On the fifth day of the bright half of Shravan people worship the snake, "nag". The day is known as “Nag Panchami”. Naga Panchami is the festival of snakes celebrated on the fifth day of the bright fortnight in the month of Shravan. The festival falls during the rainy months and is believed to counter the increased possibility of a snake bite during this time. People visit temples specially dedicated to snakes and worship them. Shiva temples are also favoured places for veneration as snakes are considered dear to him. In South India, people craft images of snakes using cow dung on either side of the entrance to the house to welcome the snake god. Some go to worship the snake which is believed to be hiding in the holes of anthills. Or else a five hood snake is made by mixing “gandh” (a fragrant pigment), “halad-kumkum” (turmeric powder), “chandan” (sandal) and “keshar” (saffron) and placed on a metal plate and worshipped.
Women worship Ananta ( thousand-headed Ananta is Vishnu's couch and also holds up the earth) the cosmic snake in temples. Shiva is also worshipped since he wears snakes as ornaments. Snakes are feed milk and sweets, and released into the forests. Worshippers search for holes where snakes are likely to be found. When they have found a hole, they make periodic visits, placing before it milk, bananas, and other food that the snake is likely to fancy.
|Krishna and the Kaliya Snake
Nag Panchami is also connected with the following legend of Krishna. Young Krishna was playing with the other cowboys, when the ball got entangled in the high branch of a tree. Krishna volunteered to climb the tree and fetch the ball. But below the tree there was a deep part of the river Yamuna, in which the terrible snake Kaliya was living. Everybody was afraid of that part of the river.
Suddenly Krishna fell from the tree into the water. Then that terrible snake came up. But Krishna was ready and jumping on the snake’s head he caught it by the neck. Kaliya understood that Krishna was not an ordinary boy, and that it would not be easy to overcome him. So Kaliya pleaded with Krishna: “Please, do not kill me.” Krishna full of compassion asked the snake to promise that henceforth he would not harass anybody. Then he let the snake go free into the river again.
On Nag Panchami day the victory of Krishna over the Kaliya snake is commemorated. For this reason Krishna is known as “Kaliya Mardan”.
On this day digging the earth is prohibited, because the serpents live under the earth or in nether world and digging may hurt or annoy them. The various purans like Agni Puran, Skanda Puran, Narad Puran, etc. They roam about the land wearing lustrous jewels and ornaments. The thousand-hooded Shesh Nag or Anant is the most earth like a chaplet on his crown. When he nods or yawns, the earth with its oceans and mountains, begin to tremble.
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