Significance of Naga Panchami

published on August 15, 2010
V.N. Gopalakrishnan

The festival of Naga Panchami is celebrated to pay respect to Nagas (serpants). It is celebrated in many parts of India especially in Bengal, Maharashtra and in the South. It is also known as Nagula Panchami Puja and is observed specially by women. Naga Panchami is the festival which is celebrated on the fifth day of the lunar month of Shravan which falls in July-August as per the Gregorian calendar (Naga means serpent and Panchami is fifth day). During this time serpents come out of their burrows that get inundated with rain water and seek shelter in gardens and many times in houses thereby posing a problem to the humans. Snake worship owes its origin to man’s fear of these reptiles but Hindu mythologies are filled with stories and fables about them.

In India, snakes are revered and temples have been erected in their honor. The association of snakes, gods and humans in the legends have promoted the belief that snakes have an eternal attachment with the Hindu religion. The thousand-headed Ananta is Vishnu’s couch and holds up the earth, Shiva temples are the favoured places for veneration as snakes are considered dear to Lord Shiva. There is also the popular belief that Lord Krishna defeated snake Kaliya on the Naga Panchami day.

The five Nagas worshipped on Naga Panchami are Ananta, Vasuki, Takshaka, Karkotaka and Pingala. People worship the snakes which are believed to be hiding in the holes of anthills. Because of the fear of snakebites, Nagas are elevated to a divine status. A five hood snake is made by mixing gandh (a fragrant pigment), halad kumkum (turmeric powder), chandan (sandal) and kesar (saffron) and placed on a metal plate and worshipped.

Naga Panchami is mentioned in the Bhavishya Purana and as per a legend, ploughing is forbidden in the field on this day. In the Ashvalayana Grihyasutra, the Paraskara Grihyasutra and other Grihyasutras, a rite called Sarpabali or offerings to serpents was performed on the full moon night of Shravan.

Followers of Nagas worship Naga Devata (cobras) with devotion on this day. They visit temples and snake pits (valmeekam) and offer prayers. Milk and silver jewellery is offered to the cobras in order to seek their protection. The snake god is offered milk and turmeric on the Naga Panchami day and the devotees also observe fast on this day. People also observe Naga Panchami Vrata and some avoid salt and deep fried items on this day. There is a belief that unmarried women who undertake Naga Panchami Vrat and do the puja to Nagas will get good husbands. Others fast on Naga Chaturti day, which falls a day before. Some Hindu communities in South India have an elaborate oil bath on the day. Worship of Nagas is a constant reminder to humans to live in harmony with nature. The ideal way to worship Nagas is by protecting the forests and grooves that are home of snakes and other animals.

Manasa Devi, the snake goddess, is worshipped on this day in Bengal, Orissa and several parts of North India. Nagaraja, Ananta and other snake deities are worshipped in other regions. Naga Panchami is also celebrated in Nepal and the Nepalese believe that by worshipping the Nagas, or Serpent Kings, their relationship with gods and nature would be secured for their survival.

(The author is a freelance Journalist and social activist. He is also the Director, Indo-Gulf Consulting and can be contacted on [email protected])

Welcome to Haindava Keralam! Register for Free or Login as a privileged HK member to enjoy auto-approval of your comments and to receive periodic updates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

sixteen − 9 =


Latest Articles from Bharath Focus

Did You Know?