Legend of Nag Panchami

Facts intertwined with fiction create legends that strike a chord with people in a particular community, in this case, the Nepali community that holds many legends related to Nag Panchami. Nag Panchami has legends spread across the entire subcontinent, and people in different regions observe it differently. The celebrations associated with Nag Panchami are said to have been established since the Vedic Ages. There was a staunch belief in the serpent gods and their power and ability to control the circumstances for drought, as agriculture was essential more than anything in those times. 

Nag Panchami holds a special value to the people of Kathmandu, wherein there used to be a giant lake. To create a sustainable living settlement, Lord Manjushree intervened and used a sword to cut the ridge at Chobhar, which drained the water and set up the settlement. But, this had a downside as well as it drove away all the snakes and created conditions for drought for a long time. This impelled the population to worship the snake gods for relief and thus, a tradition was set to devote this day to the snakes. 

Another legend depicts a farmer’s son, who while plowing the field, killed many snakes. The mother snake of the family took revenge by killing all the family members, except the daughter, who then prayed fervently for her family and offered milk. Moved by the daughter’s devotion, the mother snake brought back the entire family to life. From that day on, every year on the fifth day of Shukla paksha of the Shravan Month, Nag Panchami is celebrated. Milk, honey, sweets, flowers, turmeric, sandalwood paste, and special delicacies like Yellu chigali (sesame seeds sweet) and Thambittu (gram flour ladoos) are offered to the serpent gods; plowing is also prohibited on this day. 


Mahabharat epic outlines another legend related to Nag Panchami in which Raja Janamejaya held a Sarpa-Satra, a Yagya to sacrifice all the snakes to avenge his father, Parikshit’s death by Takshaka. He escaped to Lord Indra for protection, and the latter started getting into the Yagya’s fire. All the other lords prayed to Mansa Devi for her support, and finally, Astika, Mansa Devi’s son, stopped the Yagya. This marked the beginning of Nag Panchami.

The Nag Panchami is generally celebrated with devotees putting up pictures of Nags on their doors along with cow dung to ward off evil and puja is carried out through dubo (bermudagrass), rice grained mixed with vermillion powder, and flowers for prosperity and good health. It is a widely held belief that serpent gods must be pleased to remain protected from calamities. One of the rituals on this day is that men wear demon masks and dance in the streets and people visit the four Narayan Temples at Bhaktapur and Pharping, and holy places such as Nagpokhari in Kathmandu. Many cultures and mythologies as this is an important aspect of Nepali traditions. Did the mention of temples and holy places bring in a wave of nostalgia? If you are from Nepal, perhaps your answer is yes. Head over to foomantra and reminisce while looking at clothing and matching accessories.

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