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Indian Mythology Shravan

Nag Panchmi festival

The Story of Nag Panchmi festival

Nag Panchami

Nag Panchmi festival is celebrated on fifth day of Shravan month of Shukla Paksha. The interesting story behind this festival is related to Pandavas. It happened that Raja Parikshit was killed after a snake bite. His son Janmejaya, vowed to decimate the whole race of snakes by performing a yagya. This yagya was stopped by intervention of Astika, who was son of Jaratkaru. Since this yagya was stopped on fifth day of shukla paksha of Shravan, Nag Panchmi is celebrated on this day.

A temple opens on this day only in Mahakaleshwar shrine

Nagchandreshwar darshan happens in a year only on the fifth day of the Shukla Paksha of Shravan month.The temple opens its doors annually only on Nag Panchmi.The temple will open after proper worship and religious ceremonies to facilitate devotees to pay obeisance to the deity.

Mahakal Nagpanchmi

Astika saves Nagas

Astika was born to Sage Jaratkaru. He was a brilliant scholar, and was very learned in the Vedas and scriptures. When he was about sixteen, King Janamejaya performed the great snake-sacrifice with the aim of destroying all the snakes.

The sacrifice performed in the presence of Janamejaya was so powerful that it was causing all snakes to fall into the Yagna kunda (sacrificial fire pit). When the priests found that only Takshaka who had bitten and killed Parisksihit had escaped to the nether world of Indra seeking his protection, the sages increased the tempo of reciting the mantras (spells) to drag Takshaka and also Indra to the sacrificial fire. Takshaka had coiled himself around Indra’s cot but the force of the sacrificial yagna was so powerful that even Indra along with Takshaka were dragged towards the fire. This scared the gods who then appealed to Manasa devi to intervene and resolve the crisis. She then requested her son Astika to go to the site of the yagna and appeal to Janamejaya to stop the Sarpa Satra yagna.

At his mother’s request, Astika went to the sacrifice, and obtained a boon from Janamejaya that the snake-sacrifice should be abandoned mid way. Thus he fulfilled the purpose of his birth, saving his kinsmen, the snakes from utter destruction.

 

Other legends of Nag Panchmi

This festival has rich mythological overtones, starting from the tremendous victory of Lord Krishna over the huge Kaliya in the Yamuna River. We have a further reference to Seshnag, the king of serpents, who was tamed by Lord Vishnu, as pictured in Ananda Padmanabha temple in Trivandrum of Kerala. The deity in the temple is Lord Vishnu, sleeping on the body of Seshnag. No wonder, the Keralites deem Nag Punchami as a huge festival and adore snakes on the day with piety. It is also considered as paying homage to Manasa, the serpent Goddess sister of Vasuki, the Snake who was used as a rope by the Devas and Asuras to churn the Milky Ocean.

Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple Mahavishnu Idol

Nag Puja is carried out in Assam, Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa in reverence of all snakes which have such a magnificent role in mythology. In Punjab, people celebrate Manasa Devi Ashtanag Puja (Guga Navami) by making a huge snake from flour and worshipping it. It is not only with Lord Vishnu, the greatness of snakes is associated; it is also with Lord Shiva- which is a very clear transparent concept, since it is the snake around the neck of Lord Shiva which inspires awe and piety on the very first look of the deity. Moreover in the Puranas, there is a reference to Brahma’s son’s wife as the mother of all nags.

There is also a mythological story about a goddess Sathyeshwari, whose brother Sathyeshwar died before the day of Nag Panchami. She grieved over the death of her brother without eating anything. She saw her brother in the form of a cobra and believed that it was her brother. So, Nagdev promised her that he would protect any woman who deems a cobra as her brother and worships it. Hence, it became the habit of Hindu women to worship snakes for the longevity and safety of their brothers on this day.

Story of serpent and farmer

In the context of Nag Panchami, many stories are famous. As per one of the story, a farmer used to live in a state with his two sons and one daughter. One day while ploughing the field, three children of snakes came under it and died. After the death of Naag(male snake), at first, Naagin(female snake) expressed sorrow by mourning, then, planed to take the revenge from the murderer of its sons.

In the darkness of night, Naagin, killed the farmer, his wife and his two sons by biting them. Next day morning, Naagin(she-serpent) came to bite the farmers daughter. The girl kept a bowl full of milk and joined hands for forgiveness,in front of Naagin. By this gesture of the girl, Naagin got happy and gave back the lives of farmer, his wife and two sons.

That day it was,Panchami Tithi of Shukla Paksha in Shravan Maas. From that day, to be safe of Serpent’s anger, they are worshiped on this day and Naag Panchami is celebrated.

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Festival Lord Shiva Shravan

Kanwar festival or Shravan festival in India

Shravan festival in India

The month of Shrawan is a very holy month for hindu pilgrims. In this month, Lord Shiva is worshipped in Deoghar and people from all part of India throng at this place. They also undertook an arduous journey and offer water to Lord which they took from distant places and cover the distance on foot.

Kanwar Yatra is named after the Kanvar. Kanvar is a single pole  with two roughly equal loads fastened or dangling from opposite ends.  These loads are normally Ganges water which is offered to Lord Shiva after completion of Kanwar or Kanwad journey.

The month of Shravan is celebrated in worship to Lord Shiva and most devotees observe a fast on Mondays during this month. This festival is called Sharavn festival or Kanwar festival.

Kanwad festival

Ten days before Shiv-Teras thousands of Lord Shiva devotees gather in Haridwar to collect holy waters from the river Ganga to carry it back to their hometown and offer it at the local Shiv temple.

In north india, the Kanwarias take the water from Haridwar, Gangotri and other holy places. They take the water to their respective towns and offer the gangajaal to a local holy temple of Lord Shiva. This pilgrimage is done by covering the distance from Haridwar to their respective cities largely on foot. The devotees are mainly males, but females also celebrate this festival of Lord Shiva or Bhole Baba.

Kanwar festival – Devotees taking gangajaal from har ki pairi, haridwar

Smaller pilgrimages are also undertaken to places like Allahabad and Varanasi.

In Bihar, during this festival, the kanwarias take the holy water from Sultanganj. Sultanganj has a special significance since Ganga turns northward at Sultanganj. The water is carried from here to Deoghar, the nearest Shiv jyotirling. This is 105 km far from sultanganj. It takes four days for the devotees to reach Deoghar walking. The devotees generally walk by day and take shelter at dharamshalas during night, some adventurous ones continue their journey during night.  Then there are Dak Kanwariyas, who cover the distance by running only in a day. They are supposed to travel the distance in one day only is quite arduous.  After offering water in Deoghar, devotees travel to basukinath, which is another place of interest for pilgrims.

Dak Kanwariyas during Shravan or Kanwar festival
Categories
Festival Lord Shiva Shravan

Deoghar, Baidyanath dham and Shravan festival

The Shravan festival

The festival of Shravan or Kanwar festival is the most auspicious one for lord Shiva devotees. During this month, devotees from various parts of Bihar and Jharkhand observe strict rituals. They carry holy water of Ganges (Gangajal) from Sultanganj to Deoghar for Lord Shiva.

Pic. – Baidyanath Dham Mandir

This month normally falls in July – August according to english calendar and hindu devotees travel to Baidyanath Deoghar to worship Baba Baidyanath ( Lord Shiva).

How Lord Shiva came to Deoghar

There is an interesting story that Ravana once worshipped Lord Shiva so that he awarded him saying that I will stay with you in form of Shivlinga. This posed a problem for Devtas who thought that this would make him invincible. They used a ruse which forced Ravana to put the Shivlinga in Deoghar and it became Lord Shiva’s permanent abode. Since because of Ravana only Shiv has came to Deoghar, Ravana is treated with respect here.

Why Gangajal is offered to Baba Baidyanath

The custom of carrying holy water from Sultanganj on Kanwar and offering to it Shiva started in the Treta Yuga. This yuga was the silver age of Hindu mythology. Lord Rama had carried the holy ganges water from Sultanganj in a kanwar and offered to Lord Shiva at Babadham.

Another legend says that when the churning of oceans – Samudra Manthan – took place, this was in the month of Shravan. During manthan, fourteen different types of rubies came out. Thirteen of these were distributed amongst the deamons, except Halahal (poison). Lord Shiva drank the Halahal and stored it in his throat. Hence the name Neelkantha (meaning blue throat) is attributed to Shiva.

To reduce the strong effect of poison, Lord Shiva wore the crescent moon on his head. All the Gods, thereafter started offering the Ganges water to Lord Shiva to make lessen the effect of poison.

This happened in the month of Shravan. The Shiva devotees offer the Ganges water in this month and Shravan festival is observed. This festival and Baidyanath Deoghar is one of the holiest ones for Hindu devotees.

Baidyanath jyotirlinga temple

Importance of Gangajal from Sultanganj

In Sultanganj, the Ganges flows to the North. This is why, the devotees collect water in their kanwars and carry the holy Ganges water, with the kanwars on their shoulders. They walk 109 km up to Baba Baidyanath temple at Babadham reciting Bol Bam on the way.

Importance of Belpatra

Lord Shiva has three eyes – Mother Parvati, Lord Kartik and Ganesh. Lord Shiva is also called Mahadeva, the god of gods and his three eyes- Trinetra are his identification. Three eyes, three virtues, three truths, three swords of the Trident (Trishul) and three leaves (Belpatra) are very dear to Shiva. Lord Shiva becomes pleased if one offers Ganga water with Belpatra.

 

pic – Mandir at Night

Bol – Bam and its importance

The word Bam is a short name for Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. The letters BA came from Brahma and Vishnu and M came from Mahesh.

It is a long efficacious mantra (a hymn). When it is chanted during the way, it generates energy and enthusiasm amongst the kanwarias and gives them the psychological strength to carry on walking and succeed in covering the long distance from Sultanganj to Babadham.

According to the Skand Purana, those who complete the holy journey by reciting Bam-Bam obtain the virtues of Ashwamedha Yajna. According to the Puranas, the demon king Ravana had brought the Ganges water from Haridwar and offered to Lord Shiva.

During their journey from Sultanganj to Deoghar, kanwariyas are supposed to observe strict vrata:

To maintain celibacy (Bramhacharya)
To remember Lord Shiva by keeping mind, heart and speech pure
To speak the truth
To be inspired by charity and service
To take bath before taking the kanwar
To recite Bam – Bam
Not to use oil and soap
Not to wear shoes
Not to take any article made of leather
To avoid dogs. (dogs should not be touched)

Pilgrims to the temple later visit the Basukinath temple.

Where to stay and how to reach: Lot of hotels and dharamshalas are available in Deoghar. During the month of Jul-Aug, there is great rush, so this is advisable to book prior to your journey. Closest railway station is Jasidih, which is on howrah main line. Nearest airport is Ranchi/ Patna.