Images of Cambodia: Nāgas

Nāga (Sanskrit: नाग, Khmer: neak, Chinese: 那伽) A Sanskrit or Pāli term for a divine entity that takes the form of a massive serpent-like creature, from Hindu and Buddhist lore.


This one guards a small bridge over the Stung Sen River in a tiny Kompong Thom village. It seemed a richly ornate thing for such a place, but I saw these fellows everywhere next to rivers, streams, and wells. They adorn rooflines and balustrades. And as with ancient legends the world over, no one seemed clear on the story behind these divine water guardians; they are simply there, just as they’ve always been.

The one below holds vigil over a trash-strewn, lonely bluff above the Sekong River in Stung Treng. No one, from village folks drifting by in sampans to cows grazing the bluff, seems to take any notice of it. But it lends an air of agelessness to the place, watching the water as it does, in all its faceless forbearance. Only the visitor asks why.

River snake

Related post: The King in the Moon

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