The image of Snakes brings fear in the minds of most people. Snakes are more visible during the monsoons due to water-logging, Often seeking refuge in homes. However, Lord Shiva knows no fear, and adorns a snake around his neck.
Snakes are revered in Hindu mythology. Brahma’s son Kashyapa’s third wife Kadroo gave birth to Naagas, the rulers of Paataal- Loka. Apart from the snake around Shiva’s neck, Lord Vishnu also sleeps on the snake Sheshnag, and the snake Vasuki was also used as a rope during Sagar Manthan. The Sun God Surya had images of 12 snakes on his chariot, and his chariot is pulled by a different snake each month. Lord Krishna had conquered Kaaliya but did not kill him. It is believed that Snakes also reincarnate to support God – Sheshnag was Laxman to assist Lord Ram, and Balram to assist Lord Krishna. Snakes are thus prayed to like God.
People pray to snakes, often Navnaag or nine snakes, made of wood, sandalwood, silver, or other materials. People also pray to real snakes in the nature, or in captivity. They are offered naivedya of milk and parched rice.
Science forms the basis of Hinduism. On this day of Naag Panchmi, people pray to snakes. Hinduism is in harmony with nature. Nag Panchmi is celebrated on the fifth day after Amavasya of the month of Shraavana. Every year, the message that one should not harm but respect other life forms including snakes is re-emphasized.
In Yoga it is believed that Kundalini, depicted as a snake, is situated at the root of the spinal cord, and awakening this divine snake energy helps one get many divine powers. The snake around Ganesha’s waist reminds us that we have to awaken this enormous Kundalini energy to reach the state of expanded consciousness.
Nag Panchmi also symbolizes that you need not fear death or kaal. Shiva is called Maha kaal, one who has conquered death.