Every great story seems to begin with a snake.Nicolas Cage
Lord Nicolas seems to be right – at least in our case. The great story of Naag Panchami Does start with a snake.
What is a Naag Panchami?
The name literally defines this festival. The “Naag” in the name means “Snake” or a “Cobra” and Panchami is the fifth out of the Fifteen days in one half of the lunar cycle. So this day is the worshipping of Snakes or Cobras on the day of Panchami.
On this day, people go out and worship snake deities and some even go to snake pits to worship the living snakes. While it is indeed dangerous to do this, there is a belief that the snakes that are worshipped will protect us from the vermins.
Why do we Celebrate Naag Panchami – the Myths and Reasonings
Believe it or not, Naag Panchami does have a practical aspect along with the mythical origin and cultural significance. Besides this, there is obviously a religious reason as to why this festival is celebrated, and why we celebrate this festival has a lot to do with religion. So to know why we celebrate Naag Panchami let’s look at the religious aspects first. For this, we will have to take a look at a few myths.
From a religious perspective, this day is celebrated to worship all the snake deities. If it was the sole reason, then this festival would not be a major one but obviously, there is a deeper reason as well.
As per one of the myths, there was a Poisonous Monster Naag (Cobra) called Kaliya who was threatening the lives of the innocent. When lord Krishna Came to know about it, he fought and killed this monster to save the lives of thousands of Innocents in the kingdom of Gokul on the Day of Naag Panchami. But of course, it seems like by this point in time, Naag Panchami was already celebrated.
While this doesn’t seem to be the reason why we celebrate Naag Panchami, it sure does increase the significance of this day. If we want to know why this day is celebrated, we will have to look at another myth.
As per this myth, the day of Naag Panchami began when the Takshak - king of Snakes - stalked and killed King Janamejaya’s father Parikshit. When the king came to know about this, he was enraged and Conduced a Yajna (Ritual sacrifice) and conducted a war with the whole Naga Tribe (yes they do exist in the Hindu Myths and not just in fantasy). The Naag Panchami is said to be the day when the yajna was stopped by the intervention of Brahmin Astika Risha.
The Practical Reasonings
Now it’s time for the practical aspect.
Snakes don’t move or attack unless they need to. Why? You see Snakes are cold-blooded creatures that need the warmth of the sun to get the energy to move. And as half of the day is cold, they are inactive for the most part.
But they do carry toxic venoms that can kill a person in a rather short time. Humans naturally fear and respect those who are a threat to them but are passive in nature. Along with this, they also eat and clear out the disease-spreading rats. So this day of Naag Panchami is a sign of respect that we have towards these slithering creatures.
How do Nepalese Celebrate Naag Panchami?
The simple answer to this is- we worship the snakes and snake deities.
On this day, we post pictures of Naag, Lord Krishna, or Lord Vishnu on a bed of snakes above our doors to ward off evil spirits. On top of this, we also worship the living snakes by offering them milk.
Along with this, we worship the Naag Devata (Lord of Snakes) by offering it a symbol of milk (liquid from washed rice paste) as well. Along with this we also offer Cow’s milk, Lava (not the fire one), Barley sesame, nuts, and some other religious items.
As per the belief, the Naaga’s are the lord of Poisons and potions. By Naag Panchami is observed properly every year, they grant us the blessings of potions by increasing our luck, giving us better health, and improving our wealth as well. On the flip side, if we don’t observe this festival properly they will poison us and since their poison are the ones we have no idea about, no medicine will be able to heal us – we haven’t even found cures to poisons we know, how can we cure a poison that we don’t know about?
What Are The Do’ and Dont’s of Naag Panchami
Being a ritual there are certain rules and regulations that one should follow as well. Of course, these rules are only applied to those who genuinely believe in religion and gods. So atheists and those of other religions, you are not bound by these rules.
Jokes apart, there are some do’ and don’t that one should know in order to observe this festival properly. So let’s see what they are.
The do’s of Naag Panchami
- Perform Rudrahishek to please lord Shiva
- Worship Snake Gods and seek their Blessing
- Offer Milk to living Snakes or snake Idols
- Perform Puja with full devotion and dedication
- Chant Maha Mritunjaya Mantra
- Be calm
In hindsight, besides the last point is applicable for everyone on a daily basis.
The Dont’s of Naag Panchami
- Avoid Iron Utensils
- Farmers – Don’t plow the fields
- Construction workers – Avoid Digging
- Don’t use needles or sharp objects
- Avoid leafy vegetables
- If you need to consume leafy vegetables, avoid cutting them
- Don’t harm snakes or any other living being for that matter
- Don’t argue or have fights with anyone
Now some of these don’t are quite strange. The connection of leafy vegetables is one of the strangest ones. The easiest ones to understand are the don’ts of not plowing and digging as you can unintentionally harm a snake while doing this. The connection with sharp objects is a bit of a stretch but they do represent snakes in more ways than one. Their teeth are as sharp as needles and they can easily pierce through flesh. Along with this, their shape is slender and similar to snakes as well.
Naag Panchami is a festivals for the naags. We worship the snake deities and pray for their blessing. Along with this, we also worship the living snakes as they are thought to be the direct descendants of the Naga tribes from antiquity. They are the master of poisons and potions – they are the Nagas and this day is meant for respecting and worshipping the lords of the Snakes.
Hope you found this interesting. If you have any suggestions for us, do leave them down in the comments below. And as always, thank you for reading till the end.