Celebration: Snake Worship
Falls On: July-August
Main Offering: Milk And Sweets
About Nag Panchmi
Nag Panchmi is marked as worship
of snakes. In Hindu mythology, the cobra has a special significance
and the earth, it is believed, rests on the head of 'Shesha' - the
thousand-hooded cobra. It is a festival in the honour of the Snake
God, Shesha Nag.
On this day Indians worship the snake
by offering milk and doing Puja. It was thought that snakes are
worshipped as they are harmful and dangerous, but that is not true.
During the Vedic era the Aryans wanted to spread the message of
Vedas so that they are accepted universally. In doing so they adopted
diverse ways of worshipping, like doing Pujas of many gods and goddesses.
One of them is Nagpuja.
According to the Hindu calendar Nag
Panchami is celebrated in the month of Shravan (July-August). During
the monsoon when the snakes come out of the pit they are worshipped
as they protect crops from getting damaged by rats and other rodents.
Snakes have also been a part of the Puranas and took part in "Sagar
Manthan" and is also worn by Lord Shiva around his neck.
Legend has it that the serpents are believed to have the capability
to change their shape at will. When in human form, they are depicted
as beautiful women and handsome men. The victory of Krishna over
the Kaliya snake is commemorated on this day. For this reason Krishna
is known as "Kaliya Mardan". The legend is as follows:
Young Krishna was playing with the
other cowboys, when suddenly the ball got entangled in the high
branch of a tree. Krishna volunteered to climb the tree and fetch
the ball. But below the tree there was a deep part of the river
Yamuna, in which the terrible snake Kaliya was living.
Everybody was afraid of that part
of the river. Suddenly Krishna fell from the tree into the water.
Then that terrible snake came up. But Krishna was ready and jumping
on the snake's head he caught it by the neck. Kaliya understood
that Krishna was not an ordinary boy, and that it would not be easy
to overcome him. So Kaliya pleaded with Krishna: "Please, do
not kill me." Krishna full of compassion asked the snake to
promise that henceforth he would not harass anybody. Then he let
the snake go free into the river again.
The festival falls during the rainy months and is believed to counter
the increased possibility of snakebite during this time. People
visit temples specially dedicated to snakes and worship them. Shiva
temples are also favoured places for veneration, as snakes are considered
dear to him.
In South India, people craft images
of snakes using cow dung on either side of the entrance to the house
to welcome the snake god. Some go to worship the snake, which is
believed to be hiding in the holes of anthills. Or else a five-hood
snake is made by mixing "Gandh" (a fragrant pigment),
"Halad-Kumkum" (turmeric powder), "Chandan"
(sandal) and "Keshar" (saffron) and placed on a metal
plate and worshipped.
People offer sweets and milk to the
snake deity and the day is celebrated with folk dances and songs,
especially in the countryside. On this day devotees pour milk into
all the holes in the ground around the house or near the temple
so that the snakes may drink it.
Sometimes, a small pot of milk with
some flowers is placed near the holes and if a snake actually drinks
the milk, it is considered to be extremely lucky for the devotee.
The festival is celebrated with much enthusiasm by all, especially
Snake charmers carry cobras in baskets
and collect offerings from the public in the streets. Usually, wandering
snake charmers visit homes with their pet cobras. Each household
offers milk to the reptile and haldi-kumkum. A small village near
Sangli, Battis Shirala, is famous for its snake catchers, and people
throng the streets to watch the thrilling performances of expert
snake charmers. A snake show is organized here that attracts thousands