Significance of Nag Panchami :
Nag Panchami is a traditional worship of snakes or serpents observed by Hindus throughout India and also in Nepal. The worship is offered on the fifth day of bright half of Lunar month of Shravan (July/August), according to the Hindu calendar. The abode of snakes is believed to be patal lok, (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 reverred.
According to Hindu puranic literature, Kash
yapa, son of Lord Brahma, the creator had four consorts and the third wife was Kadroowho 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.
Indian mythological scriptures such as Agni Purana, Skanda Purana, Narada Purana and Mahabharata give details of history of snakes extolling worship of snakes.
In the Mahabharata epic, Janamejeya, the son of King Parikshit of Kuru dynasty was performing a snake sacrifice known as Sarpa Satra, to avenge for the death of his father from a snake bite by the snake king called Taksaka. A sacrificial fireplace had been specially erected and the fire sacrifice to kill all snakes in the world was started by a galaxy of learned Brahmin sages. The sacrifice performed in the presence of Janamejaya was so powerful that it was causing all snakes to fall into the Yagna kunda (sacrificial fire pit). When the priests found that only Takshaka who had bitten and killed Parisksihit had escaped to the nether world of Indra seeking his protection, the sages increased the tempo of reciting the mantras (spells) to drag Takshaka and also Indra to the sacrificial fire. Takshaka had coiled himself around Indra’s cot, but the force of the sacrificial yagna was so powerful that even Indra along with Takshaka were dragged towards the fire. This scared the gods who then appealed to Manasadevi to intervene and resolve the crisis. She then requested her son Astika to go to the site of the yagna and appeal to Janamejaya to stop the Sarpa Satra yagna. Astika impressed Janamejaya with his knowledge of all the Sastras (scriptures) who granted him to seek a boon. It was then that Astika requested Janamejeya to stop the Sarpa Satra. Since the king was never known to refuse a boon given to a Brahmin, he relented, in spite of protects by the rishis performing the yagna.
The yagna was then stopped and thus the life of Indra and Takshaka and his other serpent race were spared. This day, according to the Hindu Calendar, happened to be Nadivardhini Panchami (fifth day of bright fortnight of the lunar month of Shravan during the monsoon season) and since then the day is a festival day of the Nagas as their life was spared on this day. Indra also went to Manasadevi and worshipped her.
Another significance of the celebration of Naga Panchami is the victory of Lord Krishna over the mythical Kaliya, a monstrous black serpent that was killed by Krishna in the Yamuna river. Kalia had terrorized the villagers and Krishna was assigned to tame him. It is believed that the tussle that happened between Krishna and Kalia- the serpent is so famous that when Krishna emerged winner, he stood on the hood of the snake and the Snake acquired the feet impressions of the Lord as a mark of servility. The story is called as the “Kaliya Mardan” It is also believed that seeing the footprints of Lord Krishna- the Avataar of Lord Vishnu, Garuda(the eagle) who is the natural enemy of the serpent, does not harm it. There is an interesting story of why the Eagle and the Snakes are mortal natural enemies.
Snakes and serpents have great place and position in our ancient Hindu mythology. Basically during this time, when it rains and all the pits and holes are filled with water, snakes and other rodents come out of their hiding. There are hundreds of cases of snake bites and people and farmers especially and all those living near fields and grounds of dying of snake bite. Hence our ancients developed this ritual of worshiping the snakes that are most seen roaming out of their homes during this time, to appease them and request them not to bite people.
The following Sanskrit names of Eight Great Nāgas, namely,
अनन्तं वासुकिं शेषं पद्मनाभं च कम्बलम् |
शंखपालं धार्तराष्ट्रं तक्षकं कालियं तथा ||