Naga Panchami is the traditional worship of snake Gods as supreme deities. It follows Naga Chaturthi and precedes Naga Shashti. People observe the festival of Naga Panchami on the Shukla Paksha in the lunar month of Shravan. Naga Panchami occurs on the fifth day of the waxing phase of the moon. The Panchami Tithi in the month of Shravan is considered auspicious.
Snakes form an integral part of Hindu culture with religious intonations and have an impactful presence on human life. The cobra is said to be the symbol of the Nagas. The snake planets (Rahu and Ketu) impact the birth charts, and the outcome often comes as a surprise to people. Snakes are revered across the subcontinent and worshipped. This year, Naga Panchami takes place on July 25, 2020.
Legend of Naga Panchami
Snakes inhabit the Patal Lok. According to popular legend, Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu, was playing with other children and had to climb a high tree to retrieve a ball. The tree’s branches were spread over the Yamuna river, home to Kaliya, an evil and poisonous snake. Krishna, who was standing on a branch, lost his footing while trying to retrieve the ball, and fell into the river. A fierce battle ensued between Krishna and Kaliya. The latter finally realized the power of Krishna and begged to be released from his grip. Krishna subdued Kaliya by dancing on the snake, and his footprints became embedded on the head of the ferocious Naga. This incident came to be known as Kaliya Mardan. Kaliya removed the poison from the river, and Krishna blessed him, saying that on this day (Panchami), people who offered milk and prayers to snakes would be devoid of any hardships in life. The occasion came to be known as Naga Panchami.
Another legend has it that Janamejaya, son of King Parikshit of the Kuru dynasty, sought revenge for the death of his father and performed the Sarpa Satra. King Parikshit died of a snake bite from the King of snakes. A robust fireplace was prepared, with several learned men present. The fire attracted the snakes one by one but failed to attract the main snake, Takshaka, who escaped into the world of Indra. The tempo of the mantra recital was increased to pull Takshaka into the Agni Kund. The power of the Sarpa Satra was such that, like a magnet, it attracted Takshaka, and Indra too accompanied him.
The worried Gods pleaded with Manasa Devi, the Goddess of snakes, to intervene and stop the ritual. Manasa Devi sent her son Ashtika to the ceremony. He impressed Janamejaya with his knowledgeable personality and convinced the former to stop the Sarpa Satra ritual. Ashtika’s intervention saved the lives of Takshaka, Indra, and several serpents. Since then, Naga Panchami has been observed to pay tribute to the Nagas.
Observances and Rituals of Naga Panchami
Devotees observe Naga Panchami and clean the house rigorously. They perform pooja and make offerings of food, chanting mantras all the while. The idol of a snake is made with cow-dung and placed on the doorstep. People offer milk, Kusha grass, Akshad (sacred grains of rice), and sandalwood to the snake idol. People bathe the snake deity in milk, which reduces the impact of their sins. Devotees offer delicacies in vermicelli, rice items, and ladoo to the snake deity. Some people observe fast the day before Naga Panchami, known as Naga Chaturthi or Naga Chavithi.
There are twelve serpents worshipped on Naga Panchami Pooja- Anantha, Vasuki, Shesha, Padma, Kambala, Naga King Karkotaka, Ashvatara, Dhritarashtra, Shankaphala, Kaliya, Takshaka, and Pingala. On Naga Panchami, women pray for the well-being of their brothers and families.
Hindu Scriptures Related to Naga Panchami
The Agni Purana, Garuda Purana, Narada Purana, Skanda Purana, and the Mahabharata have a distinct connection with Naga Panchami, extolling the worship of snakes. The Garuda Purana says offering prayers to snakes is auspicious and will bring good tidings. Giving food to Brahmins on this day is considered very auspicious. The ancient Vedic texts mention the migration of the Aryan race to northern India from Central Asia. They are said to have intermingled with the Nagas and performed specific rites. Most of the Puranas mention snakes to be chiefly associated with Hindu deities as weapons, symbols of knowledge, power, and ornaments.
The Vedic texts composed by the Aryans specifically mention snakes and their worship. The Grihya Sutras say the Vedic rites have focused on Sarpa Bali to honor and ward off snakes.
Benefits of Naga Panchami
Performing the pooja and rituals for Naga Panchami is beneficial to devotees. Blessings are given in abundance and help remove fear and obstacles in life. Meditating on the Mooladhar Chakra helps achieve peace and happiness in life. It reduces the negative impact of curses and misfortunes and bestows good health, wealth, peace, and prosperity
History and Significance of Naga Panchami
Ancient cultures around the world are said to have revered snakes due to the power they possess. Hindus have observed the custom of snake worship, traced back to 3,000 BCE to the indigenous Naga tribe that inhabited the Indus Valley civilization. The tribal totem was the cobra.
Aryans are believed to be the indigenous ethnic group in India and existed as far back as 6,500 BCE. The Dravidians in the south and the snake-worshipping communities, such as the Nairs of Kerala, are of Naga origin. Snakes are the symbol of the highest form of primal energy (Kundalini energy) in humans. Snakes are closely associated with Hindu deities.
The main temples celebrating Naga Panchami across India are the Nagathamman Temple, Adishesha Temple, Nagaraja Temple, Mahakaleshwar Mandir, Nag Vasuki Temple, Manasa Devi Temple, Nag Devta Temple, Bhujang Nag Temple, Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple, among others.