Nāga Panchamī (Sanskrit: नाग पंचमी) is a Hindu festival celebrated by Hindus in most parts of India. It is celebrated on Panchami in Shravan month. On this day, people worship Nāga Devata (Cobras). People go to temples and snake pits and worship the snakes. They offer milk and silver jewelry to the Cobras to protect them from all evils. They also fast. This festival is to celebrate the day Lord Krishna defeated the serpent Kalia. On this day swings are put up in the village and people enjoy themselves. The married girls visit their parents during this occasion.
The festival of Nāga Panchami is celebrated by Hindus to pay respect to Nāgas. The five Nāgas worshipped on Nag Panchami are Ananta, Vāsuki, Taxak, Karkotaka and Pingala. According to a Puranic myth Brahma’s son Kashyapa had four wives. Kashyapa’s first wife gave birth to Devas, second to Garudas, third to Nāgas and fourth to Daityas. (Dainik Jagran, 25 July 2006). The third wife of Kashpa was called Kadroo, who gave birth to Nāgas. So Nāgas are also known as Kadroojā. They were the rulers of Pātāl-Loka. There is a Sanskrit shloka to remember important nine Nāgas as under: (Dainik Bhaskar 30 July 2006)
एतानि नवनामानि च महात्मनाम् । Etāni navanāmāni cha mahātmanām
Naga Panchami is also celebrated in Nepal and the story is a little different than in India. Naga Panchami is a festival that is held in Nepal and literally translated means the “Festival of Snakes”. It is a festival that originates from deep within the Nepali culture and its rich traditions, rituals and myths that have survived for thousands of years and which have played a significant role in the lives of the ancient people of Nepal.
Ancient Nepalese civilizations worshiped the Nagas, or Serpent Kings, and believed that their relationship with the gods and nature would secure their survival. The myths and legends surrounding the Nagas have a few versions of the story that led to a creation of the festival. In one story version, it is said that the Kathmandu Valley used to be a vast lake. As the story goes, when humans started to drain the lake to make space for villages and settlements the Nagas became enraged. To protect themselves against the wrath of the Serpent Kings, the humans gave the Nagas certain areas as pilgrimage destinations and that through these actions harmony was restored to nature.
Another popular tale is one of a Tantric King that used the powers he possessed to force the Nagas to return the rain to the land which they had taken away. The Nagas did give in to the King’s amazing powers, but he also recognized their powers. To honor the power of the Nagas, the King created the Naga Panchami festival to honor the Gods. As the serpents were believed to be capable of controlling the rains, it is important to the people of Nepal to show their respect during the festival to insure that they do not offend the Gods.
The festival usually takes place in the month of August and as part of the celebration, residents post pictures of serpents above the doors to their home to ward off the evil spirits. Prayers are said during the festival while people wearing demon masks, dance in the streets entertaining festival participants. It is also believed that offerings should be given to the Serpent Kings during the festival and residents leave food items such as milk and honey in their gardens for the Nagas, or snakes. The offerings and prayers are then honored by the Serpent Kings by ensuring rain and protection for the people of Nepal.
Naga Panchami is an ancient tradition and festival, that is a truly amazing ritual to experience and the perfect time to hear the various stories, myths and legends that have been passed down to Nepal’s present generation. |}
Anantha (literally meaning infinite), vasuki, padmanabh, kambala, shankhapaal, dhartaraashtra, takshak and kaaliya - these nine are the great ones.
- Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna Dhallapiccola