If the days were enough in a year, Nepal would probably be worshipping almost all the animals.
On the fifth day of bright half of Lunar month of Shrawan, Hindus celebrate Naga Panchami – a festival dedicated to serpents. Snakes are considered as a god and have a huge cultural significance in Hindu Mythology. Naga means snake and Panchami are the fifth days of the bright half of Lunar month. The festival falls during the month of August every year.
There are various stories in Hindus explaining the significance for worshipping serpents. The myth behind the celebration of Naag Panchami is from Mahabharata. Long ago, Janamejeye wanted to sacrifice all the serpents through with the help of Bramhins by erecting a sacrifice fireplace for the vengeance of his father’s death with a bite of the king of snake Takshaka. The powerful mantras caused all the serpents to fall in the sacrificial fireplace. A young Bramhin named Astika saved the serpent race by asking for a boon with Janamejeye who never said no to Bramhins. That day was also the fifth day of bright half of Lunar month of Shrawan. Since then, on this day, serpents and snakes are worshiped.
People place the image of Naga on the door of their houses and worship it. Snakes are offered milk, sweet, flowers on the day of Naga Panchami. People also visit several temples related to serpents on this day. Changu Nararayan in Bhaktapur is one of the places to observe this festival.
Myth of Nag Panchami
Picture source: wikipedia
A Hindu festival that falls on the fifth day of bright fortnight of Shrawan according to the lunar calendar, Nag Panchami, is the celebration of worshiping serpent gods and deities in Nepal. According to the Gregorian calendar, Nag Panchami falls on July/August, which announces the beginning of the trekking season in Nepal.
According to a well-known myth, Takshaka, the serpent king bit Parikshit to death. Janamaejaya the son of Parishit organized Yagya to eliminate the entire serpent race including Takshaka to avenge his father’s death. The group of highly learned Brahmin sages began the Yagya and hence the serpents were drawn towards the sacrificial pit to death. The powerful mantras scared Takskaha who fled to Indra seeking protection. However, the tempo of mantra became faster and more powerful. Sacred community of Gods pleaded Manasadevi to stop the Yagya and hence Astika was ordered to do so. Astika reached the Yagya site and stopped the Yagya by winning a blessing from Janamajaye demonstrating his unparallel skills. The day was fifth day of bright fortnight of Shrawan month and since then Nag Panchami is observed to celebrate the lives of serpent race including Indra and Takshaka from the rage of Janamajaye.
Nag Panchami is observed by worshipping the copper, silver or stone statues and images of Serpent Deities. People of Nepal put the colorful images of serpents on the doors of their houses; they offer especially cow’s milk to these serpent deities. In some places, people worship the real serpents. Rituals of Nag Panchami vary at places. Celebration of Nag Panchami in Kathmandu can be seen at Changu Narayan and Nag Pokhari. Nag Panchami is observed very enthusiastically at Nag Pokhari. Devotees throng to Nag Pokhari to worship a statue of serpent God that stands tall in the middle of small pond.
Month of June in Nepal is a season of farming. Monsoon downpour soaks the farmlands and the farmers enjoy sowing rice plants in their fields. June 29th in the Hilly Region of Nepal is observed as Ropai Festival. Rice plantation festival, Ropai is a unique festival to observe. The work of farming can be the fun of the highest level and it can be observed during Ropai Festival in Nepal. Oxen ploughing fields, women sowing seeds and gentlemen digging the fields and the fun part of drenching each other with muddy water in the field is a great enjoyment.
The traditional music fusioned with typical Ropai songs sung by the farmers fill the atmosphere in the fields. The monsoon festival related with agriculture and celebrated by the farmers these days is a center of attraction for Nepalese city dwellers as well as foreign visitors. Here we have a short photo essay on Ropai Festival, have a look.