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Naga Panchami

Often the best way to handle an enemy is by befriending him or her. This wisdom runs deeper than it appears for how else would you explain the worship of snakes in Indian mythology. The eerie hiss has been turned into the reverential word with the celebration of Naga Panchami. While this custom was perhaps restricted to the Naga cult or the snake cult, today it is celebrated all over India. Occurring in July-August, naga panchami is celebrated with great gusto in parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

On this day, people fast and in the evening worship an image of the cobra. Sometimes images are made of clay and at other times, painted on the walls and floors. Often people also visit the temple of Siva who wears the snake as an ornament. Milk is offered to the snakes and it is believed that this worship will keep them immune from the danger of snake bites which are such a common feature in the open rural fields.

On the full moon day in this month known as Sravana, the people living on sea coasts often celebrate a festival called nareili purnima. It is actually a gesture appeasing the sea... and as one can see this is a continuation of the trend that begun with Naga panchami of befriending the enemy. On the full moon night when the tide is high people offer coconuts to the sea. Some sociologists feel the coconut is symbolic of a human head. The message going out to the waters is that here we have offered you coconuts. Think of them as people and do not swallow any humans for the rest of the year. The tradition is so string and the message so intense that those who originally lived near the sea still celebrate the festival, even if they do not now live near the sea. They offer worship to any water body in keeping with the philosophy that all waters meet in the ocean.

How men would love to talk of the following festival also as in keeping with the above trend! This is a festival in praise of feminine power. It is believed that in this month Goddess Sakti Devi came to earth and blessed the people. All over south India temples dedicated to the powerful feminine deity celebrate great festivals lasting for many a days. Adi-puram as the festival is called is a big draw in villages and people feel that this marks the beginning of a good period of festivities and agrarian activity.