Fallen capital at Firozpur near Sanchi
Artist: Maisey, Frederick Charles (1825-1892)
Medium: Pencil on paper
Pencil drawing heightened in white by Frederick Charles Maisey of a fallen capital at Firozpur near Sanchi, from an album of 60 drawings dated 1847-1854.
This drawing depicts a fluted capital with a circular abacus carved with lotuses and geese, crowned with a group of four addorsed figures of nagas and naginis, serpent divinities, their cobra hood raised behind them. The nagas, from the Sanskrit word 'nag' meaning serpent, are mythical semi-divine beings that live in the region of the underworld (Patala) called Nagaloka. They appear as snakes but can take human forms and the females often take the shape of beautiful women and marry humans. In ancient Indian mythology and religion the snake (cobra), is one of the most recurrent symbols. Snakes are associated with water, the underground, and fertility.
In Hinduism they were adopted as emblems of Shiva and Vishnu, in his role as creator, rests on the cosmic serpent Shesha. In Buddhism as Jaininsm they are the protectors of Buddha and Parshvanath.