Happy Naag Panchami : Let Not our worship harm the God we so respect
Every year on fifth day of Hindu month of Shravan, the country celebrates the festival of Naag Panchami. Our Vedas and Shastras mention the need and ways to please the ‘sarpa’ or ‘naga’. Sheshnaag is the vehicle of Vishnu, a 10ft reclining Vishnu or Sheshaiyya is a place of worship inside Bandhavgarh National Park. The earth rest on the hood of sheshnaag, Vasuki and his eleven snakes form the strings of the chariot of Sun God. ‘Naag’ or snake is the ornament of Lord Shiva and pleasing the cobra is equivalent to pleasing God.
The believers have their superstitious ways of worship which is definitely not pleasant for snakes. From feeding snakes with milk or grains, the bhakts would visit the snake holes and offer him milk by pouring it over the mound. Not many know that snakes do not drink milk like mammals! It might work as poison for the snake. The saffron clothed sadhus visit our doorsteps and rightfully ask for money and milk for the snake, the miraculous wishes and blessings would flow as reward. They would open the basket for a quick sight of a coiled cobra or such snake, lying helplessly. The process of capturing and treatment of snakes is heart breaking. An offering of money or milk to the snakes all evils can outcast the power of the snake on this auspicious occasion!
The practice of snake charmers is even more lethal for the mighty snakes, for petty money motives snakes are trapped and the venom gland and fangs is brutally removed, making them incapable of surviving in the wild unless the gland reappears. The gland helps in digesting the prey. These expert snake handlers use droppers to feed raw eggs to snake, with an evil thought to keep the snake alive for Naag panchami collections. The snakes are exploited in name of festivity and devotees are kept aloof. The hungry snake drinks the offered milk and we believe that cobra drinks milk.
The festival is celebrated with much vigor in the country side, the months of July- August is the time when monsoon is observed, the farmers spend their time in the water filled paddy fields, the strokes of rain works equally in favor of snakes too, the amphibian activity increases and the snakes reach the fields in search of food. The snakes are feared by the villagers and hence the traditional beliefs of pleasing to propitiate their wrath results in populated celebration of this festival. The snakes are dug out of holes and kept in earthen pot for worship during the fort night of shravan month. The villagers do not remove fangs as they consider it unholy to hurt the god.
According to wildlife law 1972 such snake shows are illegal. Many efforts were taken to condemn these snake shows. Only awareness and sensitizing the devotees can prevent this blind faith. Our naturalist, Chinmay who is fascinated with snakes, takes this small responsibility every year – Before Naag panchami he visits some hamlets of snake charmers and offers them to use metal or rubber snakes during the snake festivals, some agree to try them and become our mouthpiece to aware public about not feeding milk to snakes.
Courtesy : Vineet Yadav & Chinmay Deshpande