One of India’s most unique festivals is Nag Panchami which is the traditional worship of snakes or serpents as observed by Hindus throughout India, Nepal and other countries where Hindus live. The worship is offered on the fifth day of bright half of Lunar month of Shravana, according to the Hindu calendar…Read on to know more…
WORDS BY- SANGEETA S
THE festival of Nag Panchmi is celebrated all across the country but most significantly in Maharashtra where it originated to honour of Hindu snake God, Shesha Nag. The festival is celebrated with lot of faith and devotion each year wherein people seek blessings from the snake God. It is believed that by worshipping snakes, you protect your family from being bitten by serpents and snakes.
It is also believed that offering milk to snakes on this auspicious day relieves you from all the calamities. Many perform this ritual of offering milk to snakes in order to negate their Kal Sarpa Dosh which is an astrological imbalance in the position of their planets.
The origin of this festival has many stories. According to Hindu mythology, snakes have been associated with many Hindu Gods. Sheshnaga (the snake with six hoods) is the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. It is believed that the earth rests on the head of Shesha Nag. There is a belief that snakes are very powerful due to their association with Hindu Gods.
According to another story, a snake – Kalia – was poisoning the river Yamuna and therefore people were unable to drink water from it. Krishna defeated the snake and made him drink back all the poison. Lord Krishna then blessed Kalia saying that whoever will offer milk to snakes on the auspicious day of Nag Panchami will be blessed and relieved of troubles.
The festival falls in the holy month of shravan. This month is dedicated to Lord Shiva and since snakes hold special place in Lord Shiva’s life, this day becomes very auspicious for all Shiva devotees. The devotees offer milk, rice and flowers to snake and seek blessings.
On the day of Nag puja on Nag Panchami, many people observe fast and this fast is broken after offering milk to the snake God. The festival is celebrated by wearing traditional clothes. Women in Maharashtra generally wear the ‘Nauvaari’ – the traditional nine yard saree. Coconut sweets and sesame ladoos are also prepared to be offered to the snake God. The sweets prepared are later distributed as prasad. People avoid cutting or digging in the fields on this day so as to avoid the chances of harming snakes.
As part of the ritual, people make snake idols of clay and worship the idol by offering milk, flowers, kumkum etc. The devotees also keep milk near the holes where snakes live. Many people worship live snakes and even fairs are held in some places. It is said that if the snake being worshipped drinks the milk, it is considered very auspicious.
Different states celebrate the festival in different ways. In South India, siblings meet to celebrate the well being of family. In some places, married young women visit their premarital homes to celebrate this festival with her family.
Though the origin of this festival can be traced from ancient times, these days, snakes are often mistreated during this festival. Snake charmers often capture snakes some months before the festival and defang them. They sometimes even keep their mouth sealed and do not feed them till Nag Panchami so that they are thirsty and easily gulp milk offered by devotees. This allows them to make a handsome sum of money. Animal rights activists have raised concern over this cruelty meted to the snakes and such activities are rare.
Nag Panchami: August 5, 2019