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Nag Panchami, the festival of snake observed

In this file photo a devotee offer Jal (water) before offering milk, flower, fruits, incenses and other religious items on the day of Nag Panchami at Nagpokhari in Kathmandu.
In this file photo a devotee offer Jal (water) before offering milk, flower, fruits, incenses and other religious items on the idol of snake on the day of Nag Panchami at Nagpokhari in Kathmandu.

KATHMANDU, Nepal- Nepalis across the country and abroad are marking Nag Panchami, a Hindu festival that celebrates human nature relations, by worshipping snakes on Sunday.

On the festival that falls on the fifth day of bright  half in the month of Shrawan according to the lunar calendar, pictures of snakes containing mantras are pasted on the entrance with a belief that this keeps snakes away from home.

The mantras make mention of eight principal serpent kings, namely Ananta, Vashuki, Padhmanavha, Kambala, Shankhapala, Dhartarashtra, Takshyaka, and Kaliya.

They worship the pictures by offering cow’s milk, lava, barley, sesame, nuts and other religious items. On this very day, people also offer milk to the statues of serpents.

Special worshipping and fair are organized at Nagpokhari (serpent’s pond) located at centre Kathmandu, Taudaha in Southern Kathmandu, Nagdaha of Lalitpur and Siddhapokhari of Bhaktapur on the day.

There’s a belief that snakes should be offered food items such as milk and honey on this day to make them happy. When happy, snakes are believed to bestow plenty of rain, which is good for crops.

Scriptures regard nags as harbingers of rain. There’s a belief that observing Nag Panchami is an effective way to make the serpents happy and ensure good health and prosperity. On the contrary, if nags become angry, people fall ill and no amount of medication can restore their health.

Legends have it that Kadru, the wife of sage Kashyap, is the mother of the serpents.

The eight nags are regarded as the rulers of Patal lok, the netherworld. They figure prominently in Hindu mythologies.

According to the Mahabharata, on the day of Shrawan Panchami, Lord Krishna defeated Nag Kalia, an evil serpent. People believe that Nag Panchami celebrates this occasion.

Another legend has it that the Kathmandu Valley was a big lake once. When humans drained the lake for their livelihood, nags became angry. To protect themselves from the nags, people offered to worship the serpents on a certain date in their habitats.

According to another story, a farmer, while ploughing his field, happened to kill some serpents. The mother of these creatures took her revenge by stinging and killing all family members of the farmer except for one daughter, who was offering prayers to the nags. This act of devotion is said to have revived the dead family members. And the Nag Panchami is observed to mark this occasion. On this day, cultivation is prohibited.

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