Nag Panchami is the ‘Fifth day dedicated to Snakes’ (the Hindi term ‘Nag’ means snake and ‘Panchami’ means fifth day). The fifth day of Shukla Paksha (fortnight before full moon day) in Shravan month of Hindi calender is celebrated as Nag Panchami by the Hindu devotees. This day of Shravan month coincides with July-August of Gregorian calendar. Nag Panchmi is one of the major religious festivals of India when ‘Naag Devta’ or the Snake God is worshipped with full enthusiasm by Hindus all over India, especially in East Indian states of Bengal, Assam, and Orissa; West India, especially Maharashtra; and in whole of South India.
Nag Panchami 2013 Date
This year Nag Panchami will be celebrated on 11 August 2013
Why is Nag Panchami Festival Celebrated? – The Significance
India is predominantly an agrarian state where majority of people have been engaged in agriculture since ages. India is also a country where the life of common people is dominated by religious beliefs. Since ancient times, nature and various aspects of natural surroundings like rivers, mountains, fire, certain animals, trees etc. have been given the status of God due to the invaluable role they play in the life of people here. ‘Naag Devta’ (naag=snake and devta=god) is one of such ‘Gods’ who is worshipped by Hindus to protect themselves from its wrath in form of snakebite. Nag Panchami falls in Shravan or Saawan month which is the month of rain in India. During this period, due to heavy showers, snakes come out from below the earth and because farmers work in fields, they are at maximum risk of being bitten by snakes.
One theory of God worshipping says that man worships those whom he fears. This might have some psychological aspects too. However, Nag devta is worshipped on this special day of Panchami and it is forbidden to go to the field on this day, probably because of many snakes that might have come out in open and could not be located due to the dense crops and trees. While it is somewhat understandable as to why Nag Panchami is celebrated, one can not be sure why it is celebrated on this particular fifth day of the Shravan month when snakes are there all around during monsoon months. Legends related to Nag Panchami festival can throw some light on this issue.
Legends of Nag Panchami
There is not one but many legends and stories related to Naag Panchami that tell about various incidents that had taken place on Panchami tithi of Shravan month.
Legend of Farmer and Serpent Revenge
It is said that while tilling his land, a farmer unknowingly killed young serpents. The mother snake (Naagin) then took revenge by biting and killing the farmer, his wife and his two sons. When the she-serpent was about to kill his daughter, she offered milk and folded hands in prayers and asked for forgiveness. This made the Nagin compassionate and she not only spared the girl but also gave back the life of her entire family. This happened on the fifth day of brighter half of shravan month and thus from then onwards, it became a ritual to pray snakes on Nag Panchami day.
Story of Kaliya Naag Daman by Krishna
Lord Krishna is one of the most revered Gods of India. It is said that when Lord Krishna was a child, one day he was playing with his other cowboy friends near river Yamuna. The ball of the children got entangled in a branch of a tree. When Krishna climbed the tree to get the ball, he suddenly fell down in the river. Kaliya was a frightful snake that lived in that river. Disturbed by Krishna’s falling into the river, Kaliya came up angrily. Then only, Krishna started jumping on the snake’s head and caught it by its neck. It didn’t take much time for Kaliya to understand that Krishna was not an ordinary boy, and it was near impossible to overcome him. So Kaliya requested Krishna not to kill him. Krishna asked for a promise that he would not harass anybody thereafter. When kaliya promised the same, Krishna let the snake go free into the river again. Since then, Nag Panchami festival commemorates the victory of Krishna over Kaliya snake.
Legend of Nag Panchami in Nepal
Nepal, being a Hindu state, also celebrates Nag Panchami with equal fervour as observed in India. According to a legend in Nepal, it is believed that the Kathmandu valley was once a vast lake where Nagas or snakes lived. When human beings started to drain out the water from the lake to make space for settlements, Naagas became furious. To protect themselves against the wrath of snakes, people there gave them some areas as pilgrimage destinations.
Nag Panchami Celebrations
On the day of nag Panchami festival, snakes or snake idols, pictures etc. are worshipped with great devotion. Sometimes, dough is used to make snake like figures and then worshipped with full reverence. Many people observe a day long fast. Devotees carry milk and other things like flowers, sweets, rice, incense sticks etc. to the temple to offer to the idol. Many people give a milk bath to snake idols and even snakes brought by snake charmers. Shiva Linga, the representative icon of Lord Shiva, is also given milk bath as snake is believed to be his necklace. Many snake charmers carry snakes in earthen pots and release them in various temples where they are worshipped. On the day of Nag Panchami, fairs are held at various places and people engage in music and dance as well as see the magic shows and gymnastic feats performed in these fairs.
In Bengal, Assam and some parts of Orissa, Mansa devi, who is believed to be the Goddess of snakes, is worshipped through Ashtanga Puja. In Punjab, a procession like gathering carry large snake idol. They sing various songs accompanied by singing, dancing and merry-making. The snake idol is buried in the end as a rituall. In South Indian states, married women and girls wake up early in the morning and after having bath go to close-by ant hills where snakes reside. They do puja and offer milk to the ant hill. If they can’t find an ant hill, they go to temples where snake statues are erected.