The Nagapanchami snake-worshipping festival takes place on the fifth day of the lunar month of Shravana (July–August). The worship focuses on the cobra, to thank the snake for its auspicious presence and to palliate the serpent world so that it will not bite. The mythical and mysterious power of the serpent is recognized the world over; this festival is an ancient Indian tribute to its semidi-vine power, as a being that moves between this world and the powerful underworld.
   On Nagapanchami, images of mythological serpents such as Vasuki are worshipped and given milk, considered a favored food of snakes (of course, Indian villagers often offer milk to live cobras on a daily basis). Figures of snakes may be drawn on walls with cow dung or on boards with red powder to be worshipped. Also, people go to abandoned termite hills and other places were snakes live to make offerings. Snake charm-ers may be invited to perform on this day, and in certain areas there are huge processions of men (and some women) who handle cobras in fulfill-ment of vows.
   Further reading: Balaji Kundkur, The Cult of the Ser-pent: An Interdisciplinary Survey of Its Manifestations and Origins (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983); Binod Chandra Sinha, Serpent Worship in Ancient India (New Delhi: Books Today, 1979).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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