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Nagas (Sacred Serpents) of Champa in Vietnam

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Uploaded on Dec 23, 2007

Champa was an Indic civilization that flourished along the coast of Vietnam for almost 1000 years, until the capture and destruction by the Vietnamese of the Cham capital of Vijaya (located in what is now Binh Dinh Province) in 1471. Nagas were part of the art and mythology of Champa.

As Hindus and users of Sanskrit as a formal language, the medieval Cham were heirs to the civilization and mythology of India, in which Nagas played an important role. Nagas were beings that had the properties and abilities of both humans and serpents. Like humans, they could speak and worship. Like serpents, they could live underwater and throw their coils around a victim. Some had the power to assume either human or serpent form. Numerous stories about Nagas may be found in the Mahabharata, the great epic of Indian civilization.

Nagas had an additional significance in Cambodian civilization. A legend has it that the Khmer are descended from the union of an Brahman from India named Kaundinya and a local Naga princess named Soma. The legend implies that Cambodia originally was the land of the Nagas, and that its civilization is the result of the Indianization of its native substratum. Due to the cultural connection between Champa and Cambodia, the Naga became significant to the Cham as well. In 657 A.D., the Cham king Prakasadharma claimed to be descended from Kaundinya and Soma through his mother, a Khmer princess.

The works of art presented in this video are housed in the museums of Vietnam. They include the following:

Statue of Vishnu sitting on a coiled Naga. Vishnu is recognizable from the attributes he is carrying. The motif is probably borrowed from the Buddhist legend of the serpent king Mucalinda, who used his hood to shield the meditating Buddha from the elements. The statue also recalls the motif of Vishnu lying asleep at the bottom of the ocean on the body of the serpent Shesha.

Statue of a Dharmapala with Nagas for his jewelry. This Buddhist statue of a temple guardian draws upon a theme from Hinduism that connects Shiva with serpents and has Shiva using serpents as personal ornaments.

Architectural Ornament of Makara disgorging Naga. The makara is a mythical sea monster with the head of a crocodile and the trunk of an elephant. It is commonly invoked as a motif in Cham and Cambodian architectural ornamentation. It is generally shown disgorging some other being: a person, an deer, a Naga.

* Nagas
http://angkorblog.com/_wsn/page16.html

* Art of Champa
http://angkorblog.com/_wsn/page18.html

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