Panchami or festival of snakes is a unique festival dedicated to
honour the Serpent God or Naag Devta. Falling on the fifth day of
Shravan in July/August, reverence for the cobra (snakes) are paid.
Naag Panchami in Hindu Mythology
Fairly widespread before the Aryan invasion, worshipping of snakes
or Naga was later incorporated into Hinduism by the Aryan
themselves. Hindu Mythological books are famously filled with
stories, fables and pictures of snakes.
Lord Vishnu's couch is the green, thousand-headed snake (Ananta or
Sesha) who could hold up the earth. Lord Shiva wears a snake for
ornamental purpose. Even Lord Krishna is called "Kaliya Mardan" to
commemorate his victory over the giant snake, Kaliya.
A farmer while tilling his land incidentally killed some young
serpents. The serpent took revenge by biting all members of the
farmer's family except his daughter, who worshipped snakes.This
devotional act of the girl resulted in revival of her family. So on
the day of Naag Panchami, tilling of land is forbidden. Snake
worship is however believed to have originated due to man's natural
fear of reptiles.
Celebration of Naag Panchami
One of the oldest and auspicious festivals, women fast on this day.
Also, women draw pictures and images of snakes on walls of their
houses with a mixture of cowdung, milk and black powder. Offerings
of milk, ghee, sweets, water and rice are also made at the sites of
snake holes. Devotees consider themselves lucky if snakes drink
offered milks. Naag panchami is observed and celebrated in different
ways in various parts of India.
It is mainly observed in Southern India, Maharashtra and Bengal. In
Jodhpur, huge cloth effigies of the serpents are displayed at major
fairs. Also in W.Bengal and parts of Assam and Orissa, the snake
deity worshipped on Naga Panchami is the goddess Manasa. In Kerala,
huge crowds throng snake temples on this day to worship stone or
metal icons of the cosmic serpent Ananta or Sesha.