Nâgas are divine beings, half-man, half serpent. They are said to reside in underground abodes such as mines and caves. They are also considered as water-spirits who dwell in ponds, lakes and seas in beautiful palaces studded with the most exquisite gems. The secret of these treasures will only be revealed to the one who is pure in heart. People worship them to prevent barrenness, blindness and skin diseases.
In South India, carved stones called nâgakal and snake kolam are many and varied in design. We find them in temples or along the roads, hidden between the roots of a pipal tree (Ficus Religiosa). The kolam depicts either one snake or several gracefully coiled serpents. Their tails entwined into a skillful maze bear resemblance to sikku kolam made up with one or several continuous lines intersecting themselves forming knots. Some women advise not to draw them on pavements or on significant crossing areas because it would be an ominous sign to trample them (except for the pictures above where they are celebrated during a festival). The diagrams find place in the puja-room, in the kitchen or in temples to keep snakes away from human beings.