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Fairs, Festivals and Melas

Nag Nathaiya in Varanasi
(November 9, 2002)

          VARANASI: Hundreds of devotees participated in the Krishna Leela ceremony of the Nag Nathaiya festival in this holy city.

           The festival has a 400-year-old tradition involving enactment of Nag Nathaiya, "dancing on the cobra-hood" episode in the life of Lord Krishna. The devotees led by the priests performed rituals and witnessed the enactment of "Nag Nathaiya" .

           According to Mahabharata, young Krishna accidentally threw the ball he was playing with friends into the Ganga. When he dived to retrieve the ball he encountered Kalia, a king cobra, notorious for spreading terror all around. Krishna fought with monstrous Kalia and defeated him. The latter recognising Krishna's superiority offered to take him to the water's surface.

           Meanwhile, Krishna's friends got panicky, thinking he was drowned. But as Krishna re-surfaced dancing on Kalia's hood, they were joyous. The entire episode has since been dubbed as 'Krishna Leela' or Krishna's magical charm.

           "Since this was a strong foothold of Ballabh dynasty, Krishna Leela was started here. It is fabled that Lord Krishna, after killing the snake in the water and the demons in the jungle, purified the water and the air. The same 'leela' is taking place here," said Anand Bahadur Singh, an organiser of the festival.

           Varanasi attracts thousands of foreign tourists every year. According to one of them, "Everybody is incredibly beautiful and they are crowded around all over, looking into the water. People are dressed ... the colours are incredible."

           The festival is believed to have been initiated by noted poet-devout Tulsidas 400 years ago. Organisers said the meaning of the festival is "changing with times." They said the ceremony this year was aimed at combating pollution in the Ganga by raising awareness among the people..


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