What is Naga Panchami?
Naga Panchami is an Indian festival that is dedicated to snakes. It is celebrated by Hindus. The festival is very important in Karnataka and Nepal. It is also celebrated in northern and central India. The word Naga or Nagam means snakes. It is held on the 5th day after Amavasya or New moon, in the month of Shravan (July-August). During this period, monsoon would have set in, and because of the heavy rains, the snakes come out of their holes and enter houses. In Hindu mythology, snakes are worshiped as gods. The planets, Rahu and Ketu too are depicted as snakes. People believe that offering prayers to snakes can bring them prosperity and well-being. In the state of Kerala, people believe that inviting ‘sarpa kopam’ by doing harm to snakes can have many inauspicious effects like delay in marriage, lack of progeny, skin problems, etc. In astrology, Sarpa Dosha relates to Rahu and Ketu afflictions, which cause similar effects. Thus, to prevent this, people worship snake gods or Naga Devatas. Some temples in India are exclusively dedicated to such snake gods, like the famed Mannarassala temple in Haripad, Kerala.
According to mythology, Patal Loka is the abode of snakes. On the day of Naga Panchami, people pray to them for their blessings snake deities crafted in silver, stone, wood, stone, etc. are offered milk.
Here are 6 facts that you may not have known about Naga Panchami.
People offer snakes to milk
On this day, people pour milk into the snake pits as an offering. They believe that the snake will drink the milk. But snakes actually do not drink milk. In fact, it can be fatal to them. It can get a cold or catch jaundice and die.
There is a story in the Mahabharatha that Janamejeya, the son of King Parikshit, who belonged to the Kuru dynasty, performed a snake sacrifice called Sarpa Satra to avenge the death of his father who died after being bitten by the snake king, Taksaka. It was a very powerful sacrifice, and along with the snakes, the King of the Gods, Indra, too, was in danger of being annihilated.
The frightened gods appealed to Goddess Manasa to save them. She told her son Astika to go to the Yagna site and appeal to Janamejeya. Astika did so, and the king, impressed with his knowledge of all the shastras, granted him a boon. Astika asked the king to stop the Sarpa Satra. As the Nagas were saved from destruction on that day, it is celebrated as Naga Panchami.
Krishna and Kaliya
Naga Panchami was also the day when the young Krishna subdued Kaliya, a dangerous serpent that lived in the Yamuna river. The snake was terrorizing the local people and killing the cows who drank the water from the river, with its poison. Krishna subdued it by dancing on its hood. This dance is called ‘Kaliya Mardhanam’.
Protection from snakebite
As rainwater seeps into the snake pits during the monsoon period, they come out of the pits and enter the homes of people living nearby. Some of the snakes may be poisonous. People believe that propitiating the snakes will ensure that the snakes do them no harm.
Goddess Satyeshwari’s fast
There is another myth that talks about Goddess Satyeshwari, who observed a fast the day after her brother died. Hence, women believe that observing Naga Panchami and fasting on that day is good for the welfare of their brothers.
Ban on cutting and fried food
People do not chop or fry anything on this day. Payasam, a sweet dish, may be prepared. It is also forbidden to dig the land on Naga Panchami.