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Naga Panchami Festival

Naga Panchami-Karnataka


Panchami habba or Festival is one of the auspicious day for Hindu women. India, the land of cobra, and snake charmers as it is famous for, has special reverence to the snakes. The serpents are associated with many Gods in the Hindu mythology.Naga (snake) Panchami is the fifth day of the Shravana Month of the Hindu calendar. On this day sculpt images or idols of snakes are made and worshipped through the country. In South India figures of snakes are drawn with red sandalwood paste on wooden boards, clay images are made in yellow and black colour. Off late people buy Snake Gods made of silver , gold or Pancha Loha(combination of 5 metals preffered specially of worship).

People visit the Naga temple or "Ant hill" is worshipped with reference that snakes lived in Ant hills. People decorate the ant hill with vermilon, turmeric, flowers and fruits. They prepare special sweets and savouries out of till seeds, pop corn from jawar etc. They offer milk and honey. Some also perform Puja to actual cobra, considering it as the sacred and the favourite of Lord Shiva.There is also special significance of this festival that the brothers invite sisters and offer them gifts and presents, enhancing the bonds between the families. This is similar to "Raksha Bandhan" which comes in the same season.

Naga Panchami is held to honour the Serpent God. But due to the festive rituals, people tend to catch snakes in the wild and torture the poor creatures. They force them to drink milk, their fangs are forcible taken out to join the rituals of the day. Festival goes can celebrate and enjoy themselves without torturing snakes.It is on the fifth day of the bright half of the Shravan that Naga Panchami, or the festival of snakes, is celebrated. The setting sun is witness to mile-long processions of gaily-decorated bullock carts, cheerfully trundling to the nearby Shiva temple. The excitement and merry-go-round of a fair takes over, lasting well into the night. The snakes that the men had captured from the deep forests the week before can now return to where they came from.

Snake worship no doubt owes its origin to man's natural fear of these reptiles. Hindu books are filled with stories and fables about snakes, and pictures and images of them meet you at every turn. 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.

Because of its cyclical moulting, the serpent is believed to be immortal by the Hindus, and eternity is thus illustrated in the form of a serpent eating its tail. Temples have also been erected in honour of snakes. There is a particularly famous one in Mysore, at a place called Subramania, which is also the name of the great snake (it is on this snake that Lord Vishnu reclines while sleeping in the sea), so often mentioned in Hindu fables.

The Naga culture was fairly widespread in India before the Aryan invasion, and continues to be an important segment of worship in certain areas. After the invasion, the Indo-Aryans incorporated the worship of snakes into Hinduism, as is apparent in prevailing worship and mythology. The thousand-headed Ananta is Vishnu's couch and also holds up the earth, while snakes play an ornamental role in the case of Shiva.

Location info:

District: Karnataka,India
Celebrate Time: Month of August(indian month of sravan)


During winter temperatures range from 32 degrees Celsius to below 20 degrees Celsius,Summer Average temperature is 34 degrees Celsius


Nagas are descendents of the sage Kashyapa. He had two wives - Kadru and Vinita. Vinita was the mother of the great eagle Garuda and Kadru, the mother of serpents. There was great rivalry between the two wives. Kadru won a stake through deceit. Consequently, Vinita had to work as Kadru`s slave. One way to free her from bondage was to procure the `amrit` - the nectar of immortality from the city of Gods. Garuda, the mighty bird, procured the amrit and bought his mothers freedom. But, Indra stole it back before the serpents could drink it. However, a few drops of the divine potion fell on the grass on which the serpents slithered. Hence, they are endowed with the capacity to throw away the old skin and grow a new one in its place!


This so called "snake day" has several important components. In addition to offerings made to the snakes throughout the country during worship and celebration, men and women celebrate the day in these ways:

  • Cobras are bathed in milk and offered rice as this is thought to offer immunity from their bites.
  • Women often partake in early baths of milk and wear colourful saris.
  • Pots of milk and flowers are placed next to holes that are believed to contain snakes as an offering of devotion. If a snake actually drinks the milk it is thought to be the ultimate sign of good luck.
  • Mansa, the Queen of Snakes, is worshiped in most parts of Bengal during Nag Panchami.
  • In the Punjabi region, a large dough snake is created and then paraded around the village. The parade is colourful with plenty of singing and dancing; at the end of the parade the
  • snake is buried. Nag Panchami is referred to as "Guga-Navami" in Punjab.
  • Snake charmers sit alongside the roads of Maharashtra and encourage women to offer milk, flowers and haldi-kumkum (a powdered offering of tumeric and vermillion) to the dangerous snakes the snake charmers carry.
  • In many villages, snake charmers carry pots containing cobras to a central temple where they are released and then worshiped with offerings of milk and rice.
  • Mainly in the south of India, people worship figures of snakes made of clay or sandalwood as alternatives to the real-life versions.
  • No Hindu home may fry anything on the day of Nag Panchami.
  • Girls who are hoping to marry believe that the cobra offers good luck in their quest for eternal happiness.

Method of Celebration:

Snake Worship:
Often the best way to handle an enemy is by befriending him or her. This wisdom runs deeper than it appears for how else would you explain the worship of snakes in Indian mythology. The eerie hiss has been turned into the reverential word with the celebration of Naga Panchami. While this custom was perhaps restricted to the Naga cult or the snake cult, today it is celebrated all over India. Occurring in July-August, naga panchami is celebrated with great gusto in parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

On this day, people fast and in the evening worship an image of the cobra. Sometimes images are made of clay and at other times, painted on the walls and floors. Often people also visit the temple of Siva who wears the snake as an ornament. Milk is offered to the snakes and it is believed that this worship will keep them immune from the danger of snake bites which are such a common feature in the open rural fields.

After all the obeisance is rendered to the goddess and the ritual puja is over, the snakes are put back in the pots and carried in bullock-carts in procession through the 32 hamlets of Shirala village where women eagerly await outside their houses for "darshan" of the sacred cobras. One or two cobras are let loose in front of each house where men and women offer prayers, sprinkle puffed rice, flowers and coins over them, burn camphor and agarbattis and perform "aarti". Girls of marriageable age regard the cobras as blessings of good luck in marriage. Some courageous girls even put their faces near the cobra's dangerous fangs. Behold the wonder the cobras do not bite them!

Culture of Festivities:

During this time, snakes often seek refuge in houses as their holes in the ground become flooded with rainwater. Due to the danger they pose to humans, snakes are worshiped during this period to protect villagers from harm.Nag Panchami is celebrated throughout India; however, more festivities are seen in the south than in the north.Reportedly, the largest collection of snakes in the world can be found in Baltis Shirale. Visitors from all over the world gather in the village to worship live snakes. Interestingly, despite no venom being removed from the snakes, no one has ever been bitten.

Nag Panchami is also connected with the following legend of Krishna. Young Krishna was playing with the other cowboys, when suddenly 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". Snakes are believed to like milk. As this is the day of the serpents, devotees pour milk into all the holes in the ground around the house or near the temple to propitiate them. Sometimes, a small pot of milk with some flowers is placed near the holes so that the snakes may drink it. If a snake actually drinks the milk, it is considered to be extremely lucky for the devotee. The festival is celebrated with much enthusiasm by all, especially women.

As most rivers in India are in spate during the month of Shriven, poisonous snakes come out of their subterranean abodes and creep about in plenty all over the place. Many also float on flooded rivers running through the countryside. Mortality from snakebites must have been considerable to prompt people to worship the nagas to seek protection from them. Because of the fear, nagas were elevated to a divine status by the Hindus. The serpents are believed to have the capability to change their shape at will. When in human form, they are depicted as beautiful women and handsome men.