What is Naga Panchami?
The 5th day of the waxing Moon phase (Sukla Paksha) in the month of Sawan or Shravan (July-August) is celebrated as Naga Panchami. Naga means ‘Cobra’ or ‘Serpent’. Panchami means fifth day. It is an auspicious day for devotees to worship snakes or serpents and Naga Devathas (Snake God) for receiving good benefits in life. This day is also known as Garuda Panchami. Naga Chaturthi is followed by Naga Panchami, the next day of Chaturthi. Naga Panchami is an ancient observance which dates back even before the Vedic culture came into existence.
Significance of Naga Panchami
Naga Panchami or Garuda Panchami is a very important festival which is celebrated throughout India, more prominently in southern parts of India. Women undertake fasting and wholeheartedly pray for the well being of their siblings. This ritual again also helps to reduce the intensity of the affliction or congested energies from the snakes and the snake planets Rahu and Ketu.
The snakes are the symbols of many deities and have taken different forms. Lord Vishnu has Anantha Seshan (foremost serpent god) as his bed and that is what is called as Lord Vishnu in Anantha Sayanam. Lord Shiva has adored the serpent in his neck. Lord Muruga is also worshipped in the form of snake.
In the Tretha Yuga, Lord Rama’s (incarnation of Lord Vishnu) younger brother Lakshmana was none other than Adisesha. In the Dwapara Yuga, Adisesha took the form of Lord Balarama, Lord Krishna’s (incarnation of Lord Vishnu) elder brother.
Mythology behind Naga Panchami
There are different mythologies behind Naga Panchami. According to Mahabharata, a large venomous snake named Kaliya, a huge black serpent was inside river Yamuna. It was tormenting the villagers along the banks. Since the snake was too big and powerful, villagers were too afraid to venture or swim or raft across it. One day, when the young Lord Krishna and his friends were playing with a ball near the river, the ball fell inside the river and Krishna jumped to retrieve it. While he dived inside, he was attacked by Kaliya. In a fitting reply Krishna caught the snake and began to fight. Kaliya soon realized the immense power of Krishna and recognized him as an avatar of Lord Vishnu. It bowed down to him, promising not to harass the villagers in future. The victory of Lord Krishna over the snake is celebrated as Naga Panchami.
There is another story behind the adherence of this Naga Panchami which depicts the love and bonding between brothers and sisters.
It is believed that in a village, there were 7 brothers and they had a younger sister. They had lost their parents at a very young age. Hence these 7 brothers took good care of their sister. For their livelihood, the brothers use to work in the farm lands and cut trees in the forest areas. The sister used to cook food for her brothers every day and go the farm land to feed them.
One day not knowing that it was Naga Panchami, as usual, she cooked food and took it for her brothers. As it was Garuda Panchami, there was a fight between Garuda and a serpent in the space. Garuda had caught the serpent in his beaks and the serpent was emitting poison. This poison fell in the cooked food and the sister did not know this. As usual she went and fed her brothers. After taking the poisoned food, all her brothers died. She screamed not knowing what had happened and she attempted to eat the same food and die.
Lord Shiva and Parvati, took the form of old couple, descended to the earth and went to her. They stopped her and explained what had happened. They helped her to observe the Naga Panchami rituals. After the poojas, they asked her to take some sacred mud from the bottom of the snake pit and the akshada (rice mixed with turmeric) and keep it in the tip of the right year. She followed the instructions and to her surprised, all her brothers got back their lives and they woke up. When the brothers asked what had happened and how did they go to sleep, the sister explained the whole situation and the importance of the day.
How the Naga Panchami Festival is celebrated?
Naga deities and Naga Devathas (Snake God) are worshiped throughout the country. On this day people go the place where there are snake pits. Offer cow milk and pray to the serpents there. Some people go to the temples were the snake idols are installed. They do Abishekam with water, milk. Apply turmeric powder and Kum-kum. Then offer Prasad, incense and show aarathi. Then they tie a sacred yellow color thread in their hands, with 7 knots in it representing the 7 brothers.
Some perform this ritual at their house to an idol of snake made of the precious metal silver. They perform Abishekam to the idol and follow all the customary procedures. Special Prasad will be made and offered to the deity. It is believed that offering food to a Brahmin on this day is very auspicious. On the day of Naga Chaturthi / Panchami digging of soil, ploughing of the field and cutting of trees should be avoided.
Benefits of observing Naga Panchami
- Worshipping snake Gods on Naga Panchami can pacify the ill effects of Kala Sarpa Dosha in your birth chart
- It can bring blessing of progeny
- Revering Garuda, the vehicle of Lord Vishnu, can gift you with strong and healthier children
- Appeasing snake gods can protect you from snake bites