Vinod Anand | 17 Aug 2013

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF NAG PANCHAMI (Vinod Anand) Many people celebrate Nag Panchami without knowing the significance of this festival. There are some myths and facts behind the celebration, worship and offerings that are given to the snake God. It is a festival celebrated all over India with same vigour and devotion. Read on to learn why Hindus celebrate Nag Panchmi and what the reasons behind celebrating this festival are. Nag Panchrni is a Hindu festival on which snakes are worshipped. Hinduism is a religion of faith and is surrounded by common search of truth. For Hindus all this means a way of life and worshipping forces of nature has been a part of Hinduism from ancient times. Nag Panchmi is celebrated throughout India and falls on the fifth day of the moonlit fortnight of the month of Sravana, which falls in the month of July or August. The main reason of celebrating this day must be that snakes are a great threat to mankind during these months. They usually come out of their holes as rainwater seeps in and while looking for shelter they might harm humans. However, this is why they are worshipped this day and fed with milk. Reason behind celebrating Nag Panchmi It is believed that Krishna, a Hindu God had saved the lives of people from the harassment of Kaliya, the snake. It is believed that one day when Krishna was still quite young, was playing by the side of river Yamuna and his ball got stuck in the branches of a tree that was just by the side of the river. While trying to get that ball, Krishna fell into the river. When Kaliya, the snake, attacked him, he fought and after some time the snake understood that he was not oh ordinary child. This was when he pleaded Krishna not to kill him and Krishna spared him by taking a promise that he will not harass the people anymore. Nag Panchmi is celebrated as the victory of Krishna on KaIiya, the most dangerous snake. Ways of worshipping in various States People do not dig the earth this day and offer cows milk, field paddy, rice’s breed and durva (tip of a special grass) in front of the pictures of Nag or make its idol of mud and sand and worship it. This festival is celebrated all over India and more or less the way of worshipping is same. People believe that Lord Shiva, a Hindu God, loves and blesses snakes and so by worshipping the snakes they also try to please him. Lord Shiva is believed to be one of the most short-tempered Gods and can even ruin your life if he gets angry. Some people even worship live cobras on the Nag Panchmi day and offer them milk and other offerings as feed. India is a country with different cultures and so the celebration varies from one state to state. In Maharashtra, a group of people asks alms and clothing by taking a dormant cobra in a plate and visiting as many houses as possible. In Kerela, people prefer visiting the snake temples and worship the stone or metal icons of snakes and pray so that they and their families are vary, young girls pray and offer milk to cobras with the intention of getting married to a good person so that they live their lives happily’ It is believed that snakes remember the faces and they take veng0 with the whole family even if one of the member harms it. So, married women pray to save their families from any kind of hara55mt that can happen due to the snakes. Gudiya strengthens bond of love among brother and sister People also celebrate Gudiya festival on day. Children beat up cloth-made dolls as par of this festival. Women sing folk songs and apply mehndi on hands. People also indulge in-kite flying (patang baazi) on this day. Therefore, the sky was inundated with colourful kites. On this day women take oil head bath and perform pooja to a snake carved out of stone or go to an ant hill where the snake has inhabited and offer obeisance to it. But it is felt that the essence of this festival is forgotten but the practice of pouring milk into the anthill is observed. The focus should have been on the relationship between the brother and sister which is the significance of this festival. Instead of nurturing the inhuman activates of pouring milk to anthill and instigating snake catchers to catch hold the hundreds of snakes and defang them in a most cruel way for the devout to worship in the name of tradition. What does the tradition say? It says to revere the snake and not to harm it and cause problem for its peaceful existence. Snakes are good friends to farmer they would not let the rats eat away the crops. Women offer milk, cotton garland, turmeric powder, vermillion, flowers and soaked till seeds and sugar to the stone image of a snake that is ok, the same should not be done to the anthill. Anthills are places where snakes take shelter, would it be comfortable if our shelter is splashed with milk and sticky sugar syrup. On this day a very few ignorant people pour milk in the ant-hill, while some women pray for the well-being and for the prosperity of their brothers. Some even observe fast on this day for the sake of their brothers. They strongly believe that by doing so, brothers are protected from all kinds of dangers and troubles. Brothers in turn lavish their sisters with beautiful gifts. This festival also strengthens the bond of love and affection between sisters and brothers. It is said that one can choose friends but not relatives. As relatives are not chosen but they happen, but then there is a twist to this statement. In any relationship we can always choose to be friends with our relatives also and most suited for this is the brother-sister relationship. This is a very complex relationship which includes in it an amalgamation of compassion competition, benevolence, and jealously. All these emotions overlaying each other and hence the parents are usually sandwiched and do not often realize what is happening. They are amazed and unable to comprehend how when the two tight each other, in a short time will get together to fight with parents. It is a unique relationship which lasts for a long period and should last for a long period Nag Panchami is one such festivals which bring the siblings together, even it the sister is been married and is with her in-laws and make them remember those funny events when they spent together. Important Aspects of the Festival This so called snake day has several important components. In addition to offerings made to the snakes throughout the country during worship and I celebration, men and women celebrate the day in these, ways: Cobras are bathed in milk and offered rice as this is thought to Offer immunity from their bites. Women often partake in early baths of milk and wear colourful saris. Pots of milk and flowers are placed next to holes that are, believed, to contain snakes as an offering of devotion. If a snake actually drinks the milk it is thought to be the ultimate sign of good luck. Mansa, the Queen of Snakes, is worshiped I in most parts of Bengal during Nag Panchami. In the Punjabi region, a large dough snake is created and then paraded around the village. The parade is colourful with plenty of singing and dancing; at the end of the parade the snake is buried. Nag - Panchami is referred to as “Guga-Navami’ in Punjab. Snake charmers sit alongside the roads of Maharashtra and encourage women to offer milk, flowers and haldi-kumkum (a powdered offering of turmeric and vermillion) to the dangerous snakes the snake charmers carry. In many villages, snake charmers carry pots containing cobras to a central temple where they are released and then worshiped with offerings of milk and rice. Mainly in the south of India, people worship figures of snakes made of clay or sandalwood as alternatives to the real- life versions. No Hindu home may fry anything on the day of Nag Panchami. Girls who are hoping to marry believe that the cobra offers good luck in their quest for eternal happiness.     PAGE  PAGE 3