When members of the royal family or priesthood traveled in a public festival procession or to a temple like Banteay Chhmar to make offerings or participate in a ceremony, they would be carried in a palanquin, or a covered litter. Portable objects of veneration, such as bronze images or a sacred fire, were also carried on palanquins. The palanquins had wooden poles, hanging seats or raised platforms, and bronze fittings cast in intricate forms and gilt, lending the palanquins a sumptuous quality.
The royal palanquins were typically fitted with multiheaded, serpent-shaped finials at the ends of the poles and corners of the elevated platforms.
Naga means serpent in Sanskrit, a language from India selectively appropriated by the Khmer in Cambodia. In their own indigenous mythology, the Khmer people trace their descent from a naga princess and a prince from the island of Java who journeyed to Cambodia. The naga remains a potent emblem for the Khmer nation to this day; it is ubiquitous on Cambodian monuments.