Interestingly enough there are lot of snakes and serpents which abound in our epics and ancient scriptures. During the rainy season when everything was filled with water, the snakes would roam free and there would be lot of snake bites and subsequent deaths.
In ancient times our forefathers thought of placating the snakes so that human race is saved. It is believed that snakes being worshipped will be appreciated by the Nag Devta and thus will be well received by him.
Nag Panchami is the worshipping of snakes throughout India and various places across Nepal. The snakes are worshipped on the 5th day of the Shukla paksha of the month of Shravana according to traditional Hindu calendar, which would be July August as per Gregorian calendar. Nag Panchami is generally celebrated 2 days after the Hariyali Teej. In 2016, the Nag Panchami is on 7th of August.
On the day of Nag Panchami, devotees pray to the Nag devta for their well being, the blessings of the family, by worshipping them by offering the Nag Devta milk.
Despite there being numerous snakes and serpents the following twelve snakes are revered mostly during the Nag Panchami day. They are as follows – Ananta, Basuki, Shesha, Padma, Kambala, Karkotaka, Ashvatara, Dhritarashtra, Kaliya, Shankhapala, Pingala and Takshaka.
Dates of Nag Panchami in the next five years according to the modern day calendar:
- In 2014, the Nag Panchami date is on Friday, August 1
- In 2015, the Nag Panchami date is on Wednesday, August 19
- In 2016, the Nag Panchami date is on Sunday, August 7
- In 2017, the Nag Panchami date is on Thursday, July 27
- In 2018, the Nag Panchami date is on Wednesday, August 15
Legend of Nag Panchami
According to the Hindu scriptures, Kashyapa, the son of Lord Brahma had 4 wives and one of them was Kadroo, who belonged to the Naga race. She gave birth to the Nag s as it is known.
The celebration of Nag Panchami has its roots in the victory of Lord Krishna over the ferocious serpent Kaliya. Kaliya had terrorized all the people and Krishna took upon himself the responsibility of defeating this great serpent. There ensued a great tussle after which Lord Krishna emerged as the winner. Kaliya the serpent had marks of Lord Krishna’s feet on his head as a show of complete subjugation. This incident is known as Kaliya Mardan. Kaliya promised him that he will not disturb people any more.
In another legend, during the times of Mahabharata, King Janamejaya’s father Parikshit was killed by a serpent called Takshak. Deeply annoyed, Janamejaya started a yajna called the Sarpa Shastra Yajna which was about to demolish all the snakes from the face of the earth. The yajna was stopped by a sage called Astika, the Brahmin son of Jaratkaru and Manasadevi, the Goddess of the snakes. The king of the snakes, Takshaka and his complete race was saved from being obliterated. This is also celebrated as Nag Panchami.
In another legend, long back there was a farmer, who unwittingly killed 3 snakes while ploughing his land. Enraged, the mother snake killed the farmer, his wife and his two children by biting them. However the farmer’s daughter escaped unhurt. She started worshipping the snake with milk and flowers and begged for the life of her family back. Observing her dedication and pleased with her worship, the mother snake brought the family back to life and since then snakes or nags have been come to be worshipped in various parts to placate them for the welfare of one’s family.
Celebration of Nag Panchami
On the day of the Nag Panchami, devotees worship the snakes with milk, flowers, sweets and lamp. The devotees observe fast on this day and charity is done as well as Brahmins are also fed. Devotees do not dig up the earth on this day and flowers, rice’s breed and Durva grass is offered to the Nag. Idols or a picture of the Nag is worshipped on this day. There is another belief that young women praying to Nag Devta is blessed with the boon of getting married to a good husband. This is mostly sprung from the belief that Lord Shiva is associated with the snakes, as he is tolerant towards them. Lord Shiva thus, blesses those who worship the Nags. It is also believed that snakes remember the faces of the ones worshipping them. Thus married women worship on the Nag Panchami so as to seek the blessing of the Nag Devta for protecting her family.
Nag Panchami celebration in different regions
- o In Nagpur, Maharashtra, which derives its name from the Nags only; in the Nagoba Temple in Mahal, Nag Panchami is celebrated with great devotion. In Benaras, the places for wrestling or the Akharas are greatly celebrated with lights and other decorations for the Nag Panchami. In Narasinghagarh in Varanasi, there is a special shrine devoted to the king of snakes. A bowl with milk always trickles milk on the snake god as a form of worshipping.
- o In Gujarat on the Bhuj district, this gets its name from Bhujang which means snake in Sanskrit; is a temple in the fort where snakes are worshipped on this day. On this day every year a fair is held at the temple premises. The Sindhi community too celebrates Nag Panchami in honor of Gogro.
- o In eastern and north eastern India, the snake Goddess is worshipped as Devi Manasa. On this day to appease the wrath of Devi Manasa a twig of Manasa plant, or euphorbia lingularum is brought and planted on the ground. Then tyhis plant is worshipped with great devotion so that the serpents and snakes remain appeased and does not harm people.
- o In the southern part of India, snakes are associated with Subramanya, who was the commander of the divine army, and also with Lord Shiva. In Karnataka, girls worship an idol of snake made out of white play and painted with white dots. Images of snakes are drawn in front of the houses and milk is offered to them as prasads. On the previous night of the puja the entire family takes a salt free diet.
- o In other parts of South India, every village has a Nag shrine and the deity here is often found in the form of two snakes coiled around each other or in the Aesculapian Rod. Women decorate anthills, where snakes are believed to reside with vermillion, turmeric paste and sugar mixed with wheat flours. A wooden structure is erected around the anthill which is decorated with flowers and the devotees sing songs praising the snakes, around this anthill. This practice can be viewed in Maharashtra too.
- o In Kerala, this day is mostly celebrated by the Nairs who are believed to be serpent worshippers. The Nair women all keep a fast on the day before the Naga Panchami and in the morning they take a cleansing bath and offer prayers at the tharavad Sarpa kavu. A Chembarathi or a Hibiscus flower is dipped in milk is then sprinkled on the bothers backs and then an arati is done. A thread dipped in turmeric is tied at the brothers’ wrists to protect them from the snakes. After this a feast is served.
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