Mangalore: Nagara Panchami - Day of the Serpent God Observed with Zest

Mangalore: Nagara Panchami - Day of the Serpent God Observed with Zest

John B Monteiro

Pics: Dayanand Kukkaje
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore

Mangalore, Jul 23: Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. – Mathew X-16, New Testament of the Bible.
If this implies that the serpent, or cobra in common parlance, is harmful, on Nagara Panchami day, July 23 this year, it shows its benign face. On this day annually, scores of snake charmers make the rounds of city streets giving an opportunity to serpent worshippers to offer milk to the hooded snake. While Mangaloreans have an opportunity of watching cobras, including king cobras, from close quarters, and with complete safety, at Pilikula nature park on the outskirts of the city, for city dwellers elsewhere, Nagara Panchami is the only opportunity for a darshan of this noble snake. In fact, Pilikula has the record of breeding king cobras in captivity.
For me, cobras have been frequent fixtures in life and dreams. The other night my wife, Lynette, who shares a double bed with me, cried out in agony. Waking up, I realized that I had hit her hard across her face. It is not for the first time I had hurt her in this fashion. But, it was not intentional. I have been getting these dreams, or nightmares, of being attacked by cobras and I, in turn, beating them with my bare hand in self defence. It was painful for me as a bachelor when my extended hand hit the hard edge of the bed and I had to be in painful agony. Post-marriage, my wife has been a soft target, taking the pain of the hit and sparing me the pain of hitting the hard bed.

Nagara Panchami at Kudupu

My tryst with cobras started on my ancestral farmstead at Bearikody when I was seven or eight and went to the forest, called Kukkudaballe (Mango grove), to gather mangoes fallen overnight. As I was picking up mangoes and looking out for more, I spied a full-grown cobra with its hood raised and expanded – just two feet away. I retreated and it moved forward. I clambered up a teak tree and shouted for help. My father, fearing it to be a tiger, common in Kukkudaballe, came running uphill with his gun, with our farm workers in tow with sturdy sticks. By the time they arrived, the cobra slithered into the thick underbrush or may be into its hole. The panting party scolded me for venturing into the forest alone.
Since then cobras have been stalking me often as I walked on the boundary footpaths of our paddy fields. They would hiss and raise their expanded hoods beside the bamboo clumps or large anthills that dotted the landscape. There would be a stand-off between them and me – both withdrawing from the scene in a win-win move.
But, those stalkings and confrontations have haunted me even after I left my ancestral farmstead for my education and employment in Mangalore and Bombay. For, apart from the frequent darshans of cobras, I was also fed on cobra lore which said that this reptile was the cleverest among snakes and vindictive if harmed.
One such story relates to a Bombay man who, while on holiday, stoned and chased a cobra into its hole. The man blocked the entrance with a heavy stone. After two years, he returned on his next holiday and, out of curiosity, lifted the blocking stone. A skeletal cobra dragged itself to the surface, bit its old tormentor and died once its vengeful deed was done.
A widely held lore says that cobras, which normally live in large anthills in thick clump of trees and wild vines, called nagabana, and guarded great treasures buried underground. From this has come the word sarpakavalu (vigilantly guarding), a virtue associated with protecting public and community assets. Now we have sarpa-swindlers who rifle the public till as reflected in highly publicized scams.
It was not always nightmares with cobras. Sometimes, I would see them in my dreams with a benign raised and expanded hood, as if I was a snake-charmer playing the flute. In my hay days of madka (number-based) gambling, I would interpret their dreamy darshan of raised hood as 7 or 9 and put my bets on a combination of these numbers – often with handsome wins.
There is one lore that was related to me by an illiterate farm worker which, I believe, is not in the public domain and I would like to record for posterity. A toddy tapper saw a fight between a mongoose and cobra from his perch on the crown of the palmyra tree. The mongoose ripped open the belly of the cobra and ate its vital organs. The cobra was seemingly dead. Then the mongoose went to a nearby bush, plucked some of its leaves, crushed them and applied the juice to the wound of the cobra. Instantly the cobra came alive and slithered away. It was a great discovery for the toddy tapper. He came down from the tree, gathered some leaves of the plant and went home. He struck his wife with an axe and she died. He applied the juice of the leaves on the cut wound and she came alive. Then he told his wife to axe and kill him. As a Sati-Savitri, she obeyed him. But, in his euphoria of his great discovery, he forgot to tell her about the healing leaves. Thus, the toddy tapper died and with him lost the secret of the miraculously healing leaves.
But, nowadays the mongoose and cobra may have become friendly or at least not enemies. They both visit my garden in Bondel, Mangalore – but at different times. Our dogs, Pinkie and Simple, alert us to their visits and we get to see the cobra with its raised, expanded hood to keep the barking dogs at bay.
We have in Tulunadu a cobra-associated temple at Subramanya which is visited by VIP actors, cricketers, etc. (Aishwarya Rai, Sachin Tendulkar), to escape from the curse of cobras (Sarpadosha) with propitiating tailor-made poojas. Devotees also throng Kudupu near Mangalore on this day.
Despite my nightmarish encounters with cobras, I would welcome one Cobra even in my bedroom – the brand of strong beer, mainly exported from India.

John B Monteiro, author and journalist, is editor of his website       (Interactive Cerebral Challenger) with instant response format.



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Comment on this article

  • ganesh, dubai

    Sun, Aug 11 2013

    Good morning dear friends..
    Wish u happy naagara panchami..

    DisAgree [2] Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse

  • astrologyphile, madurai

    Wed, Aug 15 2012

    Please Understand that SARPA DOSHA is something white Americans have asked me to clarify.
    IT IS a Dosha for killing a snake and not doing last rites to it by HINDU person.
    SARPA planets RAHU/KETU determine fertility-ability to have offsprings.
    Offering MIlk is a appeasing method.
    JUst like White candle in Christiany and Offering Thursday free food in other religions.
    I have Jewish friends who are orthjodox who KEEP KOSHER they have to have food cut in a special way by their rabbi and also they do not eat back portion of cow.
    They do not eat milk products with meat.
    So there are many diet restrictions in many religion.
    Google search all your doubts before rubbishing beleifs.
    Other religions teach their offsprings weekly on Sunday /Saturday eccetera.Hindus learn haphazardly and absorb family observation and many of the current do not have basic working knowledge of astrology to save their own skin, sorry to say I was like that too.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

  • satish, manipl

    Thu, Jul 26 2012

    There are funny stories, loopholes and strange rituals in every religion. Dont make fun of any religion or community as it is their belief about god who is only one and commmon to all. Please dont say your god is bad and my god is good, which itslef is foolish, funny and humourous.

    By the way, nobody commented on Tonnes of Tomatoes wasted in the movie Zindagin Na Milegi Dubaara. I think all of us enjoyed it??!!

    DisAgree [2] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Aaliya Mascarenhas, Mangalore

    Wed, Jul 25 2012

    Guys please stop commenting on religious issues. christans are right on there part and hindus are right on theres.
    A question to all Hindus, is it right to waste literes of milk and cocunut which is not concevied by God?

    DisAgree [13] Agree [10] Reply Report Abuse

  • Dinesh Pai, Surathkal, Mangalore

    Wed, Jul 25 2012

    I rubbish the claims of Mr.Dayanand Kudupu.Christians / Muslims will not worship a Snake God which is considered SATAN.If they have visited , it may be out of curiosity or could be suffering from mental imbalance.

    Among'st some Charismatic Christians whom I've met and spoken to , alcohol is considered as " Devils Urine " !

    DisAgree [4] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Sachidananda, M'lore

    Wed, Jul 25 2012

    I totally agree with the comments made by Rakesh, M'lore. Half the calamity in this world seems to be by following this wrong methods of spirituality and going away from God who is our creator. I too emphasize on the need of people who need to come out of these type of superstituous beliefs and get closer to God the reality and keep away from worshipping stones, serpents etc. which are creations of god. Thank you. May god enlighten the superstituous minds of people and heal their mental wounds...!!! and restrain them from doing these type of evil worships !!!

    DisAgree [10] Agree [7] Reply Report Abuse


    Tue, Jul 24 2012

    I think Mangalore has become a religiously intolerable place, sad that writter who's religion called themselves as peace loving, should not be creating humours on religious belief. I can believe in any god it could be stone or a mat, it should not matter to anyone. Shame that writer has insulted someone belief and creating humour shows writer is sick. Please leave in peace for sake of humanity.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

  • dayananda kudupu, Kudupu, Mangalore

    Tue, Jul 24 2012

    Your article is so fine to read. Really all the communities means not only hindus, but also muslims, cHristians worship the god Naga. Everyday 5 or more non-hindus come to Kudupu Anantha padmanabha temple for prayer. continue this type of articles in future also, keep it up. good luck daiji.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • Dinesh Pai, Surathkal

    Tue, Jul 24 2012

    This is criminal waste when millions of Indians stay hungry.I'm sure God does not need a milk bath every year.God is clean,good and above all evil. This ritual should stop and the money distributed among'st the poor.God will bless all abundantly for helping the poor and the hungry.

    DisAgree [25] Agree [26] Reply Report Abuse

  • Rakesh, M'lore

    Tue, Jul 24 2012

    Serpent is a sign of evil and worshipping the same would bring the calamity to the world. Since, it goes against the wil of god. The creator always deserves worship and reverence and not it's creature like a serpent. Please be literate !!!

    DisAgree [9] Agree [15] Reply Report Abuse

  • Amin Bhoja, Patte- Riyadh

    Mon, Jul 23 2012

    A good article to read. John Monteiro and his dream a bit worrisome, a poor wife after all. Wishing everybody A happy Nagara Panchami .

    DisAgree [5] Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

  • FM, Mangalore

    Mon, Jul 23 2012

    Dear Friends,

    Please stop arguing in these religious matters ….kindly help needy peoples like Lingappa Poojary S/o Thimmappa Poojary
    Nooyi, Indira Nagar House Mob: 0091-9845875996 he is desperately need money for his treatment please details are published on Daiji …still if you don’t have money to donate..Then please close your eyes & pray to God for his good health (there is only one God).

    DisAgree [4] Agree [43] Reply Report Abuse

  • Louis, Kuwait

    Mon, Jul 23 2012

    Happy Nagara Panchami to all my Hindu Friends.

    DisAgree [10] Agree [20] Reply Report Abuse

  • Francis Sequeira, Dubai

    Mon, Jul 23 2012

    So much wastage of Milk and Coconuts.800 Million Indians live on less than Rs.75/- a day.More than half of the world's poor are in India. 80% of children in India below the age of 05 are malnourished. Wastage of Food in any form and for any purpose should not be entertained. May Lord Shiva Bless you and your family on the
    auspicious occasion of Nag Panchami.Shubh Nag Panchami...

    DisAgree [62] Agree [24] Reply Report Abuse

  • Francis, Mangalore

    Mon, Jul 23 2012

    Dear Brijlal Dindayal Sharma, Sirsi/Lucknow - Wishing you and all my Hindu brothers 'Happy Nagara Panchami'. I do not want to hurt you by posting my individual comment but your comments 'Nagas' are believed by all community members including Muslims/Christians especially in South Kanara' is not correct. Nagas have been revered and worshipped only by Hindu community. Am I right please?

    DisAgree [38] Agree [49] Reply Report Abuse

  • vedapriya, Bangalore

    Mon, Jul 23 2012

    Very interesting story, part of the story where mongoose killed cobras and again with some leaves juice saved them is really interesting to read....thank u for this article....Happy nagarapanchami to all......

    DisAgree [5] Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

  • Smitha,

    Mon, Jul 23 2012

    Dear John B Monteiro,

    Fantastic article, really loved the way you narrated it with your personal experiences. In the era of globalization, its very important that we recall our personal experiences so that the faith in the festivities being followed still remains !


    DisAgree [5] Agree [15] Reply Report Abuse


    Mon, Jul 23 2012

    God bless each and every one ..
    thanks to Daiji for nice coverage and photos ... very nice

    DisAgree Agree [11] Reply Report Abuse

  • Brijlal Dindayal Sharma, Sirsi/Lucknow

    Mon, Jul 23 2012

    Last year celebrated 'Nagara Panchami' in my mother's place. This year 'eela'. Wonderful experience on that day around udipi - lot of charm and gaiety. At night visited Udipi Krishna Temple - wherein after nine - watched 'Naga Mandal' same was featured in one of kannada channel. 'Nagas' are believed by all community members including muslims/christians especially in south kanara..It's having own history. Sometimes missing 'festive-occasion' without knowing..

    DisAgree [15] Agree [25] Reply Report Abuse

  • Venzil Fernandes, Mangalore

    Mon, Jul 23 2012

    Wishing everyone 'Happy Nagara Panchami'
    God Bless All..Take Care.:-)

    DisAgree [3] Agree [24] Reply Report Abuse

  • Alwyn, Mangalore

    Mon, Jul 23 2012

    Humor at its best, beautifully written.

    DisAgree [11] Agree [11] Reply Report Abuse

  • murthy, mangalore/dubai

    Mon, Jul 23 2012

    In this occasion let us pray.......Sarve Jana Sukhino Bhavanthu......Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavanthu.......God Bless All......

    DisAgree [5] Agree [23] Reply Report Abuse

  • Ashok, Udupi/Dubai

    Mon, Jul 23 2012

    God bless all of us.

    DisAgree [5] Agree [22] Reply Report Abuse

  • Ramdas, Mangalore

    Mon, Jul 23 2012

    "Satyaroopa sadaananda nityaa mangaladaayaka,
    Skanda pura varaadeesha subramanya namosthute"

    Maatharegla Nagarapanchami parbada solmelu.

    DisAgree [10] Agree [40] Reply Report Abuse

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