As the name suggests, Naag Panchami is the fifth day of the bright half of the lunar month of Shrawan, dedicated to the serpents (Naag). The rite is widely observed in Nepal, India and other countries where Hindu people reside.
It is believed that worshipping the serpent god (Naag) on this day help to gain the blessing of Naag Devta and an assurance of no harm from the snake. Also, those with ‘Kaal Sarp Dosh’ in their horoscope, get rid of the curse by worshipping Naag on this auspicious day.
There seem to have a lot of stories and circumstances related to the Naag Panchami. Still, up above all of them, Naag Panchami is essentially celebrated to identify their glory. It is the day when Naags are acknowledged for their great deeds like being the rope in Samundra Manthan (Basuki Naag), being the jewellery of Lord Shiva, the bed of Lord Vishnu, holding avatars as Laxman and Balarama (Shesha Naag).
Fables about Naag Panchami
Naag Panchami and Kaliya Naag
According to a legend, Naag Panchami was the very same day when Lord Krishna defeated Kaliya Naag beneath the water and gave him a chance to live. Because of Lord Krishna’s beating, the Kaliya Naag lost all his poisons, making him wishy-washy. However, Lord Krishna also assured his safety and prosperity by leaving his footprints upon his head. Since then, the festival of Naag Panchami is said to be started and we celebrate it each year.
On Naag Panchami, devotees put a picture of Naag high above the main doorway and perform puja. Seeing the posters, one surely remember the before-narrated story of Lord Krishna and Kaliya Naag. The picture showcases the Krishna on top of the Kaliya Naag. That’s why more than any other story, this story comprehends the commemoration of the Naag Panchami.
Naag Panchami as per the Mahabharata
The festival of Naag Panchami is assumed to begin when Takshyak Naag, the king of snakes was saved from Sarpa Satra Yajna or Yagya. As per the Mahabharat, when Takshyak Naag pursued King Janamejaya’s father Parikshit( the grandson of Arjuna) and killed him, to avenge his father’s death, King Janamejaya conducted a yajna to eliminate the entire Naag clan.
The yagna (Yajna/Yagya), which continued for several days was finally stopped by the Brahmin Astika Rishi. The day of the intervention of Astika Rishi was the day of the current Nag Panchami and it is said that since then the day is celebrated as Naag Panchami.
The local anecdote about Naag Panchami
As per the Nepalese local anecdote, in ancient times when the king happened to be a Tantric, the Nagas (Naag) halted rain from pouring over Nepal. So, the King used his power to make Nagas let go of the rain.
The king succeeded in pouring the rain however he was also imprinted by the sumptuous power of Nagas. Thus, he then honoured the Naags (Serpents) by turning the day of victory into a festive occasion of Nag Panchami.
-Nepal Tourism Board
Why there is a day dedicated to the Naag (serpents)?
Although there seem no specific contributions of Naag in the myths of celebrating Naag Panchami. Yet, as a part of nature, they do a great job. And that’s why a day is dedicated to them in the name of Naag Panchami.
Naags or snakes seems to have a special role to protect the environment. Lately conducted research has shown us that many toxic substances that subsist in nature are all acquired by snakes, and make the environment neat.
The snakes absorb toxins from the atmosphere and provide fresh air to the human. Therefore, snakes are also helping us to breathe neat air, except for plants. We can count this as one of the glories of the serpent to celebrate Nag Panchami.
What is done on the day of Naag Panchami?
People offer offerings like food and milk for snakes, on the day of Naag Panchami. Also, they visit Naag and Narayan temples. Nagpokhari, Taudaha and Nagdaha are the places that seem thronged with devotees on this day, besides the Narayan temples.
In the Changu Narayan Temple of Bhaktapur, there is a statue of Garuda which is said to have been established by Garuda himself. And on the day of Naga Panchami, the image is said to sweat recollecting his great fight with a giant snake. People collect the sweat and use it for curing leprosy.
Likewise, a huge number of devotees take ritualistic baths at the Shankha Daha, near the Changu Narayan temple. It is believed that taking bath at the pond saves one from diseases.
Also, Til Madhava Narayan temple and Wakhupati Narayan temple are not left bare on this day by the devotees. It is believed that paying homage at the two temples during Naag Panchami would bring blessings, fulfil the wishes and exterminate the problem of snakes in houses.
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