Our celebration of Nagara Panchami!
Posted: Thursday, August 04th, 2011 | Posted by: Narendra Nayak | Views: 16576
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Two days back a friend of mine who had read about our registration of the Aid without religion trust had come to meet me with a contribution, hesitant whether we would accept it. Because, in our trust deed it had been mentioned that we would not be accepting contributions from communal, sectarian, superstition promoting organizations! He is not a rationalist and hence wanted to know whether we would take his donation. I told him that he was welcome. At that time he expressed his dissatisfaction at the way Nagara Panchami - a festival supposedly to honor the the Naga or the Cobra was being celebrated. He wanted to celebrate that by feeding a Cobra its true food a Chicken or an Egg! He was in search of Cobra to do that and I suggested that he do it to the Cobras at the local Snake Park which has the distinction of having bred king Cobras for the first time in captivity! But, when contacted they told us that they do not except outside food for their animals but we could adopt a Cobra for a year. When this was suggested to my friend Sri C.Upendra Kamath, he agreed to do  adopt as a beginning with the Indian Cobra.

So, today we went to the snake park of the Pilikula animal sanctuary near Mangalore to select a snake to adopt! A fine specimen was shown which was readily agreed upon for adoption and a cheque was handed over to the Executive Director of the park Mr. J.R.Lobo, who gladly accepted it. It was for Rs.5000 the adoption charges for an Indian Cobra for one year. Mr.Kamath agreed to come next year to continue the adoption. A look at the cage of the Cobra showed us that even the snakes in the part were not spared of the superstitions of the people! There was a bowl in front of the cage with currency notes given as offerings! In side the cage there was a tray of milk! When we asked the attendants and the handlers whether they have ever seen cobras drink milk and their reply was in the negative! However, that takes us back to barbaric rituals done during this Nagara Panchami time in many places. Snakes are hunted from their burrows, fangs broken, venom sacs punctured and sometimes mouths stitched as to just leave a gap through which their tongues can protrude, starved for weeks and then taken out on the appointed day for people to feed them milk. The snakes desperately thirsty would drink anything! It has been speculated that the largest number of deaths of the Indian Cobra occur in India or the Nagara Panchami day due to this ill treatment.

On the way to animal sanctuary we had to pass a very famous temple where the snake gods are worshiped. There were thousands of people amassed here with milk to be poured on the stone snakes. One could be at least happy to a small extent that they were not forcing this milk down the throats of unwilling Cobras but it was a criminal waste of an item which could be used to feed the starving. We could also see brisk sales of the road side vendors selling metal cobras and such items as offerings to the snake god! Like all other gods the snake gods in our area are fond of milk, coconuts, tender coconut water, turmeric etc. The rush at the temple was such that the police were around to regulate the devotees! One could only wonder about the attitude of our people who were ready to spend millions for stone serpents while real animals in the animal sanctuary were starving from lack of funds!

On the way back we also visited the home for the HIV Positive children whom I have called as the children of a lesser god. Upendra Kamath was so much in love with them at the first sight that he promised the children funds and an outing in one of his buses for a full day to wherever they would like to go and food at his cost for the day too. He also told me that he would ask his friends to do the same. So, it was a very fruitful campaign for the real snakes, Aid without religion trust and a helping hand for the children of a lesser god! Mr.Kamath is no rationalist but neither is a he a religious person  in the conventional sense of the term to put it in his own words “ I would really like to help you people who help real people instead of worshiping imaginary non existent gods”. On the way he also handed over a cheque to the aid without religion trust and assured me that more contributions would follow!

Narendra Nayak
President - Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations
Managing trustee, Aid without religion trust
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