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Celebrate Valentines Day with Serpent King and His Queen

One of the best things about art is that it stirs the energy in your soul and can be felt through centuries of passion and heartbreak. On this day of love and devotion, it is even easier to find connections with ancient cultures and thus relate to people throughout time. Serpent King and His Queen, which can be found at the Cincinnati Art Museum, is an excellent example of a piece of art that evokes these emotions.

This sculpture, dating back to the 9th century, is of the Indian serpent king Nagaraja and his queen holding each other.  The emotion it evokes is one of fullness, equality, and love.  There are snakes around them, closing in or cowering above the lovers.  The snakes are an important piece to discovering the true, deeper meaning behind this sculpture.  Originally part of an entrance to a Hindu temple in Magadha, India, The Serpent King and Queen is romantic and beautiful.

The movement throughout the piece is swift yet graceful and mysterious.  The viewers eye is drawn throughout  the smooth transition  from human to snake form.  In a gliding motion, its beauty and strength is instantly admired. Though the snakes are surrounding them, they are not fearful.  In fact, the King and his queen are being protected by the snakes, as evidenced in the way the snakes wrap themselves completely around the couple.  Snake worship of combined animistic-Hindu form is alive to the present day almost everywhere in India, particularly in South India. The snakes habit to live under the earth related them to the underworld ancestors who were accordingly venerated in the form of the serpent. Many mythological tales mention the immeasurable treasures which the snakes are hiding in their underground realms.

The Serpent King is a mythological Nagas, a serpent deity.  Believed to be demi-gods, these are supposedly kings who lived in great luxury in magnificent palaces in the depths of the sea, at the bottom of lakes or as the sons of mother earth inhabiting the underworld. They were also believed to control the clouds, create thunderstorms, protect treasures, and do incredible things in general.  Nagas also know magical spells which they impart to specially favored or haunted mortals. They can provide help in many problems of health, infertility and domestic affairs.

Perhaps one of the most innovative and inspiring parts of the relief is the equality aspect to it. Although the King is slightly more dominant, the Queen is right next to him.  It is refreshing to see the husband and wife in such co supporting roles.  The religious tolerance encouraged through this work is another reason I appreciate it so much. Any religious belief system that allows women to be partners with men is encouraging.

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