- HB Kham
Nepal is a mysterious land of hidden folklores and legends. Uncountable amazing facts await the tourists who wish to explore and unravel the untold stories and legends confined to the scriptures and epics which are directly or indirectly related to the existence of human civilization on earth. Nag Panchami is one such mystical facts about Nepal.
The festival of snakes or Nag Panchami is being observed everywhere across Nepal. In Kathmandu, the Nagpokhari, Taudaha, and Nagdaha are crowded with people who are offering flowers, foods, ghee, lava, barley, sesame, nuts, and milk to the Nag or snake god.
This festival is observed in between July and August annually and it marks the day of worship for the snakes. On the eve of Nag Panchami a priest usually comes to every house and asks the house owner if the stickers of snakes could be pasted on the walls and the threshold.
If the house owner is Hindu, they usually allow the priest to do his job for which a certain amount of money is donated to the priest in return for his work. Worshiping snake is also another form of worshiping the power of nature.
One of the importance of worshiping the snakes is to discourage them from biting humans and cause a threat during the monsoon period. It’s generally the snake Cobra that gets worshiped and honored. Nag Panchami is celebrated in Nepal as one of the festivals of Hindus.
The god snakes such as Shesh Nag, Basuki Nag, Kali Nag, Astha Nag, Padma Nag, and Karkot are the most worshiped snake gods in the Hindu religion. People wearing the mask of demons show dances on the streets as part of the Nag Panchami ritual.
According to the Hindu religious doctrine of “Puran”, a snake god named “Shesh Nag” is lifting the burden of the earth on his head along with Hindu God Vishnu resting on the coil of the snake god in the ocean.
The ancient scriptures are also full of the narrative of angered snake gods who hampered rainfall on the earth for which humans had to worship them by offering milk and flowers after which the satiated snakes let the rainfall on earth.
According to one legend, in ancient times, a farmer had killed three baby snakes in the field. The outraged mother of the baby snake took revenge by killing the farmer and his family members. But one the daughter of the farmer had survived because she was away from the house when the angered mother snake had crept into the house and killed all the members of the family.
After knowing that the farmer’s daughter was surviving the mother snake encountered the daughter to bite her and kill her. But the daughter worshipped the snake and offered some food too.
This activity of the daughter impressed and appeased the snake. So, the snake did not kill her and left the house of the farmer. The snake instead brought everyone back to life in the family. This was the moment of rejoicing for the family. So the festivity was celebrated with the worship of snake to mark this occasion. The story about this incident spread far and wide and people started worshiping snakes to gain health and happiness.
- The legend related to Mahabharata
Almost all Hindu scriptures such as Agni Purana, Skanda Purana, and Narada Purana are full of descriptions of the importance and divine powers wielded by the snake gods.
According to epic Mahabharat, a snake bite had killed King Parikshita of the Guru Dynasty. The snake was recognized to be Taksaka. After this incident, the dead king’s son Janamejeya was so much angry at the snakes that he invited all the Brahmins and called for a snake sacrificial Yagya known as “Sarpa Satra” to be performed. All the snakes were supposed to come and die in the sacrificial fireplace prepared by the king and Brahmins.
The effect of this sacrificial fire was so high that most of the snakes started falling into the sacrificial fire pit and dying one by one. The snake king Taksaka fled to the palace of Indra in heaven and asked for his protection.
The power of Yagya was so great that even Indra along with the snake Taksaka was drawn to the sacrificial fire pit. This incident disturbed almost all the gods and deities. The gods, at last, appealed to Manasadevi to settle this crisis. Manasadevi convinced her son to go and ask Janamejaya to stop the sacrificial fire pit.
King Janamejaya was finally impressed by the son of Manasadevi and King agreed to stop the sacrificial fire pit. This is how the life of Indra and Taksaka was saved. This was the commencement of the festival of Nag Panchami.
Another legend says that once when Lord Krishna as a child had jumped into the Yamuna River to collect a ball his friends had thrown into the water. A serpent known as Kaliya that lived in the water had tormented Krishna. Krishana fought against this snake and had won the battle. Then the snake asked for forgiveness from Lord Krishna by offering flowers. This was one kind of commencement of festivity of worshiping and offering foods to the snakes and exchange of respect between humans and snakes.
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