1. Nāgā.– Chief woman disciple of Sujāta Buddha. J.i.38; Bu.xiii.26.
2. Nāgā.– One of the chief women supporters of Phussa Buddha. Bu.xix.21.
3. Nāgā.– A former birth of Asokamālā, when she was the wife of Tissa (later Sāliya), an artisan of Muṇḍagaṅgā. MT.605.
4. Nāgā.– An Arahant of Bhātaragāma. During the pillage of Brahmaṇatissa, when all the villagers had fled, she went with her colleagues to a banyan tree, the presiding deity of which provided them with food. She had a brother, Nāga; when he visited her she gave him part of her food, but he refused to accept food from a bhikkhuṇī. MA.i.546; AA.ii.654.
5. Nāgā.– A class of beings classed with Garuḷā and Supaṇṇā and playing a prominent part in Buddhist folk-lore. They are gifted with miraculous powers and great strength. Generally speaking, they are confused with snakes, chiefly the hooded Cobra, and their bodies are described as being those of snakes, though they can assume human form at will. They are broadly divided into two classes: those that live on land (thalaja) and those that live on water (jalaja). The Jalaja-nāgā live in rivers as well as in the sea, while the Thalaja-nāgā are regarded as living beneath the surface of the earth. Several Nāga dwellings are mentioned in the books: e.g., Mañjerika-bhavana under Sineru, Daddara-bhavana at the foot of Mount Daddara in the Himavā, the Dhaṭarattha-nāgā under the river Yamunā, the Nābhasā Nāgā in Lake Nābhasa, and also the Nāgā of Vesāli — Tacchaka, and Payāga (D.ii.258).
The Vinaya (Vin.ii.109) contains a list of four royal families of Nāgā (Ahirājakulāni): Virūpakkha, Erāpatha, Chabyāputta, and Kaṇhagotama. Two other Nāga tribes are generally mentioned together: the Kambalas and the Assataras. It is said (SA.iii.120) that all Nāgā have their young in the Himavā.
Stories are given — e.g., in the Bhūridatta Jātaka — of Nāgā, both male and female, mating with humans; but the offspring of such unions are watery and delicate (J.vi.160). The Nāgā are easily angered and passionate, their breath is poisonous, and their glance can be deadly (J.vi.160, 164). They are carnivorous (J.iii.361), their diet consisting chiefly of frogs (J.vi.169), and they sleep, when in the world of men, on ant-hills (J.vi.170). The enmity between the Nāgā and the Garuḷā is proverbial (D.ii.258). At first the Garuḷā did not know how to seize the Nāgā, because the latter swallowed large stones so as to be of great weight, but they learnt how in the Paṇḍaranāgarāja Jātaka (q.v.) The Nāgā dance when music is played, but it is said (J.vi.191) that they never dance if any Garuḷa is near (through fear) or in the presence of human dancers (through shame).
The best known of all Nāgā is Mahākāḷa, king of Mañjerika (q.v.) He lives for a whole world-cycle, and is a very pious follower of the Buddha. The Nāgā of his world had the custodianship of a part of the Buddha’s relics until they were needed for the Mahā Thūpa (Mhv.xxxi.27 f ), and when the Bodhi tree was being brought to Sri Lanka they did it great honour during the voyage (Mbv. p.163 f ). Other Nāga kings are also mentioned as ruling with great power and majesty and being converted to the Buddha’s faith — e.g., Aravāḷa, Apalālā, Erakapatta, Nandopānanda, and Paṇṇaka. (See also Ahicchatta and Ahināga.) In the Āṭānāṭiya Sutta (D.iii.198 f ), speaking of dwellers of the Cātummahārājika world, the Nāgā are mentioned as occupying the Western Quarter, with Virūpakkha as their king.
The Nāgā had two chief settlements in Sri Lanka, in Nāgadīpa (q.v.) and at the mouth of the river Kalyāṇī. It was to settle a dispute between two Nāga chiefs of Nāgadīpa, Mahodara and Cūḷodara, that the Buddha paid his second visit to Sri Lanka. During that visit he made a promise to another Nāga-king, Mañjakkhika of Kalyāṇī, to pay him a visit, and the Buddha’s third visit was in fulfilment of that undertaking (Mhv.i.48 f ).
The Nāgā form one of the guards set up by Sakka in Sineru against the Asurā (J.i.204). The Nāgā were sometimes worshipped by human beings and were offered sacrifices of milk, rice, fish, meat and strong drink (J.i.497 f ). The jewel of the Nāgā is famous for its beauty and its power of conferring wishes to its possessor (J.vi.179, 180).
The word Nāga is often used as an epithet of the Buddha and the Arahants, and in this connection the etymology given is “āguṃ na karotī“ti Nāgo (e.g., MNid.201). The Bodhisatta was born several times as king of the Nāgā: Atula, Campeyya, Bhūridatta, Mahādaddara, and Saṅkhapāla.
In the accounts given of the Nāgā, there is undoubtedly great confusion between the Nāgā as supernatural beings, as snakes, and as the name of certain non-Aryan tribes, but the confusion is too difficult to unravel.
6. Nāgā.– An eminent Therī of Sri Lanka. Dpv.xviii.35.
7. Nāgā.– A woman who lived near the Rājāyatana-cetiya. Once, seeing sixty monks return from the village with empty bowls, she, although already pledged to work by day, borrowed some money on promise to work at night as well, and gave them food. The monks retired to Mucalindavana and developed Arahantship before eating. The deity of the king’s parasol shouted applause, and the king, having heard the story, gave Nāgā the whole island, which thus came to be called Nāgadīpa. Ras.ii.16 f.