One of the very important festival among the hundreds of feasts and festivities in the Hindu culture is Nag Panchami . It is an extremely significant day in the Hindu calendar and this year it was celebrated on 25th of July 2020 on Saturday. It was celebrated throughout Nepal and India and other countries where Hindu adherents live. Worship is offered to Nag Devata or Serpent God on the fifth day of the bright half of the lunar month of Shravan, (July / August) according to the Hindu almanac. This is an annual celebration with the devotees of both Lord Shiva and Vishnu observing the day with great reverence and devotion.
Tradition and faith decree that observing fast on the day offers protection against snakebite. When you recall that the subcontinent has almost 300 varieties of snakes, 50 out of which are highly poisonous (Huffington Post), it suddenly makes sense to propitiate the serpent God! On this day, idols/ photos of serpent Gods are worshipped with offerings of milk, sweets, flowers, and lamps. At many places, devotees also offer milk to live snakes. Communities come together with dance and food, celebrating the bonds between man and nature. Nag Panchami Puja is a momentous reminder that one should love, respect, and embrace all forms of life on earth.
Raksha Bandhan (or more simply Rakhi) is a festival that is celebrated on the full moon day in the month of Shravan according to the Hindu Lunar calendar. This day is a celebration of the love and respect between siblings marked by sisters tying a Rakhi or a colourful thread/band around their brothers’ wrists. The brother affirms his respect and duty of care for his sister. The word Raksha means protection, whilst Bandhan is the verb to tie. Traditionally the sisters tying a Rakhi around their brothers’ wrists celebrates their relationship. The sister prays for the brother’s health, happiness and success and puts a tikka on his forehead and offers a sweet to him, he in turn gives her a gift.
The festival goes back to antiquity with many legends and stories associated with them. It has now evolved over the years to celebrate other relationships like those between friends and close ones, spreading the message of love, respect, and care. Rakhi is a vital reminder that one should love, respect, and embrace relationships and value them forever. It is a significant festival in the Hindu calendar, followed eight days later by Janamashtami (which we shall cover in the next issue). This year it will be celebrated on the 3rd of August.