Snakes have been worshipped since olden times especially in the state of Kerala. In olden times, the shikha of men were worn in such a way that it resembled the hood and tail of a snake. The Naga Phana Thaali of Nair ladies is a reminiscent of such snake worship.
There is an interesting legend behind the origin of worship of serpent gods in Kerala.
After the creation of Kerala, Parasurama wanted it to be populated. But the brahmins who tried to live there soon returned back as the land was quite uninhabitable due to the excess prevalence of snakes and hardness of water. Parasurama sought the advise of Lord Siva and accordingly pleased the serpent gods Vasuki and Anantha. The serpent gods informed him that if they are worshipped as guardians and protectors of the land, the problem will be solved. The serpent gods instructed the snakes to soften the water with their breaths.
It was according to Parasurama’s instruction; Sarpa Kavu was built in each courtyard of ancient households called Tharavadu and serpent gods were worshipped. The eight most important serpent gods called Ashta Nagas are Anantha, Vasuki, Thakshaka, Karkkotaka, Shankha, Gulika, Padma and Mahapadma.