The Nagas were mythical beings who could transform from man or woman to snake. They were a separate species from humans and lived in their own secret cities deep in the jungle. Often worshipped as gods in the early days, they eventually ended up as minor parts of both the Hindu and Buddhist religions. Although these beings generally kept to themselves, legend has it that the Naga princes and princesses often married human royalty, and many noble houses in India have claimed that they are descended from Nagas. The wise Nagas could be benevolent demigods, or they could be ruthless rulers, killing anyone who disobeyed them, cursing the land with drought and poisoning the waters. Unicorns were their deadly enemies and could keep the evil Nagas in check. These legends may be based on a real tribe of people called the Nagas, who live on the border between India and Bangladesh.
The Naga have a number of forms that they can shapeshift into, apparently at will. These forms include:
(1) A real snake (generally a cobra or large water python)
(2) A real man or woman
(3) The 'medusa' form, a human with many snakes emerging from the head and/or shoulders
(4) The 'snake mermaid' form, like a mermaid except that the lower half is a snake instead of a fish
(5) A snake too large to be natural (sometimes so big it can swallow elephants)
(6) A snake with many heads (sometimes also gigantic)
(7) A dragon (this is rare in India, but more common in Thailand and Malaysia, where the Naga is sometimes considered a creature of cryptozoology)
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