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Nag Panchami – Manasa Devi Nagpanchami Vrat and Ashtanag Puja

Nag Panchami, or Nagarapanchami, is the worship of Naga or Snakes and is an important festival in North and East India in Shravan month. Snakes are an indispensable part of Hindu religion and the two of the most popular Gods in Hinduism – Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva – are closely associated with serpents. Lord Vishnu has the several hooded Snake Ananta as his bed and Lord Shiva wear snakes as his ornament and this close association has deep symbolic meaning. In 2017, Nag Panchami date is July 27.

Nag Panchami is observed at two different times. It is observed on the fifth day after Purnima in Ashar Month in Eastern parts of India and the festival is known as Nagpanchami Manasa Devi Ashtanag Puja. The important Nag Panchami which is observed through out India falls on the fifth day after Amavasi in Shravan month.

Manasa Devi, the snake goddess, is worshipped on this day in Bengal, Orissa and several parts of North India. Special idols of Goddess Manasa are made and are worshipped during this period.

Fasting on Nag Panchami
People also observe Vrata – some communities fast during the daytime and eat food only after sunset. Some people avoid salt on the day - food is consumed without salt. Deep fried things are avoided on the day. Some communities in South India have an elaborate oil bath on the day. There is a belief that unmarried women who undertake Nagpanchami Vrat and do the puja and feed snakes will get good husbands.

Nag Panchami is Guga Navami in Punjab and a huge snake is made from flour and is worshipped on this day.
Legend has it that Lord Krishna overpowered the huge black snake Kalia that terrorized his village on this day. The monsoon season is at is peak during the Shravana Month (July – August). The snakes move out of their burrows, which are filled with water, and occupy spaces frequented by human beings. So it is widely believed that Nag Panchami is observed to please the Snake Gods and avoid snake bites during this season.
In many places, two idols of snakes are drawn on both sides of doors using cow dung on this day. Five-hooded idols are worshipped in many regions. The idol of five-hooded snake is made using mud, turmeric, sandal and saffron. Milk is offered to the snake idols and in some extreme form of worship people feed milk to live cobras.

The festival of Nag Panchami is yet another example of the influence of Mother Nature on Hinduism. It also shows the need for human beings to respect animals, which play an important role in the survival of human beings.
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