Many people being born and brought up in Kolkata and other part of India, are not much aware of Manasa Puja, however on the other hand it is the most sought after puja in all the suburban and rural areas of West Bengal. Not only this puja is quite famous in the country side of Bengal but also this is the unique practices of Bengalis to keep them safe away from the snakes!
Featured Photos by lalithamba,
Maa Manasa: The Goddess of Snakes
Maa (Mother) Manasa is portrayed as a Goddess with poisonous snakes on her shoulder, sitting over the fine leaves of a ‘Padma’ (lotus) or upon a seven headed snake. She is being worshipped as the Goddess of snakes, sometimes also being prayed for fertility. Even though Maa Manasa is mostly being worshipped in Bengal and north east India however Hindus from other states of India also consider her The daughter of Lord Shiva based on the ‘Shiva Purana’ from Hindu Mythologies. Interestingly, Lord Shiva is also the head of Naga’s: The snakes.
Manasamangala: The Myth behind
- As per the mythology based on ‘Manasamangala’, Maa Manasa appeared on earth to build the faith and devotion of the mortals. At the beginning people used to ignore Her however she compelled all by creating natural calamities and disasters for all the non-followers. Gradually She convinced people from earth to gain their faith, including the famous Muslim ruler Hassan however eventually failed to Chand Sadagar who used to be a devotee of Lord Shiva and a well-known merchant of Champak Nagar. Apparently, Manasa became adamant to be at per the other two Godesses Lakshmi & Saraswati and reached out to Lord Shiva asking how would she be worshiped like them by the humans. Shiva told her that if Chand Sadagar agrees to worship her, then her wish would be absolutely fulfilled.
- There were lot of initial tries by which Manasa tried to convince Chand to get his worship however failed from all the avenues. Thus she started sending her serpents to kill all six sons of Chand and succeeded finally, also took all his wealth away which made him a street beggar. Even after all these, Chand was still not offering any respect to Manasa which let her conspire with the two Apsaras of Indra’s court who were one of the eternal lovers, Aniruddha and Usha. Aniruddha had taken birth on earth as Lakhinder, the seventh son of Chand and Sanaka (Wife of Chand); whereas Usha was born as Behula and got married to him.To make sure that Manasa could not enter in the room on their first night to kill his son,Chand Sadagar tried all his effort and had got an Iron Room without a single hole in it created by Lord Viswakarma. However,Maa Manasa took a shape of a serpent called Kaal Nagini and entered the room through a needle ended up biting Lakhinder.
- When Behula saw the snake, she hit it with a Jaati (Supari/Betel Nut cutter) and broke its poisonous tooth.Hence, since then it is said that even if the Kaal Nagini snake looks highly ferocious but in reality it has no poison in it.However, Behula after losing her husband on the first day of marriage decided to fight for her husband’s life even if it is required to go to the Heaven to get his soul back! Determined with that thought, she floated on a river till 9 months along with Lakhinder’s dead body and eventually reached heaven, finally convincing Godto get the life back of Lakhinder. After returning from heaven, she convinced her father-in-law Chand to worship Maa Mansa for the safety of his son and also for the betterment of their lives. Having experience all these misfortunes, Chand had unwillingly worshiped Maa Manasa by the left arm offering just a flower but never looked at Her!
The Pujas and Rituals
- After being acknowledged and worshiped Maa Manasa got pleased and became the saviour of snake bites and a few infectious diseases. She is worshiped with all ritual sacrifices during rainy season, since all snakes come out from their holes during this season. Almost all Hindus and Tribal communities believe that they can save themselves from being bitten by the poisonous snakes and from smallpox& chicken pox which are very infectious. Maa Manasa is also being prayed by people who do not have children. During this period idols of Maa Manasa are created and worshipped. Even in some places live snakes are being used in Jatra Pala (open drama) depicting the story of Her.
- Maa Manasa is worshipped on the day of Nag Panchami which is a festival of snake worship in the Bengalicalendar month of Shravan (July–August). This is also known as Maa Manasa Ashtanga Puja. These rituals and pujas are held on the Panchami (Fifth day) of all fortnights in the month of Ashara and Shravana.
- One of the important parts of this ritual is bathing Maa Manasa with milk. Women offer sandalwood, a garland, vermillion, sweetmeats etc. The eight snakes associated with Her are also worshipped with the lotus water. Pushpanjali (Flower Offering) is done along with all other common pujas ending with Visarjan.
- Bengali women also do a fasting (Vrata) and pour milk at the snake holes on this day. Milk is offered as a significant offering in snake puja. The hymns taken from the Brahmavaivarta Purana, Prakriti Khanda etc. are being recited for Maa Manasa. People also offer ghee and Neem leaves as a special offering. Most of the times, the idols of the snakes beside Maa Manasa which are worshipped during the festival are coloured in yellow and black to remind the famous serpent Kaal Nagini.
‘Manasa Mangal’ is one of the famous mythological collection of poems in Bengal which are dedicated to Maa Manasa which is associated with Padma Purana in Hindu mythology, where Padma (lotus) being one of the epithet of Her. Very few know that Maa Manasa’s left eye is known as poison eye with which she can kill anything at a glance while Her right eye is known as her nectar eye, a look from which can rejuvenate the one who was killed by the left eye. She is also renowned as Vishahari (Poison Remover). Together we all pray to Maa Manasa for the prosperity and safety of everyone.