Nag Panchami is an auspicious Indian festival dedicated to Nag Devata or the snake-God. This festival gets its name from the fact that it is celebrated on the fifth day, i.e., Panchami, of the moonlit fortnight of the holy Hindu month of Shravan Maas, which usually falls around July –August every year. This year Nag Panchami is falling on 27th July 2017. It is usually celebrated two days after Haryali Teej. On this day the snake God or Nag Devata is worshiped and milk is offered to him.
The Origin of Nag Panchami
The exact origins of the Nag Panchami festival are unknown, neither is anyone certain about the fact that when exactly the worship of snakes and the snake-god precisely began.
For us, the mere sight of this slithering reptile gives a creepy feeling and hence, worshiping snakes in India may appear strange to many people, especially to those who are not familiar with Hindu customs. But then, snakes have been associated with many Gods in Hindu mythology. The Sheshnag or the Snake with Six heads was the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. The world according to Hindu mythology rests on the head of the Sheshnag, and it is believed that when he shakes his head we have earthquakes.
The custom of snake-worship is believed to have come from the Naga clan. This clan was a highly developed tribe who lived in ancient India. According to historians, the Indus Valley civilization of 3000 B.C. gives ample proof of the tradition of snake-worship amongst the Nagas. The Naga culture was fairly wide-spread in India even before the Aryans came. It was later that the Indo-Aryans began worshipping many of snake deities of the Nagas and some of them found mention in the Hindu Puranas.
The Yajurveda provides a very specific origin of snake-worship; the Samhita of this Veda contains prayers to the Sarpas or snakes, who are referred to as the denizens of heaven, the skies, the rays of the sun, the waters, and the likes. According to the Brahmanas which is a part of the Samhita part of the ancient text of Yajurveda, invocations are referred to serpents and sacrifices are offered for their acceptance. Carved figures of snakes can also be found on the walls of many Hindu temples from the medieval era. Some images of snake worship rituals can also be spotted in the world famous caves of Ajanta and Ellora.
The mention of the Nagas and Sarpas is also found in the Mahabharata. In the sacred Hindu text of Bhagavad Gita, one may witness how Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that Vasuki and Ananta represent him amongst the Sarpas and Nagas.
Nag Panchami Significance
Nag Panchami is the traditional worship of the Snake God, which is observed
by Hindus throughout India. According to the Hindu calendar, few days are considered very significant to worship the Snake God and the Panchami Tithi especially during the holy month of Shravan Maas. This month is considered highly auspicious to worship the Snake God. Nag Panchami is one of those extremely significant days and it is observed on the Shukla Paksha Panchami during the holy Shravan month.
It is believed that any Puja offered to snakes would reach the Snake God. Thus, people worship live snakes on this auspicious day as a representative of the Snake God, who are revered and worshiped dearly in Hinduism. Although there are several Snake Gods, the following twelve are worshiped during Nag Panchami Puja –
Nag Panchami Mantra
Nag Panchami Puja Muhurat is at 07:01 to 08:25 (New Delhi, India)
Panchami Tithi Begins at 07:01 on 27/Jul/2017
Panchami Tithi Ends at 06:38 on 28/Jul/2017
Before the beginning of the puja on Nag Panchami day, reciting this mantra as many times as possible is considered very beneficial and will set the right tone for performing this vrat.
Nag Panchami Mantra before beginning Puja –
Anantham Vasukim Sesham Padmanabham Cha Kambalam
Shankapalam Dhartharashtram Thakshakam Kaliyam Thatha
Ethani Nava Namani Naganaam Cha Mahatmanam
Sayamkale Pathennithyam Pratahkale Viseshata
Thasmai Vishabhyam Naasthi Sarvatra Vijayee Bhavet
After chanting this mantra, sankalpam for the vratha is done, followed by the fast and the puja. Nag Devata idol is bathed and milk is offered as Naivedya. The Ksheerabhishek is followed by the Jalabhishek, and puja is performed with sandal, flowers, incense, deepa, dhupa, sweest, fruits, etc. the following mantra should be chanted during puja.
Sarva Naagam Preeyatham May Ye Kechith Pruthwithale
Ye Cha Helimarichistha Yenarthe Divi Samsthitha
Ye Nadeeshu Mahnaaga Ye Saraswati Gaamina
Ye Cha Vaapee Thadaageshu Theshu Sarveshu Vai Namah
This mantra is usually followed by the Gayatri Mantra, which should be chanted as much as one possibly can.
In Ujjain, at the famous Mahakaleshwar Mandir, there is the Nagchandreshwar Mahadev on the third floor of this temple. On Nag Panchami day, the doors to this deity are opened which is followed by a huge celebration throughout the city.
Snakes also occupy a very significant space in Hindu Mythology as they are also considered to be the resident of the Pataal Loka or the Nag Loka. The ancient scriptures treat Snakes as a community; Mansa Devi also known as the Snake Goddess is specially offered prayers on this holy day. Her temple is on a hilltop in Haridwar area.
Benefits of Nag Panchami Puja
Since, the word Nag means snakes and the word Panchami means the fifth day, on this day, Snakes who have a lot of holy importance are offered milk, rice and are prayed to for protection to the family and the clan.
In Southern India, Nag Panchami is celebrated and puja is performed in order to strengthen the bond between a brother and a sister. On this day, as an important ritual, sisters rub milk or ghee (clarified butter) on the back, spine, and navel of their brothers.
According to a popular folklore, there was once a brother and sister. The sister asked her brother to get some Ketaki or screwpine flower for performing the Naga Panchami Puja. Ketaki is an integral part of the puja and is offered to Nagraj or the Snake God while performing the puja. Unfortunately, her brother died due to a snake bite while looking for the Ketaki. The sister then prayed and performed fast for Nagaraja to take the poison away from her brother’s body so that he can be brought back to life. The sister rubs milk on her brother’s back to protect them from any hardships in times to come. The rubbing of milk also signifies their umbilical connection and strengthens the love between a brother and a sister. On this day in a few regions in India, the brother visits his married sister and she applies to milk or ghee on his back and navel and prays for his long and healthy life.
Snakes have held holy references in the Hindu mythology and scriptures and it is believed that praying to them on this day protects a person from unnecessary fears in life and brings good health, wealth, prosperity, and peace in life. Spiritually as well, this is considered to be an extremely auspicious day. Performing meditation on the moola Dhar chakra on this day helps achieve peace and happiness in life.
Legend of Samudra Manthan
Another myth that goes with the festivity is that of the Samudra Manthan or the churning of the sea. During the Samudra Manthan, Lord Shiva drank all the poison that came out from the churning of the sea. But during this whole process, few drops fell on the ground and were drunk by snakes. The people, therefore, pray to the snakes so that their families and they themselves are protected from their wrath.
Lord Shiva’s Snake
There is also a snake who adorns the neck of Lord Shiva and has a lot of spiritual significance attached to it too. It clings on to Lord Shiva’s neck in three coils which is an indication of the past, the present, and the future. It also signifies that the Shakti (power) or the kundalini energy that finally dances around Lord Shiva, while he is omnipresent and static. A five hooded Snake also surrounds the Shiva lingam again as an indication of the culmination and the protection of the yin and yang energies; also a depiction of the materialistic and the spiritual aspect combination.
Kaal Sarp Dosha and Nag Panchami
Astrologically, the horoscopes which are generally in the hold of the planets Rahu and Ketu nodes are commonly referred to as the Kaal Sarp Dosha. For people having this dosha, this day holds a lot of importance. The head of the snake is regarded as the planet Rahu and its tail is Ketu and when the planets fall in between them they are considered to be in their firm grip. It is believed that offering a pair of snakes made of silver to the Shiva lingam helps in calming the ill effects of this dosha.
It is also believed that Rahu and Ketu negate the impacts of other planets, as these planets are relatively imprisoned by their energies. Since Lord Shiva is known for taking away poison or the miseries of life, offering snakes is one way of seeking protection from him to expiate problems. Thus, anyone who has been suffering from this dosha should perform special prayers to the Snake God and to the Shiva lingam.
The Kaal Sarp Dosha can wreak havoc in one’s life. But one can pacify the Kaal Sarp dosha on Nag Panchami with Nag Panchami puja as it is known to be the most auspicious day to appease the snake, God.