight to the Traditional Deity Naga Yakshi Worship Practices among the Mukkuva Community’ was published in the journal Oriental Anthropologist.
“The paper provides an introduction to the naga (serpent) worship that prevails among fishing communities in India,” states Priya. “It will be useful to budding researchers and field practitioners who want to explore the various types of traditional beliefs and religious practices prevalent among coastal communities.”
The paper outlines the origin of this worship, tracing it to a yogi, who ceremoniously accepted Nagaraja and Nagayakshi as his favorite deities. “It is believed that God Parasurama, who lived in Thretha Yuga, first installed the idol of Nagayakshi,” she adds.
Eventually the practice became a part of the entire community’s belief system. “The worship of Nagaraja and Nagayakshi is a traditional practice that still prevails among a large cross section of the coastal community. The daily traditional worship, pooja, in the temple is performed according to Tantric rites.”
Goddess Nagayakshi, according to Mukkuvas, fulfils their desires by giving them wealth and prosperity. It is believed that the temple goddess brings about harmony, brotherhood and prosperity in the fishermen community and society as a whole. “This indicates the importance of worship for the Mukkuvas.”
The community owns the temple. “This temple is a symbol not only of Kerala’s traditional naga worship but also its grove culture,” Priya further explains.
“Nobody will cut or hurt a temple tree. It is taboo for the Mukkuvas to cut trees located inside the temple. The trees help with soil and water conservation, besides helping preserve the rich biological wealth of the region. Sacred groves also enrich soil through their litter composition.”
The Faculty Field Coordinator participates in research in the areas of Social Organization, Cultural Change, Tribal Communities and Gender Studies. Prior to this paper, Priya has authored other papers that have been published in national and international journals. In 2009, she traveled to China to represent India at the World Congress of Anthropology and Ethnographical Sciences.