A class of beings classed with Garuḷas and Supaṇṇas and playing a prominent part in Buddhist folk lore. They are gifted with miraculous powers and great strength. Generally speaking, they are confused with snakes, chiefly the hooded Cobra, and their bodies are described as being those of snakes, though they can assume human form at will. The Vinaya Vin.ii.109 contains a list of four royal families of Nāgas (Ahirājakulāni): Virūpakkha, Erāpatha, Chabyāputta and Kaṇhāgotamaka. The enmity between the Nāgas and the Garulas is proverbial. DN.ii.258 In the Aṭāṇātiya Sutta, DN.iii.198f. speaking of dwellers of the Cātummahārajika world, the Nāgas are mentioned as occupying the Western Quarter, with Virūpakkha as their king.
The word Nāga is often used as an epithet of the Buddha and the Arahants.
In the accounts given of the Nāgas, there is undoubtedly great confusion between the Nāgas as supernatural beings, as snakes, elephants, and as the name of certain non Aryan tribes, but the confusion is too difficult to unravel.