Totem can be defined as follows: if some casters or tribes or a group of families living together accept animal or a plant as their totem, it is called the totem of that caste or tribe viz Monkey, bear, fish, serpent, dear, eagle, tortoise, pea-cock, duck and many plants etc.
Acharya Chhitiji Mohan Sen has defined the totem tradition: “From the most ancient time, in different countries, nations or tribes, a particular mark or insignia (animal, bird or plant) known as totem was in practice: that insignia was a subject of great respect and full faith for each and every member of the tribe or Nation.
According to Majumdar the killing of certain animals or eating them is tabooed in some clans. Some tribes bear sign thereof. The totem animal, when it dies is ceremonially mourned and buried as a member of the clan concerned. The assumptions, with regard to totemism, are that totem organization is universal. J.F. Maclenon was the first to understand the significance of totemism as a primitive social institution.
According to Majumdar , as per ethnographic Survey of India, the Santhals have more than 100 totemistic clans. Hos have more than 50, Mundas 64 and Bhils 24, many castes in Orissa, the Kurmi, the Kumhar, the Bhumia, who have advanced in culture in recent years are named after the serpent, pumpkin, jackal and other totems. The Katkaris of Bombay, the Gond tribes of M.P. and of Rajasthan also have clan names after the fauna and flora of their habitat. It is clear that all these castes and tribes were sometimes, organized into totem system. But now owing to spreading of education and civilization, above system has also lost its grounds.
They were in origin indigenous Kshatriyas. They ruled all over India during history and pre-historic time. Some of the Naga Kings and families can be enumerated as under: Ahivritra, Ashwasena, Takshaka, Gonanda, Lohara, Karkota of North; Brahamadutta of Kashi, Sishunaga and Nanda of Magadha, of North east; Nagas of Padmavati (Bharsiva), Vidisa, Eran, Mathura, Ahichchhattra, Kausambi, Malava, Chakrakot, Bhogwati, in Central India; Andhra or Satvahanas (235 BC -225 AD) Chuttus, Chalukya, Pallava, Kadamba, Chhindaka, Chera, Chola of South India etc. Most of the above Naga families ruled between 500 BC and 500 AD and some of them onward up to the Mughal period.
The Indus Valley Civilization which is the most ancient civilization of India, was spread up in North-West: Harappa, Mohenjodaro , Chanhudaro and Lothal were its most important towns. The founders of Indus valley civilization were Mediterraneans or Dravidians and Australoids, where as, round headed Alpines, appeared, in mature age of this culture. In excavation of these towns, in addition to Burnished Red ware, a very high number of seals and seal impressions have also been found out. Among the seals so found out on one seal, there is a figure of chief deity with buffalo head, on its both sides, are two other man deities and behind each of them is a serpent in standing posture. On another seal, there is a serpent, in standing posture, behind the bull, which is fighting with a mighty man. On another third seal, there is a serpent resting his head on a Wooden bench or seat, which is protecting a tree deity.
The presence of serpents on all the above three seals, establishes that the serpent was their (Harappans) protector deity and symbol of authority of rule. We can draw the following conclusion from the above detail:
This fact finding is further corroborated by seal, No.4 This figure is incised on a cylinder seal recovered form Babylonia (Lajards culte de Mithra). This proves the origin of tradition of tree and serpent worship in Babylonia, from where later on it was transferred to Indus Valley.
There is description of serpent deity “Ahivritra” in the verses of this sacred book “Ahi” is synonym of serpent . The word “ Ahi Budhna (the serpent of base of a mountain ) has come twelve times in the Rigveda.
According to Oldenberg water is a form of serpent and according to Macdonell [Keith A.B. “The Religion and Philosophy of the Vedas and Upnishadas, p.193], they (Serpents) are the forms of Ahivritra, who is thought to be heavenly, it is conclusive that ahi-Budhna who is thought to be heavenly it is conclusive that Ahi Budhna of Rigveda was a serpent deity who was worshipped.
The Description of Vritra also has come repeatedly in Ragveda. He was deadly enemy of Indra, and he ultimately was killed by the later, he also has been called by the names like Dasyu, Dasa, Asura and Ahi in Rigveda, the word “Ahi” had also come for serpent. It means Ahi was a serpent. The greatest Ahi of Vedic poet was Vritra sarpa (Vritra serpent) which could block waters (Rivers) [Keith A.B. “The Religion and Philosophy of the Vedas and Upnishadas, p.193] In Atharva-ved and later Brahmanical literature there is also mention of “ Ahi” Along with Vritra. Ahi is a title of Naga Kings and as well as serpent. In support of this view there are enormous evidence in Sanskrit scripture such as in Amarkosha (First kanda) in the list of serpents there is mention of “Ahi” . In Hindi dictionary of Nalanda the meaning of “Ahi” is serpent and Vritrasur. In the Sanskrit Hindi dictionary of Apte, the meaning of “Ahi” is serpent “ boa.” In Rigveda (VII-50-1 to 3) “Ahi” has been stated to be a dangerous serpent . In Uttar Pradesh the cultural center of mediaeval period was Ahichchhattra (centre of Naga rule) which was situated in the district of Barrielly. This was the capital of ancient Naga kings.
This is quite clear that “Ahi” as described in Rigveda, was a serpent or Naga race, whose king was Vritra or Ahivritra.
The group of people developed their Vansha according to their system of worship of Devas and Nāgas. In Devas the worshippers of Indra were known as Aindra, worshippers of Varun as Vārun, worshippers of Mitra as Maitreya or Mitrā, worshippers of Shiva as Shivi or Shaivya, worshippers of Marut as Mārut, worshippers of Gandharva as Gāndharva, worshippers of Shesha as Sheshma, worshippers of Karka as Karkotaka, worshippers of Nāga as Nāgā or Nāgil.
The Pullavar community was responsible for the ritualistic dance known as Sarpam Tullal during this worship. The similar dance known as Nagamandala was performed by a community called Baidya which was part of Billavas in coastal Karnataka.
In chapter 29 of "India of the Dark Ages" the ancestor of Tanks is mentioned as Raja Gajvkatra. In chapter 42 of the same book it is mentioned that Malla Jat Republic extended from Eastern Punjab to the Ganga and Yodhya republic extended into Rajasthan. Nagpur belonged to the Nagas. Nagar Brahmins also originated from there.
Naga gotra (clan) of Jats are found in Nagaur and Sikar districts of Rajasthan and Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh. The villages inhabited by Naga Jats in Sikar district are - Dujod, Kanwarpura, Rampura, Sikar. In Madhya Pradesh Naga Jats are found in Badwah and Khargone.
The list of rulers in the genealogy of Nāga kshatriyas, as provided by Kishori Lal Faujdar, is as under:
Shesha, Vāsuki, Arāwati, Taxak,Tonk, Karkotak, Dhananjay, Kāliya, Manināth, Āyūraṇa (Pauniya), Pinjarak, Alāwat, Vāman, Nīl, Anīl, Kalmāsha, Shabal, Āryak, Ugrak Kalash, Pok, Sumand, Dīghamukh, Nimal Pindak, Shankh, Bāl Shiv, Vishtāvak, Imeguh, Nahusha, Pingala, Bahya Varṇa, Hastipad, Mundar, Pindak, Karal, Ashwatar, Kālīshak, Pahal, Tūn Danvartak, Shankhamukh, Kushmāndak, semak, Chindārak, Karvīr, Pushpadand, Vilvak, Pāndhūr, Mūshakād, Shankhasirā, Pūrṇāmadra, Haridrak, Aparājit, Jotik, Pannag, Srāvah, Kauravya, Dhritarashtra, Shankhapind, Virjā, Suvahu, Shālipind, Haritpind, Pithrak, Sumukh, Koṇaya Dashan, Kuthar, Kunjar, Prabhākar, Kusad, Halak, Kumudāksha, Tittar, Mahāsarp, Kadanm, Bahumūlak, Karkar, Kundaudar, Mahodara, Nambiar.
Mahabharata counts following more Naga clans – Ahi, Shivatra, (Khet) Ashit, Serbhak, Sevridha, Astin, Kantat, Spaj, Anat, Kulik, Shankhapāl, Darvī, Achāswa, Ajgar, Āligī, Vilagī, Orīvisha, Karikrat, Kasṇīnla, Tirashcha Raji, Naimarat, Prīdākū, Prīdāmī, Rajju, Lohitāhī, Ratharvī, Vāhas, Serbhā.
The Nagavanshi kings had a symbol of Naga or serpent on their coins and flags. The coins of Nagavanshi rulers are still found at village Āhār in Bulandshar district in Uttar Pradesh. These coins depict symbols of Nagas on them. There is mention of Nagas in Mahabharata in a story in which Duryodan poisoned Bhima to kill and threw into Ganga River. When he was foating inriver he reached village Āhār where the Nagavanshi rulers took him out from Ganga River and gave treatment to cure. After treatment he was sent to Hastinapur.