It is said that Rishi Kashyap who was son of Lord Brahma has 4 wives and one of them gave birth to Devatas (Gods), another gave birth to Danavas (Demons), another gave birth to Garudas and the fourth one to Nagas (Snakes). This is also one of the reasons that Snakes are worshipped in Hindu Religion and they are known as Naga Devatas. The most important Naga is known as Shesh Naga who have a 1000 heads and he forms a resting bed for Lord Vishnu. Other well known Naga are Anant, Vasuki, Padmanabha, Shankhpal, Takshak and Kaaliya.
Legends associated with Naag Panchami :
There are many legends associated with Naag Panchmi. It is said that Lord Krishna defeated the Naag Kaaliya on this day thereby saving people from its wrath and cleansing the Yamuna water of its poison. Hence, this day is also celebrated as victory of Lord Krishna over Kaaliya Naag.
On this day, the Sarp Satra Yagna was performed by Janamejeya ( Son of King Parikshit of Kuru dynasty ) to take revenge of his father from Takshak Naag and the yajna was stopped by Astika ( Son of Goddess Manasadevi ) to save Lord Indra and other Nagas from the sacrificial fire.
Apart from the scriptural and mythological legends about snakes and the festival, there are also many folk tales. One of such tale is of a farmer living in a village. He had two sons and one of them killed three snakes during ploughing operations. The mother of the snake took revenge on the same night by biting the farmer, his wife and two children and they all died. Next day, the farmer’s only surviving daughter, distraught and grieved by the death of her parents and brothers, pleaded before the mother snake with an offering of a bowl of milk and requested for forgiveness and to restore the life of her parents and brothers. Pleased with this offering, the snake pardoned them and restored the farmer and his family to life.
Rituals of Naag Panchami :
Snakes are worshipped with great devotion and are offered prayers on Nag Panchami. A day long fast is observed in almost all regions in India. Devotees carry milk and turmeric powder to the temple as offerings for the idol. It is believed that doing so ensures freedom from danger of Snake Bites. If a snake drinks milk, then it is considered to bring good fortune. In some places, snakes are given bath in milk and offered rice too. After that it is buried to mark the end of the ritual. In Bengal, Manasa (The Queen of Snakes) is worshipped, generally by women. Raw milk and Green Bananas are offered by the devotees. On this day, some snake charmers carry snakes in earthen pots only to release them in various temples where they are worshipped. The festivities for Nag Panchami continue throughout the day, with fairs, music and dance, magic shows and gymnastic feats to entertain people.