Nag Panchmi is a famous festival in India that is dedicated to the snake God. It is also known as the festival of snakes and is celebrated in the Shravan month according to the Hindu calendar. It occurs on the fifth day of the moonlit fortnight of the Shravan month. Thus, the name derives itself from the same, as Nag refers to Snake and Panchmi refers to the fifth day. Indians celebrate Nag Panchmi in honour of snakes every year as snakes play an important role in the Hindu culture. There are lot of tales related to Hindu customs that are related to snakes and the tale of Sheshnag of Lord Vishnu is the most significant one.
There have been lot of incidents in Hindu mythology that mention the importance of snakes. In Mahabharat, Nagas and Sarpas have been mentioned. Also, in the sacred Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that Vasuki and Ananta are representatives of him amongst the Sarpas and the Nagas respectively. It is believed that one of the stories is also related to a farmer accidentally killing little serpents. As soon as the serpents were killed, their mother took revenge by biting and killing the farmer and his family. But, one daughter was spared as she was praying to the Nagas. The act then resulted in the revitalization of the farmer and his family. Ever since these incidents happened, Indians started to worship the Snake gods and they started celebrating Nag Panchmi. It is not just due to any specific incident; in fact it is celebrated due to the various incidents that show the value and significance of snakes in the history of India.
Nag Panchmi is celebrated in the month of July/August (Shravan Month). This happens to be the rainy season in most parts of India. It is also the time when snakes leave their holes due to the extensive rain and this increases the risk for people working in the fields. The rainy season is also the harvesting season and number of farmers work on the fields in a country like India. This poses a threat to the farmers and it causes a number of deaths from snake biting, as the snakes cannot be seen in the dense crops. It is also believed that a lot of people want to eliminate this threat and thus pray to the Snake Gods to prevent their families from such incidents. People in India worship snakes to such an extent that they have built multiple temples in their honour. It is believed that in reward for worshipping the snake gods, the snakes will not harm people and their family members.
Thus, on Nag Panchmi, snakes or their pictures are worshipped and honoured. People bathe the snakes with milk and perform various rituals to ensure good will and freedom from danger of snakes. The villagers even dance to music while carrying snakes in pots over their heads to the temple. A priest then carries out the required rituals. In that way, Nag Panchmi is celebrated in various regions of India with different rituals, to pray for the Snake Gods.
You can know more about this festival and its significance from Acharya Sandeep Bhargava. Follow him on Facebook and YouTube to know more about more such stories that surrounds Nag Panchmi!