This Nag Panchami, as families gather to worship and seek blessings from serpent deities, they also engage in a gastronomic journey that connects them to their roots.
Nag Panchami is a prominent Hindu festival which holds immense significance in India – particularly in Karnataka and Maharashtra – but is also celebrated in other parts of South Asia. Celebrated on the fifth day of the bright half of the lunar month of Sawan, which usually falls in July and August and this year it falls on Monday 21st of August, The festival is dedicated to worshipping and honouring snakes and gets its name from the combination of ‘nag’, meaning snake and ‘Panchami’, which is the fifth out of the fifteen days of the lunar cycle.
The veneration of snakes in Hinduism can be traced back to ancient times when they are regarded as symbols of power, protection, and fertility. According to Hindu scripture, Kashyap the son of the all-powerful creator Brahma married Kadru, the daughter of the Vedic creator Prajapati Daksha and birthed the race of the Naga – divine half snake, half human beings
Another legend says that long ago, as a poor farmer tilled his fields he unwittingly ended the lives of three baby snakes as he ploughed. Their mother snake bent on revenge slithered into the man's home while his family slept. With venomous bites, she killed his wife and two children to atone for the 3 lives of her children but left one daughter alive. The following day, the heartbroken daughter went to the snake with an offering of milk to beg her to bring her family back. Moved by her sincere offering of milk and earnest plea for forgiveness, the snake granted blessings instead and restored her family
Nag Panchami holds both religious and cultural importance, intertwining mythology and tradition. On this day, elaborate rituals take place at temples and homes, where people offer milk, flowers, and prayers to worship snake effigies and sometimes even real snakes. Images and idols of snakes are often crafted from silver or clay and it’s thought that by appeasing the snake, you can gain protection and good fortune for your family
Video Credits: Ruchkar Mejwani/YouTube
The festival also holds unique culinary traditions that vary across different regions of India. During the festival, women usually maintain a fast or vrat to pray for the well-being of the male members of the family, and after sunset indulge in traditional sweets and other festival offerings. It’s believed that rice offerings are greatly appreciated by the snakes so kheer and rice cakes like patholi wrapped in turmeric leaves are prepared. Milk is also a significant part of the celebration and many milk-based sweets feature in the festival food.
In some regions, a popular custom involves creating a representation of a snake using a mixture of flour and water on the threshold of the house, and others prefer to abstain from salt and fried food on this day so most dishes are steamed instead. This symbolic gesture is accompanied by offering milk and rice to the image, signifying respect for the serpentine world
Here are 6 traditional dishes you can make to honour the occasion of Nag Panchami:
Symbolising purity and devotion, Nariyal Mithai or coconut sweets hold a special place on the Nag Panchami menu. These treats are made with grated coconut, condensed milk, and flavoured with cardamom.
A festive delight, Puranache Dind is a dish made from ground chana dal, grated jaggery wrapped in a rice flour dough and steamed, offering a blend of sweetness and earthy flavours
By -Crescentia's Kitchen
Across the western parts of India Patholi is a unique preparation of sweet rice flour and jaggery, wrapped in turmeric leaves and steamed. This aromatic dish not only tantalises the taste buds but also pays homage to nature, as the turmeric leaves impart a distinct aroma and flavour.
For a more savoury treat, try Khara Kadubu. Rice flour dumplings filled with spiced lentils, chillies, grated coconut, and other seasonings. They’re not just a culinary delight but also a reflect the diverse tastes and textures that the festival encompasses.
From the heart of Maharashtra comes Dhapate, a savoury multigrain pancake made from a medley of flours like jowar, bajra, wheat and rice. Enhanced with spices, herbs, and vegetables, Dhapate captures the essence of a balanced and nutritious feast during Nag Panchami.
A traditional Karnataka sweet, Puthani Tambittu is a sumptuous offering made from roasted gram flour, jaggery, and ghee. The dish is not only rich in flavour but also a tribute to the culinary heritage that's an integral part of Nag Panchami celebrations.