Nāga Panchamī is a festival during which
Hindu devotees all over India worship either images of or live Nagas
(Cobras) on the fifth day (Panchami) of the month of Shravan that falls
between August-September. This festival is known as Naga Panchami. It is
believed that this is the time when invariably the snakes come out of their
holes that get inundated with rain-water to seek shelter in gardens and many
times in houses. Hence, these snakes pose a great danger to human beings.
May be therefore, to appease the snakes, they have been worshiped on this
day. Right from the times when mankind started acquiring some sort of
culture, Sun and Snake have been invoked with prayers and ritual worship in
most of the countries. In India even before the Vedic times, the tradition
of snake-worship was in practice.
There are a number of legends associated with
Naga pancahmi. One has it that on this day, while tilling his land, a farmer
accidentally killed some young serpents. The mother of these serpents took
revenge by biting and killing the farmer and his family, except one daughter,
who happened to be praying to the Nagas. This act of devotion resulted in the
revival of the farmer and the rest of his family. Since then, Nag Panchami has
been celebrated in India. It is believed that in reward for worship, snakes will
never bite any member of the family
There is yet another legend related to the
festival. It goes that young Lord Krishna was playing with the other cowboys
near river Yamuna, when the ball got entangled in the high branch of a tree.
Krishna volunteered to climb the tree and fetch the ball. Below the tree, a
terrible snake Kaliya used to live in the river. Suddenly Krishna fell from the
tree into the water. The terrible snake came up with anger, but Krishna started
jumping on its head. Finally, Kaliya said sorry to Lord Krishna and He forgave
the snake and let it go free. Since then, on Nag Panchami day, the victory of
Krishna over the Kaliya snake is commemorated.
It is an age-old religious
belief that serpents are loved and blessed by Lord Shiv. May
be therefore, he always wears them as ornamentation around
his neck. Most of the festivals that fall in the month of
Shravan are celebrated in honour of Lord Shiv, whose
blessings are sought by devotees, and along with Lord Shiv,
snakes are also worshiped. Particularly on the Naga Panchami
day live cobras or their pictures are revered and religious
rites are performed to seek their good will. To seek
immunity from snake bites, they are bathed with milk,
haldi-kumkum is sprinkled on their heads and milk and rice
are offered as ‘naivedya’.