The Nag Panchami festival is one of the most unique Hindu festivals. From the snake charmers of Maharashtra to the serpent temples of Kerala, it promotes harmony between humans and snakes.
Are you ready to slither into the world of Nag Panchami celebrations?
Then, join us on a journey through India and experience the customs, rituals, and festivities that make this ancient Hindu festival a must-see event. In this blog, we’ll explore the rich historical and mythological background of Nag Panchami. We’ll also explore fascinating legends around the festival, unique customs, and food offerings during the festival, and ancient and modern celebrations of the festival.
So grab your milk offerings, put on your dancing shoes, and get ready to join in the thrilling Nag Panchami celebrations!
Overview of Nag Panchami
The festival is celebrated across India and Nepal. It falls on the fifth day of the bright half of the lunar month of Shravana (usually in July or August).
On this day, by offering milk, sweets, and flowers, people worship snake deities such as Ananta, Vasuki, and Shesha, which are revered as symbols of power and protection. Devotees also decorate and worship live snakes, mainly cobras, which are considered to be the guardians of wealth and fertility.
Nag Panchami is celebrated with great fervor in rural areas and some parts of the cities, with devotees gathering in temples and homes to offer their prayers and seek blessings from the serpent gods.
Significance of Nag Panchami
Nag Panchami is a significant festival that celebrates the cultural, religious, and mythological significance of snakes in Hinduism. For centuries, snakes or serpents have been revered in Indian mythology and folklore with many deities and stories associated with them.
On this day people offer prayers to the serpent gods and seek their blessings and protection. The festival is also associated with agriculture, as snakes are considered guardians of the fields and crops. In some Ayurvedic treatments, snake venom is used to treat various ailments, and worshipping snakes might ward off illnesses and diseases.
Historical and Mythological Significance
Nag Panchami has both historical and mythological significance in Hindu festivals. Historically, it originated during the Indus Valley Civilization, around 3000 BCE, where the worship of snakes was prevalent. The festival is also mentioned in ancient texts such as the Skanda Purana, which dates back to the 7th century CE.
Mythologically, Nag Panchami resonates with several Hindu deities and legends. Among them, Lord Krishna’s legend is the most popular in Puranas. In this legend, A serpent named Kalia poisons the Yamuna River and threatens the lives of the people and cattle. Then Lord Krishna defeats him and orders Kalia to leave the river and go to the ocean. Thus Lord Krishna saves the lives of the people and restores the purity of the river.
Date and Time of the Festival
Nag Panchami falls on the fifth day of the bright half of the lunar month of Shravana, which usually occurs in July or August. The exact date of Nag Panchami varies each year based on the Hindu lunar calendar. For example, in 2022, Nag Panchami was celebrated on August 9th, while in 2023, it is expected to be celebrated on August 21.
Rituals and Preparations of Nag Panchami
Nag Panchami is a traditional Hindu festival celebrated with great devotion and enthusiasm. Here are some of the preparations and rituals associated with the festival:
Cleaning and Purification: the day before the festival, people clean and purify their homes and surroundings. They take a bath and wear new clothes.
Offering Prayers: On the day of Nag Panchami, people offer milk, sweets, flowers, and other offerings to snake deities. Some people also offer live rats or mice to cobras, which are their favorite food.
Snake Worship: In some parts of India, people also decorate and worship live snakes on this day. They offer prayers to the snake, pour milk on its head, and adorn it with flowers and turmeric powder.
Reading Scriptures: Some people read scriptures like the Skanda Purana or the Mahabharata, which contain stories and legends related to Nag Panchami.
Visiting Temples: Devotees visit temples dedicated to snake deities, such as Ananta, Vasuki, and Shesha, and offer their prayers and seek blessings.
Regional Variations in Celebration
Nag Panchami is celebrated across India with various regional variations. But each region has its unique customs and rituals, which reflect the local culture and traditions. Here are some examples of how Nag Panchami is celebrated in different regions of India.
In Maharashtra, Nag Panchami is celebrated as Nag Chaturthi, which falls on the fourth day after Amavasya (new moon day) in the month of Shravana. People prepare a special sweet called ‘Karanji’ and offer it to the snake deity.
West Bengal and Odisha
In West Bengal and Odisha, Nag Panchami is celebrated as Naga Panchami or Naga Puja. People worship the snake deities with milk, turmeric, and flowers, and offer a special food called ‘Pancha Khadya,’ which includes five different types of fruits and sweets.
In Gujarat, Nag Panchami is celebrated as Bhrun Hatya, or the ‘killing of the fetus.’ People believe that killing a snake in the ninth month of pregnancy can lead to the birth of a male child. Hence, they offer milk to the snake deities and pray for the well-being of their children.
In Rajasthan, Nag Panchami is celebrated as ‘Bhujaria,’ which means snake worshipper. People offer milk and honey to the snake deities. Additionally, devotees pay a visit to the temple of goddess Manasa, who is worshipped as the queen of snakes.
In Karnataka, Nag Panchami is celebrated as ‘Bhujangini Habba.’ People worship snake deities and offer milk, turmeric, and flowers to them. They also perform a special dance called ‘Naga Nritya,’ which is believed to appease the snake deities.
Beliefs and Legends Associated with Nag Panchami
Nag Panchami is a festival that is steeped in beliefs and legends associated with snakes and their significance in Hindu mythology. Here are some of the most popular beliefs and legends associated with Nag Panchami:
The Legend of Lord Krishna
According to the legend, Lord Krishna defeated the serpent Kalia, who was polluting the waters of the Yamuna River and endangering the lives of the people. Not only this but also Lord Krishna danced on the serpent’s hood and forced him to leave the river. This legend is believed to symbolize the victory of good over evil.
The Legend of Shiva
According to another legend, Lord Shiva was bitten by a snake, and his body turned blue. To soothe his pain, his consort Parvati tied a snake around his neck, which is why Lord Shiva is also known as ‘Nagendra’ or the lord of snakes.
The Legend of Takshaka
In the Mahabharata, Takshaka is a powerful serpent king who seeks revenge against King Parikshit, who killed his son. Takshaka tries to kill Parikshit by biting him, but he is saved by the sage Kashyapa, who worships the snake deities on Nag Panchami.
Snake worship in Hinduism
Snakes are considered to be sacred creatures in Hinduism. Hence people worship them as symbols of power, protection, and fertility. They are believed to have the power to control the weather and the harvest and protect homes from evil spirits.
Food, Offerings, and Customs during Nag Panchami
The festival is celebrated with a variety of food, offerings, and customs. Here are some of the traditional customs and rituals associated with Nag Panchami.
Fasting: Many Hindus observe a fast on this day and abstain from eating food until the evening.
Offering milk: One of the most common customs associated with Nag Panchami is the offering of milk to snake idols or pictures. The milk is poured over the idol or picture, and flowers, turmeric, and kumkum (vermilion powder) are also offered.
Eating sweet dishes: It is a common custom to prepare sweet dishes such as kheer, pedal, and ladoo on Nag Panchami. These dishes are made with milk, which is considered to be sacred food and is offered to the snake deities.
Visiting snake temples: Many Hindus visit snake temples on Nag Panchami to offer their prayers and seek the blessings of the snake deities.
Wearing black: It is believed that wearing black on this day can protect one from the negative influence of snakes.
Snake dance: In some regions of India, people perform a traditional dance called Nagin dance or Naga Nritya to worship the snake deities.
Modern Celebrations and Changes
Over time, Nag Panchami has evolved and undergone significant changes, reflecting changing social and environmental conditions. But, it continues to be an important occasion for Hindus to express their devotion to the snake deities. Below are some of how Nag Panchami is celebrated today.
Social Media Celebrations
With the widespread use of social media, many people share images and messages related to Nag Panchami on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Many communities organize gatherings and events to celebrate this day. These events may include traditional rituals, cultural programs, and feasts.
There is a decline seen in the snake population due to habitat destruction and illegal trade. Because of this, some organizations have started initiatives to raise awareness about snake conservation.
In recent years, a new trend of eco-friendly celebrations has been growing. Many people are using organic materials to make offerings, reducing waste, and avoiding harmful practices that could harm the environment.
After the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have turned to virtual celebrations of the festival. Therefore using video conferencing platforms to connect with friends and family members is very commonly seen.
Let’s Join the Thrilling Festival and Dance With Snakes
Nag Panchami is a fascinating festival that holds great significance in Hindu culture. Because it highlights the rich cultural heritage of India. Also, it promotes the importance of harmony and balance in nature.
In the future, it is highly important to preserve and celebrate this festival, adapting to changing times and circumstances. So, let’s dance with snakes and celebrates the bond between humans and snakes.