In Hindu (Vedic) tradition, Shesha (Śeṣa in IAST transliteration, Devanagari: शेष) or Sheshanaag (Shesha the Naga) is the king of all nagas, one of the primal beings of creation, and according to the Bhagavata Purana, an Avatar of the Supreme God[1] known as Sankarshan. In the Puranas, Shesha is said to hold all the planets of the Universe on his hoods and to constantly sing the glories of Vishnu from all his mouths. He is sometimes referred to as Anantha Shesha which means endless Shesha or as Adishesha which means the first Shesha. It is said that when Adishesha uncoils, time moves forward and creation takes place. When he coils back, the universe ceases to exist. "Shesha" also means remainder: that which remains when all else ceases to exist.

A dasa (servant) and also a manifestation of Lord Vishnu, he is said to have manifested in two human forms or Avatars: Lakshmana, brother of Lord Rama, and Balarama, brother of Lord Krishna.


Shesh shaiya of Vishnu.

Ananta vishnu

Shesha is generally depicted with a massive form that floats coiled in space, or on the universal ocean, to form the bed on which Vishnu lies. Sometimes he is shown as five-headed or seven-headed, but more commonly as a many thousand-headed serpent,[2] sometimes with each head wearing an ornate crown.

His name means "that which remains", from the Sanskrit root śiṣ, because when the world is destroyed at the end of the kalpa, Shesha remains as he is.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 10, Krishna while describing 75 of his common manifestations, declares, "anantas cha 'smi naganam": Of the nagas, I am Anantha.

As per the Mahabharata, Sesha was born to sage Kashyapa and his wife Kadru. Kadru gave birth to a thousand snakes, of which Sesha was the eldest. After Sesha were born Vasuki, Airavata and Takshaka, in order. A lot of Sesha's brothers were cruel in nature and were bent upon inflicting harm on others. They were even unkind to Garuda, who was Kashyapa's son through Vinatha, sister of Kadru. (Kadru and Vinatha were daughters of Daksha). Sesha, disgusted by the cruel acts of his brothers, left his mother and kin, and took to austere penances. He lived on air, and meditated in various places including Gandhamadhana, Badrikāshrama, Gokarna, Pushkara and Himalayas. His penances were so severe that his flesh, skin and muscles dried up and merged with his frame. Brahma, convinced of his Sesha's will, asked Sesha to request a boon. Sesha 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. Brahma then asked a favour of Sesha – to go beneath the unstable earth and stabilize it. Sesha agreed and went to the netherworld, and stabilized her with his hood. He is known to support her even today, thus making Patala his perennial residence. (Mbh, Adi Parva)

Sesha with Vishnu and Mahalakshmi

Sesha is also depicted as floating in the ocean of the changing world, forming the bed of Vishnu. He is also known as Adisesha (the foremost of snakes) and Ananthasesha or just Anantha (endless, as he is known to remain in existence even after the end of the Kalpa, when the whole world is destroyed)

Other details

Seshanarayana by Raja Ravi Varma.

Balarama, Lakshmana, Ramanuja and Nityananda Prabhu, are considered avatars of Shesha (or vice versa). Patañjali is also considered an emanation or incarnation of Shesha and is iconographically depicted in naga form with naga canopy.

In a story from the Puranas, Shesha loosens Mount Mandara, to enable it to be used in the churning of the ocean by the devas and asuras.[3]

According to the Mahabharata (Adi Parva), his father was Kashyapa and his mother Kadru.[4]

The city of Thiruvananthapuram is named after him as the "City of Lord Anantha."

"Encyclopaedic dictionary of Purāṇas" quotes,[5]

This is the region of Nagas (many-hooded Serpents). At the out-place of this region there is a particular place having an area of 30,000 yojanaas. Vishnu Kala who has the attribute of 'Tamasa' lives there under the name "Anantha." The real Anantha or Aadishesha as the radiant embodiment of this Kala. History says that the Nagas were the early indigenous inhabitants of Kerala. The ancient word "Anantha" denotes "Thiruvananthapuram". The temple of Ananthapadmanaabha at Thiruvananthapuram answers to this description. On the whole the description of Pathaala fits well with that of Kerala. So it is not wrong to infer that the description of Pathaala in Puranas is entirely about Kerala in all its aspects.[6][7]

The Nair clan in southern part of Kerala is considered to be the descendants of The Great Serpent Ananta.


Narasimha, the man-lion inacarnation of Vishnu seated on the coils of Shesha, with seven heads of Shesha forming a canopy. statue at Vijayanagara.

Vishnu sheltered by the five-headed Shesha, Parsurameswar Temple, Bhubaneswar.

  • "The foremost manifestation of Krishna is Sankarshana, who is known as Anantha. He is the origin of all incarnations within this material world. Previous to the appearance of Lord Krishna, this original Sankarshana will appear as Baladeva, just to please the Supreme Lord Krishna in His transcendental pastimes." (Bhagavata Purana 10.1.24)
  • "That Anantha Sesha is the devotee incarnation of Godhead. He knows nothing but service to Lord Krishna." (Sri Chaitanya Caritamrita Adi-lila 5.120)
  • "My dear King, approximately 240,000 miles beneath the planet Patala lives another incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the expansion of Lord Vishnu known as Lord Anantha or Lord Sankarshana. He is always in the transcendental position, but because He is worshiped by Lord Siva, the deity of tamo-guna or darkness, He is sometimes called Tamasi. Lord Anantha is the predominating Deity of the material mode of ignorance as well as the false ego of all conditioned souls. When a conditioned living being thinks, 'I am the enjoyer, and this world is meant to be enjoyed by me,' this conception of life is dictated to him by Sankarshana. Thus the mundane conditioned soul thinks himself the Supreme Lord." (Bhagavata Purana 5.25.1)
  • "Sri Ananthadeva has thousands of faces and is fully independent. Always ready to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He waits upon Him constantly. Sankarshana is the first expansion of Vasudeva, and because He appears by His own will, He is called svarat, fully independent. He is therefore infinite and transcendental to all limits of time and space. He Himself appears as the thousand-headed Sesha." (Srila Jiva Gosvami, in his Krishna-sandarbha)
  • "Sankarshana of the quadruple form descends with Lord Rama as Lakshmana. When Lord Rama disappears, Sesha again separates Himself from the personality of Lakshmana. Sesha then returns to His own abode in the Patala regions, and Lakshmana returns to His abode in Vaikuntha." (A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)
  • In the Bhagavad-Gita, when in the middle of the battlefield Kurukshetra, Krishna explaining his omnipresence, says: "Of Nāgas, I am Anantha" indicating the importance of Anantha Shesha.[8]

Other names

  • Sheshanaga (Sesha the serpent)
  • Adisesha (the first Sesha)
  • Anantasesha (Endless Sesha)
  • Ananta (endless/infinite).
  • Nagashayana
  • Alternative spelling: Sesa, Sesha, Śeṣa.

See also

Avatars of Shesha


  1. Bhag-P 5.25.1
  2. Bhag-P 10.1.24
  3. Vedavyasa. Mahabharatam, Adi Parvam, Section 16.
  4. Vedavyasa. Mahabharatam, Adi Parvam, Section 65. 
  5. Swami Parmeshwaranand. Encyclopaedic dictionary of Purāṇas, Volume 3. p. 762. 
  6. K. R. Subramanian. The origin of Saivism and its history in the Tamil land, Section D. p. 13. 
  7. Sekharipuram Vaidyanatha Viswanatha. Hindu culture in ancient India. 
  8. Bhagavad Gita 10.29 "Of the many-hooded Nagas I am Anantha"

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