Worshiping Nagas in Nepal has been a tradition for time millennia. Reverered in the eastern and Nepali mythology for the great torrential rain brought by them from time immemorial, Nagas are still devotedly worshiped in the region. In order commemorate the blessings and prosperity brought by them, there is a festival in Nepal dedicated solely to Naga. The serpent or Naga has a special place in but unlike normal serpent Nagas are considered to bear mystical powers. The day Naga are worshiped in Nepal usually falls in Middle of July to early August depending on the religious calendar used in Nepal.
Naagpanchami festival in Nepal, according to one legend, started after a tantric king of Nepal was able to subdue mystical power of Nagas. The story briefs, the nagas had taken the rain hostage with their magical power and agrarian Nepal suffered a bad season of farming. The king with his mystical powers found about it and used same mystical tantric powers to bring back rain and commemorate the day as victory day.
However, the next story paints a completely different side and it paints a picture of the people paying homage to Nagas. The geological and historical record state that Kathmandu valley was once a huge pond. In order to make it suitable for settlement, humans drained out water living the Nagas homeless. In order to be safe from the wrath of Nagas, the people of then Nepal (Kathmandu and surrounding Newar pockets were historically Nepal) gave them locations like Taudha, Nagdaha,and Nag Pokhari to settle along with humans. The festival for worshiping Nagas in Nepal is celebrated by other Hindu groups, as a day of victory over 8 headed snake by Lord Krishna.
The Naagpanchami is celebrated on fifth day consequent to Aushi (moonless night) in the fourth month of Shrawan of Bikram Sambat calendar. Naagpanchami festival in Nepal, current year falls on 25th July of Gregorian calendar, which in Bikram sambat calendar is 10th day. The significance of Naagpanchami stems from the popular belief that praying to them on this day brings about and ensures timely rainfall for plantation in the field. Further, people also believe worshipping Nagas in this period of year takes away the mental state of fearfulness which they suffer fin their daily lives. Further, possible significance of Naagpanchami are listed below:
1. Upon speculation of Nepali mythology, the Nagas or serpent deities may have been worshipped because the floods and rains fill the places snakes live in. They venture out for safety and come into direct contact with humans - in order to avoid getting bitten, people may have celebrated the festival.
2. The festival in Nepal teach society and individuals virtue of respect for every being on the planet, Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism in Nepal accommodate various sentient being as gods for their role in the ecosystem. Animals and beings like cow, dogs, ox, fish, rat, eagle and other animals are frequently paid respect in this country.
3. Worshipping Nagas in Nepal started with a story or folklore and Naagpanchami is no different. Such festivals are designed to help people remember who their ancestors were and go back to roots of their identity.
4. The manure used to stick the images above door helps people get accustomed to manure which in farming time was a very valuable resource. Apart from farming, the traditional mud houses required daily repair done with mix of manure and soil. The cow dung is also used as Guitha(sun dried cow dung) for starting a fire in many Nepali villages in the past and recent times too.
The Naagpanchami festival in Nepal allows nature lover to see the virtue of small things in life and realize importance of every other being in the planet. People generously paying homages to snake with a cotton or rice flour made images out of respect, makes one realize the importance of eco system and nature. Further, the images of Nagas sticked on the door front of every other house along with offering of cow milk, ghee (butter made from cow or buffalo milk), black sesame seeds, barley and other condiments for Nagas to feed in-front of homes and open yards, provide a great visual spectacle.
The excitement of this festival in Nepal does not end here, the line of devotees at ponds offering homemade cotton, butter lamp, incense along with condiments mentioned little while makes the water bodies look even majestic. The best place to visit while worshipping nagas in Nepal would be the grand sized pond Taudha few kilometres away but the best spectacle of lights can be seen early morning in the Nagpokhari of Kathmandu. The festival in Nepal are not just for togetherness but carry a greater meaning and makes the person to search in themselves. Come search yourself next time on your visit to memorable festivals of Nepal and get greater depth of life after lockdown vanishes in future.