Naag Panchami or the festival of snakes is celebrated on the bright fifth day of the moonlit-fortnight of the Shravan month. This is a very auspicious day of the year and is celebrated with great fervour and faith all over India. On this day the snake god or the Naag Devta is worshipped with great devotion.
Nag Panchami History
In ancient India there was a clan called Nagas. After the invasion by the Aryans this clan was incorporated into Hinduism by the Aryans.
Hindu mythology is filled with stories ad fables about the serpent god. Prominent cobra snakes mentioned in the Puranas are Anant, Vasuki, Shesh, Padma, Kanwal, Karkotak, Kalia, Aswatar, Takshak, Sankhpal, Dhritarashtra and Pingal.
The most important being the Sheshnaga who is thousand-headed snake on whom Lord Vishnu rests on the serpent in Ksheer Sagar. It is believed that whenever Lord Vishnu takes incarnation on earth, Shesha Naga accompanies him too. Lord Shiva also wears the serpent around his neck as an ornament.
There are many legends associated with this day. The most famous story being that of Lord Krishna’s victory over the Kalia serpent in the Yamuna River.
Another legend says that on this day a farmer accidentally killed a snake while tilling the land. The mother of snake was furious and took revenge by killing all the family members except the farmer’s daughter who happened to be worshipping the snake god. Her act of devotion resulted in the revival of the family. Even today tilling or digging of the land on this day is forbidden in many places.
In Jainism and Buddhism snake is regarded as sacred. It is believed that a Cobra snake saved the life of Buddha and the Jain Muni Parshwanath was protected by a snake.
How is Nag Panchami Celebrated?
This day is celebrated in different regions with different customs. Live snakes are worshipped in some places while in others places an image or dough effigy of a snake is revered. In many regions women fast on this day. Devotees offer milk and turmeric powder to the idols in the temples. In many places snakes are bathed with milk and haldi-kumkum is sprinkled on their heads to seek immunity from snake bites and milk and rice are also offered. In West Bengal and parts of Assam and Orissa on Nag Panchami day Goddess Manasa is worshipped who is considered as the Goddess (Devi) of serpents. In Karnataka people celebrate the bonding between sister and brother on this day.