Nag Nathiya festival draws large number of devotees to Varanasi

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Varanasi, Oct. 25 (ANI): The banks of the River Ganga in Varanasi recently turned into a sea of humanity on the occasion of 'Nag Nathaiya' meaning dance on the hood of a cobra, the mythical Kalia Nag.

Thousands of devotees including foreign tourists converged on the riverbanks here to witness a 400-year-old traditional festival and fair named 'Nag Nathaiya', as it was celebrate with deep fervour on Friday.

Legend has it that Kaliya, the serpent, used to in River Yamuna that flows past Mathura and it used to trouble the local people.

It is said Lord Krishna, who spent his childhood in the vicinity of Mathura, tamed this evil snake by dancing on its hood and had freed the locals from the serpent's scare.

At Varanasi, 'Nag Nathaiya' is an enactment of that episode from the life of Lord Krishna.

Young boys dressed as Lord Krishna with flutes in hands and peacock feathers on heads performed this act of taming of the serpent.

The devotees, led by a priest, offered prayers and performed rituals as well as witnessed the 'Krishna Leela', the enactment of anecdotes from Lord Krishna's life. However, the festival over the past couple of years, has become even more relevant in today's time such as it is being used as an occasion to spreading awareness on social causes including the need to keep the River Ganga free from pollution.

"The way people are dirtying our mother River Ganga (Ganges) is alarming. Sewage pipes are opening into it. So this fair (festival) has become even more relevant in today's time. The way Krishna killed the poisonous Kaliya serpent by dancing on its hood and saved the river Yamuna from its poison, in the same way many the people of Varanasi hope the festival will help in cleansing the river from pollution. Because Ganga Ma (Mother Ganga) is our cultural heritage," said Ashok Pandey, a local resident of Varanasi and devotee at the 'Nag Nathaiya' festival.

The Hindus regard River Ganga as the holiest. However, it has been reduced to a dirty drain with untreated effluents, industrial waste and sewage of scores of big and small cities being emptied into it.

Although the federal government of India set up a Ganga Action Plan in 1985 to cleanse the river, much of the 'action' seems to have been confined to paper and files.

Amidst these trends, 'Nag Nathaiya' festival was observed a-la two birds with one stone - to keep the tradition alive and to create mass awareness about the river pollution.

The festival attracted people from different parts. Alisha, an Italian said that she had travelled all the way from Italy to witness the annual ceremony.This is a really nice fair. I'm really interested in the show, this kind of culture. It's really very nice. I'll see Krishna and the snake. I'm very happy," noted Alisha, an Italian tourist.he festival is believed to have started by noted poet Tulsidas over 400 years ago.

According to Hindu legend, young Krishna while playing with his friends, accidentally tossed the ball into the River Yamuna. And when he dived to retrieve the ball, he encountered Kalia, the dreaded serpent.

Not to lose heart, the young Krishna fought with the monstrous Kalia and killed it while his panic-stricken friends summoned the elders who were amazed to see him dancing on Kalia's hood. (ANI)

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