Picture curtesy Deccanchronicle epaper @ www.dc-epaper.com
And we have just been in the Month of Kartheeka, the Holy-month-long celebration for the Hindus. With the end of Diwali starts the karthika month. And the very first festival is the Naga Panchami or the Nagula chanvithi.
The Nagula Chavithi is one festival I think I rather would like to avoid, thought the theme and fervour behind it is an appreciable one like all other Hindu Festivals. Its actually going to snake-pits and worship the snakes residing there by performing Aarti (invocative prayer) and offering milk and honey to the snakes. In urban areas where snake pits are rare images of the deity are worshipped. As during Ganesh-chaturthi, small clay images of Naga are installed for being worshipped. Even snake-charmers carry captive snakes from door to door to enable city house-wives to worship the deity. Its a tradition in the aggranian economies / societies to worship Snakes might be just might is that they worship them at the begining of the harvest to ward off any dangers due to the snakes. India where 70% of farming is manual natural has such wonderful solorful vivacious and delightful festivals.
Naga Panchami is also known as Nagula Chavithi.’Nagula’ means of the snakes and ‘Chavithi’ is the fourth day after every New Moon or Full Moon day.
To some, this day denotes the return of Krishna from the Yamuna after overcoming the snake Kaliya. Krishna’s herdsmen celebrated the Naga panchmi day by treating Kaliya with milk as a gratitude for not harming their beloved Krishna. There are many folklores in connection with snake cult. At Sirale a fair is held on Naga panchami when snakes are specially caught worshipped and then set free.
At Vitthal in South India is the temple of Ananteshwara (Lord Ishwara with large snake as its crest) where snakes are worshipped and appeased if anything goes wrong. Digging and ploughing is strictly abstained lest the snakes are injured.
Another Legend behind this celebration is that
during the churning of the ocean by gods and demons in search of “Amrutham” (the nectar of immortality), Lord Shiva swallowed the poison that emerged. A snake was used as rope in the process and a terrible poison (‘garalam’) was one of the many things that emerged from it.
It would have engulfed the whole world, but for Lord Shiva, who swallowed it and retained it in His throat, lest it kill Him. His throat turned blue – hence, He is called “Neelakantha”. However, a few drops fell out and to ward off the evil effects people worship the Cobra, the king of snakes, to pacify the brood and protect themselves from their deadly poison.
And there are n number of local folk stories associated with the celebration.
Another story behind this festival is that once a sister requests her brother to get her some kedigE flowers ( an yellow coloured scented flower whose petals are palm leaves, said to be a favorite of snake god ) to worship the diety. The brother who goes inside a forest to fetch the flower is bitten by a snake and dies. The sister offers prayer to the snake god and gets her brother back to life.
Hence on this day the brothers visit their married sisters , accept the sweets prepared by them and the sisters apply milk and ghee to the back and the navel ( signifying the umbilical cord which the siblings share while in mother’s womb) and pray god for a long life to their brothers. Little girls and their brothers together worship the snake god at home and apply milk and ghee to each other.