The South Asian Legend That Inspired Nagini In Harry Potter

Naga is the Sanskrit word for “serpent,” and mythology surrounding these mythical beings are prevalent in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism (via Britannica). These strong, semi-divine beings are able to change their form to be completely human or completely serpentine, and though they can be dangerous to humans, they are more often helpful beasts. The Naga have their own underground kingdom, known as Naga-loka or Patala-loka, said to be filled with beautiful, gem-decorated palaces.

Legend has it that the Naga were sent underground by the creator god Brahma once they were too populous on the surface, and instructed to only bite the evil or those destined to die young. They are often associated with bodies of water and are known to guard treasure. Female Naga, which are sometimes referred to as Naginis like Voldemort’s beloved serpent, were said to be strikingly beautiful. Rowling’s claims that Nagini was meant to be human from the beginning can’t be fully proven or discounted, but it’s clear that the inspiration for the name holds a deep meaning for Southern Asian cultures and religions.

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