Naag-Panchmi

During this time, snakes often seek refuge in houses as their holes in the ground become flooded with rainwater. Due to the danger they pose to humans, snakes are worshiped during this period to protect villagers from harm.

Nag Panchami is celebrated throughout India; however, more festivities are seen in the south than in the north.

In Maharashtra, Hindu women take an early bath wear their “nav-vari” – nine yards-sarees, put on ornaments and get ready for the “puja” of Nag-Devata. Snake charmers are seen sitting by the roadsides or moving about from one place to another with their baskets that hold dangerous snakes that are their pets. While playing the lingering melodious notes on their flutes, they beckon devotees with their calls -“Nagoba-la dudh de Mayi” (give milk to the Cobra Oh Mother!) On hearing that call, women come out of their houses and then the snake-charmers take out of the snakes from their baskets. Women sprinkle haldi-kumkum and flowers on the heads of the snakes and offer sweetened milk to the snakes and pray. Cash and old clothes are also given to the snake-charmers. Bowls of milk are also placed at the places which are likely haunts of the snakes.

Elderly women draw pictures of five-headed cobras on wooden planks, recite mantras and pray. The daughters wash the eyes of their fathers with rose flowers dipped in milk and then receive gifts from their fathers. In Hindu homes frying any thing on this day is forbidden by tradition.

The most fantastic celebrations of Nag-Panchami are seen in the village of Baltis Shirale which is 70 Kilometres from Sangli and 400 Kilometres from Mumbai. There people pray to live cobras that they catch on the eve of this pre-harvest festival. About a week before this festival, dig out live snakes from holes and keep those in covered earthen pots and these snakes are fed with rats and milk. Their poison-containing fangs are not removed because the people of this village believe that to hurt the snakes is sacrilegious. Yet it is amazing that these venomous cobras do not bite instead protect their prospective worshipers.

On the day of the actual festival the people accompanied by youngsters, dancing to the tune of musical band carry the pots on their heads in a long procession to the sacred-temple of goddess Amba and after the ritual worship the snakes are taken out from the pots and set free in the temple courtyard. Then every cobra is made to raise its head by swinging a white-painted bowl, filled with pebbles in front. The Pandit sprinkles haldi-kumkum and flowers on their raised heads. After the puja they are offered plenty of milk and honey.