The Pleasures of Festivals ~ Nagula Chavithi

I grew up in a household where every festival was and still is religiously celebrated with great bhakthi and bhukthi. I’ve been trying to recreate those traditions here at my home. Each festival has its own set of pooja procedures. I am writing what I remember here at Mahanandi. This pleasure of festival series is for me and for those of you who would like a reference point. The pooja traditions I follow are from my birthplace, Nandyala in India. You are most welcome to contribute what you know and follow.

The Pleasures of Festivals ~ Nagula Chavithi

About:
Nagula Chavithi is a festival where serpents are worshipped with great devotion. Nagula Chavithi is celebrated during the months of “Sravanam”(August) and/or in “Karthikam” (November). “Nagu” means the snake and “Chavithi” is the fourth day after every newmoon day. On this day, devotees observe fast and worship Nagamayya, the supreme snake- the Seven hooded cobra. Fresh flowers, milk, vadapappu, chalimidi, nuvvula-mudda and fresh coconut are offered as neivedyam. Thoranam is also placed infront of Nagamayya. Devotees offer milk to Naga Vigraham beneath the bodhi tree in temples and some complete the pooja at home placing an idol of a snake just for that day.

The Legend:
Legend behind Nagula Chavithi is that during the churning of the ocean by gods and demons in search of “Amrutham” (the nectar of immortality), a snake was used as rope and in the process, a terrible poison (“garalam”) emerged. The poison would have engulfed the whole world, but for Bhagavan Shiva, who swallowed it and retained it in His throat. His throat turned blue – hence, Bhagavan Shiva is called “Neelakantha”. However, a few drops spilled and to ward off the evil effects, people worship the Cobra, the king of snakes, to pacify the brood and protect themselves from any ill effects.

Pooja Preparation:
The day before:
Clean the home. Clean the bhagavan mandir.
Shopping list: Yellow moong dal, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, jaggery, cardamom, ghee, fresh milk, dry coconut and fresh coconut for pooja, cotton thread for thoranam. Fresh flowers and fruits.
Ingredients preparation: Crush or grate the jaggery to fine. Grate the dry coconut. Crush the cardamom seeds and prepare cardamom powder. Store them in clean jars.

On Nagula Chavithi Day:
Purify with a head bath. Decorate the mandir with fresh flowers.
Prepare neivedyam: Vadapappu, chalimidi, sesame laddu.

Vadapappu: Soak half cup of yellow moong dal in two cups of water for about an hour. At pooja time, drain the water and add the rehydrated moong dal to neivedyam platter. For detailed vadapappu recipe and photo -click here.

Chalimidi: soak 3/4 cup of rice grains in water for about half an hour. Drain the water and spread the rice on a clean cloth to air-dry for about 15 minutes under the sun or fan. Take the semi-dried rice in a food processor or mortar. Grind or pound to fine powder. It comes about one cup of rice powder. You could also use readymade rice powder for chalimidi for convenience. The taste won’t be the same though.
To this rice powder, add quarter cup of dry coconut powder, one cup of finely crushed jaggery, a tablespoon of white poppy seeds and a teaspoon of cardamom powder. Blend the ingredients without adding any water until well combined. Take this sweet rice mix in a bowl. Take about three tablespoons of this mixture into your hand. Press gently into round shape and some into cylindrical shape. Usually the moisture from rice and jaggery is enough to shape the mixture into rounds. If necessary, sprinkle few drops of water or melted ghee for easy shaping. This is chalimidi. Place few chalimidi on neivedyam platter.

Nuvvula Mudda (Sesame Laddu): Crush or grate jaggery to superfine mix. Take a cup of sesame seeds in a food processor or stone mortar. Add a cup of jaggery, quarter cup of rice powder, quarter cup of dry coconut powder and a teaspoon of cardamom powder. Grind or pound the ingredients well without adding any water. Sesame seeds have to reach from powder to oily mix stage. When you see the oil from sesame seeds starts separating, remove the mix to a bowl. Mix in a tablespoon of poppy seeds. Take two to three tablespoons of mixture into your hand. Press gently into round shape and some into cylindrical shape. These are nuvvula mudda. Place few nuvvula mudda on neivedyam platter.

Now the neivedyam is ready. On to the pooja.

For Nagula Chavithi Pooja:

Prepare Nagamayya: I do not have Nagamayya statue at home, so I make Nagamayya with wheat flour. Take quarter cup of wheat flour in a bowl. Sprinkle few tablespoons of water, knead and make tight dough. Roll the dough into a long, round coil. Shape the coil into a snake form and press the coil end into snake head(padaga/ hood) form. Cover the snake in turmeric and kumkum mixture. This is Nagamayya and the deity of the day is ready now. Place the Nagamayya in bhagavan mandir. Decorate with fresh oleanders and other flowers. Place a small glass of fresh milk and a spoon on the side.

Prepare the thoranam: Take a cotton thread in three rows. Apply turmeric to the thread. This is thoranam. Place it in front of Nagamayya.

Pooja Vidhanam:
Place the neivedyam platter with Vadapappu, chalimidi and nuvvula mudda in front of Nagamayya. Place fresh fruits (bananas).
Light the deepam and agarbatti.
Offer milk to Nagamayya. Take a teaspoon of milk and gently pour onto Nagamayya head.
Recite Sri Subramanya Swamy Astothharam for Nagamayya. Meditate.
Break the coconut. Offer coconut water and then mangala arathi to Nagamayya.
Take the thoranam and tie it to your right wrist. Do the same for your family members. While tying the knot, make a wish.

The pooja is finished. Leave the home and spend few minutes in front or back door. This is a tradition so that the Nagamayya can have some privacy to enjoy the neivedyam.

After few minutes outside, come inside and have neivedyam prasadam with family and friends. Usually we fast on Nagula Chavithi and have only neivedyam, milk and fruits. The next day on Naga Panchami, we prepare the feast with payasam, pulihora and vada or bajji, along with rice, dal, curry and dahi. After offering the neivedyam to bhagavan on banana leaf, the festival feast is shared with family and friends.

Mothers gift their married daughters new clothes, bangles, sesame laddus and dry whole coconuts. Elder sisters also share the gifts with younger sisters.

After evening mangala arathi, sendoff Nagamayya into woods. Place the deity on a plant or tree and leave it there for the nature.

This completes the Nagula Chavithi celebrations.

I had the pleasure of celebrating the Nagula Chavithi and Panchami last Friday and on Saturday (August 13th and 14th). I wish I had taken some photos of neivedyam for this article. Even without photos, I hope the pooja procedure is clear and easy to follow. May Nagamayya bless us all.

32 Comments

  • By notyet100, August 16, 2010 @ 8:32 pm

    nice info

  • By Sambhavi, August 16, 2010 @ 9:04 pm

    I’ve been a regular reader of your blog ever since I moved to the US (and had to start cooking on my own) and I love the way you present your recipes. Your respect for tradition and food are evident in every post and I think that is what draws me back to refer to your recipes every time. The fact that you use American ingredients is a huge bonus.

    I love this post. Thank you for reminding us that festivals are not just about new clothes and food but also bhakti. I think we tend to forget that sometimes :)

  • By shanti, August 16, 2010 @ 9:21 pm

    Great Idea Indira!!!I think is more dear to pple like us who are living outside India.Waiting for your varalakshmi vratam post.Are you celebrating on aug 20 ?

  • By Ranjitha, August 16, 2010 @ 9:21 pm

    As always great info Indira. Always knew the story about the churning and the poison but never knew that that is why Nagula chavathi has started. Wonder if even my Mom knows it :)

  • By sanjeeta kk, August 16, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

    That is very informative Indira. I learned the tradition from my In laws.She tells a story and prepare the sacred thread which she tie for all ladies. The story is about why this festival Nag Panchami started. Perform puja for the idols of Vinayaka and Nag (snake).
    Prepare sweets (Korukattais and payasam). Do the puja for the main door of the house. And eat a grand feast.

  • By Narayan, August 17, 2010 @ 1:07 am

    How vivid and so informative. Thank you Indira. In Maharashtra, till a few years ago, people used to flock to nearby temples, where snake charmers would carry baskets of live serpents and permit pilgrims to perfrom pooja to the snakes – as well as permit them to “feed” the snakes with milk by dabbing little clumps of cotton cloth in milk and holding near the snakes mouth/nose. It was later found that the snakes inadevertently inhaled the milk which would cause pneumonia and eventually lead to the death of the snakes. This has been stopped (at least in urban centres) and now they sell clay idols of snakes which are revered.

  • By Ranjan, August 17, 2010 @ 4:24 am

    Indira, thank you for such step by step pooja article, really informative.

  • By preeti, August 17, 2010 @ 7:30 am

    Great idea! This post revived my interest in Naagula Chavithi. Can you please post Varalakshmi vratam before Friday, if its not asking too much! I get lots of good info from amma but I like to hear it from someone of my age! :) And if its you , I know its going to be authentic.

  • By Bhuvana, August 17, 2010 @ 8:15 am

    Dear Indira
    We do not perform this pooja at home. It was a divine article. Just like Preeti said I am waiting to read about Varalakshmi vratam.

  • By Kay, August 17, 2010 @ 10:11 am

    I missed Nagula Chavithi this year. I wish you posted this before the pooja. Like everyone else, my request is also that you post Varalakshmi vratham before the pooja.

  • By Shobana, August 17, 2010 @ 6:04 pm

    Great work Indira,

    We celebrate this day as Garuda Panchami (procedure is almost the same) – this day is performed by praying to God for the good health/wealth of brothers. Nice to hear the details

    Regards
    Shobana

  • By Veena, August 17, 2010 @ 8:25 pm

    I am a regular reader of your blog. I really like the idea of you writing about our Indian festivals. As Shobana said in Bangalore we celebrate it for the well being of brothers,it is a couple of weeks before Rakhi.

  • By Jaya, August 19, 2010 @ 3:46 am

    Dear Indira-that’s so informative.And this is kind of similar with naga-panchmi in Northern India(Delhi ,UP,Bihar region) if I am not wrong.
    hugs and smiles

  • By Lavanya, August 19, 2010 @ 8:12 am

    Hi Indira,

    Have been following ur blog for a month. Love ur recipes and the way u present. Tried a few and came out very well. Thanks.

    Good presentation on Nagula Chavithi and the way we can do puja with whatever available here. Pls post Varamahalaxmi puja too by today evening so that I can shop with the list u give. :)

    Good Luck and keep going.

  • By vandya, August 19, 2010 @ 8:22 am

    Nice read.

  • By Indira, August 19, 2010 @ 6:18 pm

    Hi friends,
    Thanks for your interest.
    I had a busy week, and couldn’t spend much time on the Web. Sorry, I wasn’t able to write about the Vratham before the date.
    Have a wonderful, fulfilling Varalakshmi Puja!

  • By Vineela, August 21, 2010 @ 11:05 am

    Thank you Indira for sharing this post. Brought back memories from childhood days.

  • By Narayan, August 22, 2010 @ 12:44 am

    It is Onam and this Shraavan month is start of so many festivals..

    Happy Onam, Narayan.
    -Indira

  • By Kalyani P, August 22, 2010 @ 7:53 am

    Thanks, Indira … You bought back my childhood memories…

  • By dee, September 2, 2010 @ 7:07 am

    Hi Indira,

    I am loving your garden log. It will be wonderful if you can write more about basics of gardening and how to grow a small garden for beginners in the field. Please think about it.

  • By vijayalakshmi, September 2, 2010 @ 7:15 am

    Helo Indira,
    I like yr cooking site i always watch yr site this time Nagamayya poojavidhanam chaala nacchindi i like to do pooja.
    Thankyou

  • By Sri Vani Maccha, October 17, 2010 @ 11:22 pm

    hi indira,

    I have nagamayya statue at home.so after the pooja is done and I keep the statue out when should i bring it back?

  • By Kamala, November 2, 2010 @ 9:31 pm

    Hai Indira,
    Thanks a lot for the info….I am blessed with a baby boy and would like to do the pooja for him esp…i hope everything goes well…

  • By Raji, November 7, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

    Hai Indira garu,

    Many thanks for the info. Will do that in the way mentioned.

    Regards

  • By Kirtana, November 9, 2010 @ 9:45 pm

    Hey Indira,

    Happ Diwali and a Prosperous New Year. Many many thanks for the information on Nagula Chavithi. I was mahashtraian and got married to Telegu. At home i performed the Nagula Chavithi pooja with my mother in law, and this post revived more interest in Naagula Chavithi. Warm Regards.

  • By Manjusha, October 27, 2011 @ 4:19 am

    hai i really liked this article, i will start this year doing nagula chaviti with ur procedure, we have enjoyed this festival when we are kids but after moving abroad nothing here, but the way u described is more easy to perform in house. thanks wish nagamayya bless u too for helping us.

  • By Kalyani, October 29, 2011 @ 10:01 pm

    wow nice information on nagula chavithi ……. Thanks for sharing ……..

  • By preeti, July 21, 2012 @ 10:51 pm

    meru naagula chavithi gurninchi chaala baaga raasaaru. Its very good to read and many people from this generations will understand very clearly. Its very nice of you.

  • By Sireesha, November 16, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

    Big thanks. Tomorrow is nagula chavithi I ‘m performing this pooja. Thank u so much for giving detailed information.

  • By suma, November 17, 2012 @ 4:38 am

    wonderful..please keep going like this and share your valuable knowledge.

  • By Samatha, November 20, 2012 @ 6:32 pm

    I used to participate along with my mother before marriage. We prepare similar prasadam but we usually go to Putta and perform pooja and pour milk in putta. I stopped doing the pooja after coming to US. But I think your idea of making Naga devata idle and performing poojs is a good idea. Thank you very much for the pooja procedure.

  • By Chaitanya, November 5, 2013 @ 10:20 am

    Hi namaste, i have a doubt about this puja. do we need to do upavasam(fasting) on this day means after finishing the puja.

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