- Rich mythological background of Hindu culture believes there exist seven realms of universe below the earth
- Snakes have a momentous part in holy Hindu scriptures
- Nag Panchami is celebrated to seek defense against serpent gods
In the land of snake charmers, man has always lived to strike harmony with the environment. Keeping this in view, Nag Panchami is celebrated to appease the serpent gods throughout India, Nepal, and places with Hindu populations. This year, July 24, marks Nag Panchami and is celebrated with zeal and fervour.
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Snakes comprise a significant space in Hindu mythology as they are considered the residents of the Patal Lok or Nag Lok. Thus, they are worshiped seeking protection of the family and the community in totality.
Date and Day
Nag Panchami is observed on the fifth day of Shukla Paksha (the waxing moon) during the month of Shravana (Sawan) according to the traditional Hindu calendar. Normally, Nag Panchami falls two days after Hariyali Teej.
The festival is celebrated during the monsoon months because that is when snakes are most apparent after their underground homes are filled with water.
The Story Behind the Festival
The ancient literature says Kashyapa, son of Great Lord Brahma, the creator of the dynasty had four consorts. The Third wife of Brahma was Kadru who belonged to the Naga race of the Pitru Loka. She gave birth to the Nagas among the other three, the remaining the three gave birth to Devas, Garuda, Daityas.
The Third wife of Brahma was Kadru who belonged to the Naga race of the Pitru Loka. She gave birth to the Nagas among the other three, the remaining three gave birth to Devas, Garuda, and Daityas. The Epic Story of Mahabharata mentions, Astika, the Brahmin son of Jaratkarus, who spotted the Sarpa Satra of Janamejaya, king of the Kuru Empire, that lasted for 12 long years.
Yagna was performed by Janamejaya to decimate the race of all snakes, to avenge the death of his father Parikshit due to snake bite off of Takshaka, the King of snakes. The day fire sacrifice was stopped, due to the intervention of Astika was on the Shukla Paksha Panchami day in the month of Shravan when Takshaka and his remaining races at that time were saved from decimation by the shape Satra Yana. From that day, the festival of Nag Panchami is celebrated in all over India and Nepal.
The Puja on Nag Panchami is conducted either at home, or at temples where women bathe deities of the serpent gods with water and milk, and decorate them with flowers and turmeric. Mansa Devi, the snake goddess is especially offered prayers on this day.
Snake charmers are often seen roaming around the city with their pet defanged snakes, playing local tunes on flutes, praising the serpent gods. Women often shower these snakes with flowers, rice, and turmeric powder, and give them sweetened milk as an offering to the gods. At places where snakes are uncommon, milk bowls are placed outside, hoping for the reptiles to visit and accept the offering.
In some places, it is a common practice to draw images of the Navnag with turmeric or red sandalwood, which is then worshiped. The Navnag comprises of nine snakes –
Nag Chaturthi – In some regions, fasting is observed a day before Nag Panchami. In Andhra Pradesh, it is observed just after Diwali. In Gujarat, it is called Nag Pancham and is usually observed three days before Krishna Janmashtami.
(This article was originally published by Soha Kala in July 2017, it has recently been edited on 25th July 2020 with contemporaneous information)