Naga Panchami Myths

Nag Panchami festival observed in India during the Shravan month is a classic example of Hinduism’s deep rooted connections with Nature. Local folklore in India is full of stories associated with Nagas or Snakes. In South, the Nag Panchami festival legends revolve around the brother sister relationship. An important ritual in South Indian on the day include rubbing of milk or ghee on the back, spine and navel of brothers by sisters.


An important story or Nag Panchami Katha goes like this. Once a young girl asks her brother to get some Ketaki flower for Naga Puja. Screwpine or Ketaki is used to worship Nagaraja (Snake God). But unfortunately the brother who went in search of Ketaki is bitten by a snake and is killed. The sister then prays and performs Vrata and propitiates Nagaraja and the brother is brought back to life.

There are numerous such stories in local folklore and in most stories the sister resurrects the dead brother. Thus on the Nag Panchami day in some regions the brother visits his married sister and she applies milk or ghee on the back, spine and navel of the brother and she prays for his long life. The rubbing of milk symbolically reminds the umbilical connection.

Another popular legend is that during the Samdura Manthan (churning of ocean), Lord Shiva drank the poison ‘halahala’ and stored it in his throat to save the world. But a few drops fell on the ground and the snakes are believed to carry it around still. People propitiate the Nagas (Snakes) on the day to avoid snake bites and also as a thanksgiving for not letting the poison spread on earth. It is believed that the Samdura Manthan episode mentioned in the Puranas happened in the Shravan month.

Another legend indicates that Nag Panchami is performed in remembrance of Sri Krishna subduing Kaliya Nag and saving human beings and animals. Kaliya Nag was poisoning the Yamuna River.