Category: Holidays » Hindu holidays
Naga Panchami (Sanskrit: नाग पंचमी) is a traditional worship of snakes or serpents observed by Hindus throughout India, Nepal and other countries where Hindu adherents live. The abode of snakes is believed to be patala loka, (the seven realms of the universe located below the earth) and lowest of them is also called Naga-loka, the region of the Nagas, as part of the creation force and their blessings are sought for the welfare of the family. Serpent deity made of silver, stone or wood or the painting of snakes on the wall are given a bath with milk and then revered.
According to Hindu puranic literature, Kashyapa, son of Lord Brahma, the creator created Kadroo who belonged to the Naga race of the Pitru Loka and she gave birth to the Nagas; among the other three, the first wife gave birth to Devas, the second to Garuda and the fourth to Daityas.
In the Mahabharata epic story, Astika, the Brahmin son of Jaratkarus, who stopped the Sarpa Satra of Janamejaya, ruler of the Kuru empire which lasted for 12 years is well documented. This yagna was performed by Janamejaya to decimate the race of all snakes, to avenge for the death of his father Parikshita due to snake bite of Takshaka, the king of snakes. The day that the yagna (fire sacrifice) was stopped, due to the intervention of the Astika, was on the Shukla Paksha Panchami day in the month of Shravan when Takshaka, the king of snakes and his remaining race at that time were saved from decimation by the Sarpa Satra yagna. Since that day, the festival is observed as Naga Panchami.
In South India, snake is identified with Subramanya (Commander of the celestial army) and also with Shiva and Vishnu.
The preparation for the festival starts on the New Moon day of Bhimana Amavasya, five days prior to the festival day of Panchami. Girls offer prayers to the images made out of white clay painted with white dots. They take a vow by tying a thread dipped in turmeric paste on their right wrist and offer prayers. An image of snake is drawn on the floor in front of the house and milk is offered as oblation. On the night previous to the festival they keep complete fast or take a salt free diet. After the pooja, a food feast is held.
In South India, both sculpted and live snakes are worshipped. Every village has a serpent deity. It is worshipped as a single snake or nine snakes called Nava Naga but the popular form is of two snakes in the form of an “Eaculapian rod”. Every worshipper in South India worships the anthill where the snakes are reported to reside. Women decorate the anthill with turmeric paste and vermillion and sugar mixed with wheat flour. They bedeck it with flowers with the help of threads tied to wooden frames.
Another form of worship practiced by women, who have no children for various reasons, install stone statues of snakes below the peepal tree and offer worship seeking blessings of the snake god for bestowing them with children. This is done as it is believed snakes represent virility and have the gift of inducing fecundity curing barrenness.
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