Snakes are associated with rebirth death and mortality. This is basically because they shed their skin.
In the south particularly Tulu-Malaya has a strong serpent worship cult. In places like Kupudu and subramanya live snakes are worshipped. Many families and area are linked with snake and snake worship.
If one accidentally killed a cobra, or even saw a dead one it had to perform the final rites for it.
Some important snakes from Hindu mythology:
- Sheesh/ adishesha/ sheshnaga, is imagined to be a 1000 hooded snake. Lord Vishnu is believed to be reclining on him, has been the sibling of the lord in all his avatar, also protected him form the thunderstorm during his postnatal journey from maturate to vrindavan.
- Vasuki, coiled himself round the mandara, to churn the ocean. So that the ambrosia of immortality could be extracted.
- Kaliya the multihooded terror of the river Yamuna who was conquered by Vishnu
- Manas the queen of snakes, the image of the universal mother, particularly for the oja- tantrics of Assam.
- Ananta the endless snake who circles the world.
- Padmanabha the guardian of the south
- Astika the half Brahmin and half naag.
All over India the festival is celebrated in various ways.
Standard being snake idols being offered milk , incense and gifts.
In certain districts of Bengal mud idols of the god with a serpent on either shoulder is worshipped on the shravan panchami. The worship is with animal sacrifice either pigeon or goat. This is then emersed into water, before that the snakes on the shoulder is taken out, it is believed curative for paediatric diseases.
In other places of Bengal small cork houses are made and decorated with snake motif, this is then sprinkled with blood of the animal sacrificed.
Many such rituals and their implications are listed in the book the serpent as the FOLK-DIETY in Bengal