Naga Panchami and South India

Naga Panchami and South India

In South India, the snake is identified with Subramanya (Commander of the celestial army) and also with Shiva and Vishnu. In Karnataka, the preparation for the festival starts on the New Moon day of Bhimana Amavasya, five days prior to the festival day of Panchami.

Girls offer prayers to the images made out of white clay painted with white dots. They take a vow by tying a thread dipped in turmeric paste on their right wrist and offer prayers. An image of a snake is drawn on the floor in front of the house and milk is offered as oblation.

On the night previous to the festival they keep complete fast or take a salt-free diet. After the pooja, a food feast is held. In South India, both sculpted and live snakes are worshipped. Every village has a serpent deity. It is worshipped as a single snake or nine snakes called Nava Naga but the popular form is of two snakes in the form of an “Eaculapian rod”.

Every worshipper in South India worships the anthill where the snakes are reported to reside. Women decorate the anthill with turmeric paste and vermillion and sugar mixed with wheat flour. They bedeck it with flowers with the help of threads tied to wooden frames.

In Maharashtra, they go round the anthill in a worship mode five times singing songs in praise of snake gods. Another form of worship practised by women, who have no children for various reasons, install stone statues of snakes below the peepal tree and offer worship seeking blessings of the snake god for bestowing them with children.

This is done as it is believed snakes represent virility and have the gift of inducing fecundity curing barrenness.

In Coorg in Karnataka, an ancestral platform called noka is installed with rough stones which are believed to be the ancestral incarnation in the form of snakes but they are not necessarily worshipped on Naga Panchami day.

In Kerala, Ezhavas and Nairs are Serpent-worshipers. A shrine is normally established for the snake god at the southwest corner of the ancestral house, along with a temple for the para-devata. . For Naga Panchami day, Women fast the previous day.

They then on the Naga Panchami Day, take bath at dawn and pray at the tharavad Sarpa kavu.

They take the Thirtham milk home. A Chembarathi (Hibiscus) flower is dipped in the milk and sprinkled on the brother's back and then do an arthi.

Then a thread dipped in turmeric is tied on the right wrist of the brother. After that, a feast is served.

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