Shesha Naag (also known as Adhi-Shesh) refers to the King of Naga or Serpents. The word “Shesha” comes from the Sanskrit language which translates to “that which remains”. This means that Shesha Naag exists even after everything has ended. Shesha Naag is generally described as a massive serpent that floats coiled in space. It is said that when Shesha naga uncoils, time moves forward and creation takes place and when he coils back, the universe ceases to exist.
Shesha Naag is believed to have five heads and it is said that all the planets in the universe are located in its heads. So each time, he shifts Earth from one head to another, it is believed that an earthquake takes place. Basically, Shesha Naag is considered to be responsible for the concept of gravitational force which makes sure that all planets and stars revolve around each other.
According to Mahabharata, Shesha was born as the eldest son of sage Kashyap and his wife Kadru. A lot of Shesha’s brothers were cruel and were bent upon inflicting harm on others. Disgusted by his brother’s actions, Shesha left his mother and kin and started meditating in places including Gandhamadhana, Badrikashrama, Gokarna, Pushkara, and the Himalayas. His penances were so severe that his flesh, skin, and muscles dried up and merged with his frame. Brahma, convinced of his Shesha’s will, asked Shesha to request a boon. Shesha asked that he be able to keep his mind under control so that he could continue to perform ascetic penances.
Brahma gladly accepted the request and also asked him a favor: to go beneath the unstable Earth and stabilize it. Shesha agreed and went to the netherworld and stabilized her with his hood. Since then, Patala became his residence and is said to have lived in its deep layers.
In various pictures relating to Hindu epics, Shesha Naag can be seen as a huge five-headed serpent standing with its fangs open over the head of Lord Vishnu. It is often said to constantly sing glories of Lord Vishnu. Its thick coils form a bed over the ocean on which Lord Vishnu is often seen reclining. So Hindu people worship the snake as the throne where Lord Vishnu resides along with Goddess Laxmi. But along with Lord Vishnu’s throne, Shesha Naag has also earned its place in Hindu texts as being His companion in different periods of Satya Yug. For example, when Lord Vishnu took incarnation as Lord Rama, Shesha Naga incarnated as his brother, Lakshmana and when Lord Vishnu incarnated as Lord Krishna, Shesha Naga again incarnated as His brother, Balarama. So Shesha naga is also worshipped as these incarnations. In some cases, Shesha Naag is referred to as a manifestation of Lord Vishnu himself.
The story of Patanjali
Once upon a time, long ago, all the Munis and Rishis approached Lord Vishnu to tell him that even though He (incarnated as Lord Dhanvanthari) had given them the means to cure illnesses through Ayurveda, people still fell ill. They also wanted to know what to do when people got sick.
As it is not just physical illness, but also a mental and emotional illness that had to be dealt with. Hence, Lord Vishnu was lying on the bed of snakes — the serpent Adishésha with 1,000 heads. When the Rishis approached Him, He gave them Adishésha (the symbol of awareness), who took birth in the world as Maharishi Patanjali. Hence Patanjali came to this earth to give this knowledge of yoga which came to be known as the Patanjali Yoga Sutras.
Shesha Naag is believed to be the epitome of awareness and devotion. Hence, is prayed and praised in many temples and rituals even today. There is a very important form of “Puja” related to this fierce creature which is called Shesha Naag Puja. It is believed that any person having Kaal Sarp Dosh in his/her Kundli can remove it through Shesha Naag Puja. Although, it is one of the most difficult Puja with chanting of mantras to be done from sunrise till sunset. However, it is believed to remove any kind of negative influence from Kundli of any person.