If you are not afraid of snake, especially cobras and enjoy the flute-playing snake charmers perform and the parade of worshippers with cobra-pots on their heads, then you ought to be in India during the Naga Panchami festival day.
Naga Panchami is held in July or August, in the fifth day of the moonlit fortnight of the month of Shravan. As a matter of fact, Naga Panchami is a very important festival event in Maharashtra, in the remote village of Baltis Shirale (Where is it? About 70 km from Sangli, southern Maharashtra), hundreds if not thousands will travel to honour the vast collection of snakes assembled there. During Naga Panchami, the flute-playing snake charmers all over India will carry cobras in baskets from house to house, and women who offer milk are blessed. You will find snakes being painted on walls and floors, modeled from cloth, dough and clay, while cow-dung images guard doorways.
What is there to see? You will find an enormous parade of worshippers, many with cobra-pots on their heads, dancing alongside bands, others may ride in decorated bullock carts. They will then progress to the temple of the snake goddess known as Amba Mata where the released snakes are blessed and sprinkled with flower petals, offered milk and honey. In fact, snakes are freed wherever offerings are made. In the evening, a lively fair will be held around the temple, the cobra-pots are placed on a platform and the lids removed. You will notice those snakes will gaze at each other and never bite those seeking their divine protection, further they will not be lulled by the melodic flutes and the burning camphor.
Some facts associated with this interesting festival event that you may want to know:
- Snakes, particularly cobras (also known as Nagas that stands for a half human, half snake creatures kind of myth) are very important in Indian culture and religion. Their worship is thought can bring you wealth, wisdom and immortality. This is also the reason why many shrines and temples in India are dedicated to snake deities.
- Cobra as a religious zeal is second only to that of the cow. This is why most Hindu homes possess a snake idol.
- There are a few snake gods in India, including the thousand headed cosmic serpent which is depicted as sheltering Shiva (one of the three major divinities in the later Hindu pantheon).