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India is a country with rich mythology and history. In the modern era too many Indians worship different Gods on the auspicious days and pray for their health, knowledge and wealth. The Hindu culture is known to have many Gods like, Lord Ram, Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, Buddha and many more. These gods and deities have a historical event involved and thus they are prayed for different reasons. Once the snakes or the Nags, were known as the negative creatures. They were the symbol of death and destruction but in the Hindu culture the Serpents are nothing less than deities. They are pretty symbolic as they are connected to various Hindu Gods. In many parts of India and Nepal the Nags or the snakes are worshiped every year on the fifth day of bright half lunar month of shravan (July/August) of Hindu calendar. This day is known as the Nag Panchami over the country.
Nag Panchami a festival celebrated in India when the snakes are worshipped by the devotees. This is a festival which is celebrated every year during the month of Shravan according to the Hindu calendar. This sravan month comes during July or August. It is celebrated on every fifth day of the moonlit fortnight of the sravan month. The snakes, according to the Hindu culture, are known to be one of the most sacred creatures. They are also considered to have a great connection with the Lord’s of Hindu religion. The snakes are seen to be with the Gods in picture and depiction. Lord Vishnu is seen making Sesh Nag, a snake with hundreds of head as his reclining couch. It is believed that the Sesh Nag has the entire earth on its head and he balances it and keeps it in shape.
On the other hand, Lord Shiva is believed to have a strong connection with snakes as a snake hangs around his neck just similar to that of an ornament. The Nag Panchami is also celebrated in the month of Lord Shiva as sravan month is taken to be a month of Shiva according to Hindu religion. This proves that snakes and Lord Shiva has a special connection.
The Legends behind Nag Panchami
There are several stories behind the celebration of this festival. It is dated way back to the Indus valley civilization. Not only has this but the Nag Panchami legends showed that the celebration of this festival is also written in the book of Mahabharata. It says that there was a Pandava king whose father died because of a snake bite. Since then the king decided to perform a sarpa yagna so that he can kill all the snakes living on this planet. The snake king then visited Lord Brahma in search of some help, and the Lord said to him that there will be a Brahmin who will stop this yagna and thus protect the snakes from the wrath. On the fifth day of the moonlit fortnight of the sravan month, the young Brahmin Astika interrupted the yagna, thus protecting the snakes. From this day on it was celebrated as the Nag Panchami in India. Apart from this, the historians show different pieces of evidence that proved the celebration of Nag Panchami in the past. The carvings on the Ajanta cave show that the snake worshipped happened earlier. The indications from the Indus valley civilization show that the clan Nagas who were present in India much before Aryans came in worshipped snakes. This tradition was followed by the Aryans and later by the Hindus in the modern era. Thus this is the history behind the celebration of the festival of snakes in India.
Rituals followed on Nag Panchami
In India, every festival is celebrated with a specific tradition. The country is famous for its culture, and the people of this country have a different set of rituals in different areas. But all these have something in common. The Festival of snakes also has some standard routines that are followed by the devotees on this day. Here are some of the common rituals that are observed on this day to worship the snakes.
- Early in the morning devotees visit temples which are known for snakes. As Lord Shiva is known to have a strong connection with the snakes, so the temple of Lord Shiva is also flooded with devotees.
- On this day the devotees offer snakes milk along with turmeric powder or Haldi. It is believed by the devotees that if the snake drinks the milk from their bowl, it will bring in good luck for them shortly.
- In some parts of India, it is a tradition to give a milk bath to real snakes. This can be dangerous, but it is a tradition which is followed strictly in this part of the country.
- In Maharashtra, it is believed that some snake charmers bring in real cobras and leave it in the temples for the devotees to worship them. People here offer milk and rice pudding known as kheer to the snakes.
- Then after offering milk or kheer, the devotees perform aarti and sing bhajans or devotional songs which are meant primarily for this snake festival.
- It is a tradition to offer some donations to the beggar and the poor of the city. As this is considered a good deed to perform. It is a sort of Punya that everyone wants to earn. Helping others is what every Hindu follows.
- On this day, the ladies also keep fasts to seek blessings from the snakes for the better health of their family members.
As the ladies keep fasts or vrats for the better health of the family, there is a story behind this ritual too, it is known as the Nag Panchami Vrat Katha. One of the beautiful things about this festival is that every Indian household prepares some lovely food items for the Nag Panchami.
Nag Panchami Vrat
Nag Panchami is a very auspicious festival celebrated in most parts of India in the month of Sravan. The Panchami falls on the Shukla Paksha Panchami and worship of Nag Devtas(Serpent Gods) is done by keeping a fast or the Nag Panchami Vrat. Women keep this pious fast for the well being of children and family. The Panchami day is celebrated a couple of days after the Hariyali Teej in most parts of India. In Gujarat, Nag Panchami is celebrated 15 days later, just a day after the Behula Chauth in which cattle are worshiped. It is believed that the pious Vrat helps to bring harmony, peace, and protection for the family.
How to keep the fast of Nag Panchami?
In our ancient Vedas, the Vrat is referred to as Naganamanandakari, the most blissful day for the Nag Devtas. Here is an insight into the rules of the Vrat kept on Nag Panchami.
- A day before the Nag Panchami is known as Nag Chaturthi, and some people keep a fast on this day too. The Mantra given below is to be chanted several times on this day.
“Anantham Vasukim Seshaam Padmanabham Chakambalam,
Shankhaphalam Dhartharashtram Thaksakam Kaliyam Thatha,
Ethani Nabo Namani Naganam Cha Mahatmanaam,
Sayamkale Pathenityam Pratah Kale Viseshatha,
- On the day of Nag Panchami, Upavas or fasting and Puja are done for the Nag Devtas.
- The Nag Devta idol is given a bath using water, which is known as Jalabhisheka and followed by the Kheersabhisheka. This can be performed at home or at a temple. Earlier women used to offer milk near the pits of snakes.
- Offering milk and kheer to the Nag Devta or Naividya is an integral part of the Nag Panchami Vrat and is considered very auspicious.
- Finally, the Puja is done following the 16 steps of Hindu rituals or the Shodashopachar. Flowers, Dhoopa or incense sticks, Dhuna Aarti by burning camphor, Diyas or lighting with cotton soaked in Ghee or oil and Naividya are used for worship.
- Next, the following Mantra is chanted for the well-being of all.
“Sarva Naagaa Preeyatam Mey Yeh Kechit Pruthvithaley,
Yeh Chahelimarichistha Yentarey Divi Samstithah,
Yeh Nadeeshu Mahanagaah Yeh Sarasvati Gaamina,
Yeh Cha Vaapi Tadaagashu Teshu Saarveshu Vai Namah”
- Now, the Nag Gayatri Mantra is chanted several times, which is mentioned below.
“Om Nagaakulaya Veedmahe Vishadantaye Dheemahee Thannoh Sarpa Prachodayatha”
- Finally, to complete the Nag Panchami Vrat, the Sarpa Shuktam is chanted followed by reading the Vrat Katha of Nag Panchami.
What is the Vrat Katha of Nag Panchami?
It is believed that after the battle of Mahabharata, a Pandava King Janamejaya decided to perform the Sarpa Yagna to destroy the whole Naga clan. Hence, some Nagas went to Lord Brahma, seeking help. A boon was given by Lord Brahma that a saint Astikha will interrupt the Yagna and save the serpent clan from destruction. The day will fall on Shukla Paksha Panchami in the month of Sravan, and the Nag Devtas will be worshiped every year on that day. Since then Nag Panchami Vrat is observed all over India on this day every year.
Nags, according to the Hindu culture, is known to be one of the crucial elements of the earth. It is believed that the snake worship is one of the cultures followed by the Hindus way back before the Aryans came to India. The historical evidence from the Indus Valley civilization is the proof behind this belief. According to the Hindu mythological book Mahabharata, it is believed that the Pandava king Janamejaya used to practice the sarpa satra yagna as a revenge for his father’s death Parikshit. His father died due to a bite from the snake, and since then his son used to perform this yagna to destroy the snake clan from the world. Due to this yagna, the snakes were in a dismal situation, and hence they visited Lord Brahma seeking his help. Lord Brahma gave the serpents a boom as he said to the snakes that a young Brahmin named Astika will be saving the snakes from this yagna on the shukla paksh panchami. This panchami was on the fifth day of the bright lunar month of shravan according to the Hindu calendar. Thus on the day, this young Brahmin interrupted the yagna and hence saved the life of Naga king Takshaka and his whole clan. Since then this day is celebrated as Nag Panchami across the nation among all Hindus.
On this day, the Hindus worship the snake lord by offering milk to the lord. The woman in the family keeps vrat of fasts on this day for her families well being. This vrat holds its roots in history and was started by a young girl who was the daughter of a poor farmer. According to the Nag Panchami vrat katha, once the farmer was digging his fields to sow the seeds. While digging near the tree on his farm, his tool hit a baby serpent. The young snake died due to it, and the mother serpent got angry with the father. In the mood of revenge, she killed the farmer, his wife, and his two sons. The farmer’s daughter was the only one alive, and as the mother serpent was still angry, she decided to kill the girl too and went to the farmer’s home seeking revenge. But as she entered the house, a small girl kept a bowl of milk in front of her and folded her hands, asking for forgiveness. This made the mother snake happy, and she forgives the deeds of the farmer, and the family of the farmer was alive. It was on the day of shukla paksh panchami, and since then the ladies of the family keep vrat or fast for the family’s health.
This nag panchami vrat katha is mentioned in the Bhavishyottara Purana. The katha mentioned in the Purana is in the form of a conversation between Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Thus with this katha one believes that fasting and worshipping on the day of Nag panchami can keep one’s family in good health and keep away from all the problems
Nag Panchami food
On this day a rice and milk pudding known as Kheer is prepared in every Hindu household. This is a food that is sweet and is loved by almost every Indian. It is a symbol of happiness in the Hindus. Apart from this, the different parts of the country have their particular kind of food that is specially prepared on this day of the year. These foods are made, especially on this day and are in the tradition of the Hindu family to prepare specific food on this particular day. The name of the foods is listed below.
- In southern India, the south Indians prepare Medhu vada or Ulundhu Vada. This is a nice crisp cuisine eaten along with coconut chutney. This is a special Nag panchami dish that is made in the southern part of the country.
- Puran Poli is one of the specialties of Maharashtra. This dish is prepared during the festival of Nag panchami. It is a type of chapatti but is sweet to taste.
- Dumplings (Patoli) made from Rice and Coconut and Sambhar is also the special dish made on this day by many people.
- Without sweets, any festival in India is incomplete. So on this day, Kobbari mithai with dry fruits is made. This is a sweet made up of coconut and dry fruits. Apart from this Nariyal barfi or coconut barfi is also prepared. The Sesame seed balls are the highlight of this festival.
This food makes this festival more attractive for the foodie in you. This makes the celebration even merrier. Nag Panchami is not only known for the snake worship in India but is also known for the delicious food that is prepared in every household on that day.