Nag Panchami 2023: Date, Story, Significance & Puja Rituals
Nag Panchami is a significant Hindu festival dedicated to the worship of snakes which are considered as the descendants of ‘Nag Devta’ or the Snake God. This festival is celebrated with utmost devotion on the ‘Panchami Tithi’ (Fifth Date) of the ‘Shukla Paksha’ (Waxing Phase of the Moon) in the holy month of Sawan or Shravan as per the Hindu Lunar Calendar. Nag Panchami in the year 2023 will be celebrated on Monday, 21st August. Let us explore the significance of Nag Panchami, the stories associated with it and the rituals that are practiced on this festival.
The Significance of Nag Panchami
In Sanskrit, “Nag” means snake. Snakes hold a very profound & divine position in the Hindu faith. Nag Panchami is an occasion for devotees to honor and seek the blessings of the snake deities. Nag Panchami is celebrated all across India as well as in Nepal.
The holy scriptures such as the ‘Puranas’ have multiple stories that describe snakes as powerful beings capable of living and travelling in different cosmic realms. Snakes have a close relationship with Lord Shiva as He wears one of the primary divine snake- ‘Vasuki’ as a garland around His neck. Nag Panchami celebrates the power and significance of snakes and seeks their blessings for protection and well-being.
Nag Panchami also has an occult dimension attached to it. It is said that certain astrological remedies performed on this day, helps a person to ward off negative planetary influences from his/her life. Talk to Astrologer and get remedies to overcome the obstacles that are there in your life due to the negative planetary influences of ill-placed planets in your horoscope.
The festival holds various rituals and customs. People clean and decorate their homes, especially the area where snakes are believed to reside, such as anthills, burrows, or snake holes. Images or idols of snakes are worshipped with flowers, milk, turmeric, and other offerings. Devotees also visit temples dedicated to snake deities, such as the Nag Temple in Nagpur, Maharashtra, or the Nagarkot Temple in Nepal.
Women play a significant role during Nag Panchami. They observe fasts and offer prayers to the snake deities for the well-being of their families. Some women draw snake designs or footprints using rice flour or cow dung at their doorstep, symbolizing the presence of snakes and inviting their blessings. This act is believed to ward off evil spirits and bring prosperity.
It must be understood that Nag Panchami is not just an occasion with spiritual linkages but also has a very profound element of environmental protection attached to it. It promotes the idea of the coexistence of humans with snakes in the same habitat. It raises awareness about the importance of preserving snakes and their habitats, promoting harmony between humans and these creatures. Snakes are known to play a crucial role in striking an ecological balance by keeping the population of rodents & pests in control. Hence, contributing significantly to balanced habitat.
Legends and Stories of Nag Panchami
Nag Panchami is associated with several legends and stories that highlight the significance of snakes in Hindu mythology. Here are a few notable tales:
The Legend of Lord Krishna and Kaliya: One popular legend revolves around Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and a venomous serpent called Kaliya. According to the story, Kaliya had made the Yamuna River poisonous, causing distress to the people and animals in the area. Lord Krishna, as a young child, fearlessly confronted Kaliya and engaged in a fierce battle with him. Eventually, Krishna subdued the serpent and danced on its multiple hoods, teaching it a lesson. This episode symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and reinforces the worship of snakes during Nag Panchami.
The Story of Manasa Devi: Manasa Devi, a serpent goddess, is worshipped during Nag Panchami in some regions, particularly in Bengal. According to mythology, Manasa Devi is the daughter of Lord Shiva and is believed to have the power to cure snake bites and grant fertility and prosperity. The story narrates the tale of Manasa Devi's birth and her struggles to gain acceptance from other deities. It highlights the protective and benevolent nature of the serpent goddess.
The Legend of Parikshit and Takshaka: Another prominent legend associated with Nag Panchami is the story of King Parikshit and the serpent king Takshaka. King Parikshit was the great-grandson of the Pandavas (specifically- Arjun). The Pandavas were the victors of the Mahabharata war. It is believed that Parikshit was cursed to die by a snake bite. As the curse took effect, he sought refuge in a hermitage and observed severe penance. On Nag Panchami, Takshaka, the king of snakes, bit Parikshit but due to his penance & austerities, he attained liberation through a peaceful death.. This event further highlights the power and significance of Nag Panchami in Hindu culture.
The Tale of Astika: Astika was a wise sage and the son of a sage named Jaratkaru. In a kingdom ruled by a king named Janamejaya who was the son of Parikshit, a great snake-sacrifice (sarpa yagna) was organized to exterminate the entire snake race as a means of avenging his father’s death by Takshaka. As the yagna began, Astika intervened and appealed to the king to stop the massacre. Impressed by Astika's wisdom and determination, the king ended the ritual. This story showcases the role of Astika in saving the snakes from destruction and emphasizes the importance of their conservation.
Rituals and Traditions
The puja rituals of Nag Panchami may vary across different regions of India, but there are some common practices observed by devotees:
- Worshipping a snake idol or image
Devotees install snake idols or images in their homes or visit temples dedicated to snake deities. These idols are adorned with flowers and garlands as a mark of reverence.
- Offering milk, flowers, and other things to the snakes
Milk, flowers, and various other offerings are made to the snakes, symbolizing gratitude and for seeking their blessings.
- Chanting mantras in praise of the snake deities
Devotees chant mantras dedicated to the snake deities, expressing their devotion and seeking their divine grace.
- Fasting on the day of Nag Panchami
Many devotees observe a fast on Nag Panchami as a gesture of dedication and purification. They abstain from consuming food and offer prayers throughout the day.
Visiting snake temples, such as the famous Mannarasala Temple in Kerala or the Nag Vasuki Temple in Varanasi, is a common practice on Nag Panchami. Devotees offer their prayers and seek blessings from the deities.
Dos and Don'ts on Nag Panchami
While celebrating Nag Panchami, it is essential to keep in mind some dos and don'ts:
Worship the snake deities with devotion and respect.
Offer milk, flowers, and other traditional offerings to the snakes.
Chant mantras dedicated to the snake deities to invoke their blessings.
Visit snake temples to seek the divine grace of the deities.
Observe a fast on Nag Panchami as a mark of dedication and purification.
Don’t harm or kill any snakes during the festival and also in your day to day life as well.
Avoid ploughing the Earth on Nag Panchami, as it may disturb the dwelling places of snakes.
Refrain from cutting trees on this day, as they provide shelter to snakes.
Avoid sewing with needle-threads on Nag Panchami, as it is believed to bring bad luck.
Nag Panchami is a joyous celebration that upholds the reverence for snakes in Hinduism. By following the rituals and traditions associated with this festival, devotees seek the blessings and protection of the snake deities. Let us embrace the spirit of Nag Panchami and cherish the harmony between humans and nature.
Nag Panchami is an occasion to honor the sacredness of snakes and seek the blessings of ‘Nag Devta’ for protection and wisdom. The legends and rituals associated with Nag Panchami reinforce the importance of respecting nature and living creatures. By following the prescribed dos and don'ts, devotees can engage in the festivities while upholding the essence of this auspicious day.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q1: Is Nag Panchami celebrated only in India?
Well, Nag Panchami is primarily celebrated in India, however, this festival is also celebrated with great devotion & enthusiasm in countries like Nepal and Mauritius as well.
Q2: Are all snakes considered divine in Hinduism?
In Hinduism, certain snakes are revered as divine beings. However, not all snakes are considered sacred, and it is essential to differentiate between mythological symbolism and real-life encounters.
Q3: Can Nag Panchami be celebrated by people of all religions?
Nag Panchami is a Hindu festival, but people from different religious backgrounds can appreciate its cultural significance and observe the rituals associated with it.
Q4: Are there any scientific reasons behind the worship of snakes?
The worship of snakes in Hinduism has both cultural and ecological significance. Snakes play a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance by controlling rodent populations.
Q5: How long has Nag Panchami been celebrated?
The festival of Nag Panchami has been celebrated for centuries and has deep roots in ancient Hindu traditions.