Categories: Hindu God and Goddess

Sheshnag: Lord Vishnu’s Divine Serpent

In Hindu mythology, the serpent holds a significant place, often associated with divinity and worship. One of the most revered serpents in Hinduism is Sheshnag, the multi-headed serpent who plays a vital role in the stories of Lord Vishnu and the creation of the universe. This article delves into the fascinating narrative of Sheshnag, exploring his origin, his penance, and his role in supporting the Earth, all while serving as the divine seat for Lord Vishnu.


The Birth of Sheshnag

Rishi Kashyapa

According to the Mahabharata, Sheshnag, also known as Ananta Shesha, was born to Rishi Kashyapa and his wife Kadru. Kadru gave birth to a thousand snakes, with Sheshnag being the eldest. This birth marked the beginning of a divine serpent lineage that would play significant roles in Hindu mythology.

Sheshnag’s Virtuous Journey

While Sheshnag was born into a family of snakes, many of his brothers were cruel by nature and took pleasure in harming people. Appalled by their behavior, Sheshnag decided to seek forgiveness and embark on a penance. He meditated in various places, including Gandhamadana, Badrikashrama, Pushkara, Gokarna, and the Himalayas.

The Blessing from Brahma

Impressed by Sheshnag’s dedication and devotion, Lord Brahma appeared before him and offered to grant him a blessing. Sheshnag humbly requested the ability to control his mind so that he could continue his spiritual practices without distractions. Brahma gladly bestowed this blessing upon him, enabling Sheshnag to deepen his penance.

The Earth’s Stalwart Support

Having received the blessing, Brahma entrusted Sheshnag with a crucial responsibility—to stabilize the Earth. Sheshnag willingly accepted this task and journeyed to the Netherworld, Patala. There, he raised his mighty hood to balance the Earth. It is believed that he continues to support the Earth even today, making him an essential figure in Hindu cosmology.

Sheshnag and Lord Vishnu

Lord Vishnu

Sheshnag’s connection with Lord Vishnu is profound. In Hindu iconography, Lord Vishnu is often depicted reclining on Sheshnag, the mystical five-headed serpent. Sheshnag’s fangs are open over Lord Vishnu’s head, and his coiled body forms the divine throne on which Lord Vishnu rests. This image is a symbol of the unbreakable bond between the two deities and is widely worshipped by Hindus.

Sheshnag’s Role in Protecting Lord Krishna

Vasudeva carrying baby Krishna across a stormy river

The legends of Sheshnag’s divine protection extend to Lord Krishna, one of Lord Vishnu’s avatars. When Vasudeva was carrying baby Krishna across a stormy river to protect him from the evil King Kansa, Sheshnag emerged from the river. The serpent’s immense hood provided shelter and protection to both father and child, resembling an umbrella shielding them from the tempestuous weather.

Sheshnag in the Churning of the Ocean

Samudra Manthan

The story of the churning of the great seas, Samudra Manthan, is a pivotal episode in Hindu mythology. Both Devas (Gods) and Asuras (Demons) sought to obtain Amrit, the elixir of eternal life, but to achieve it, they needed to churn the vast oceans. Sheshnag played a critical role in this cosmic event by becoming the rope with which the seas were churned, emphasizing his indispensable contribution to the preservation of the universe.

Sheshnag Incarnations


Intriguingly, Sheshnag is believed to have descended to Earth in two human forms—Lakshmana, Lord Rama‘s devoted brother, and Balarama, the elder brother of Lord Krishna. These incarnations further underline the profound connection between Sheshnag and the divine incarnations of Lord Vishnu.


Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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