Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) - Thousands of devotees, including foreign tourists converged on the banks of the River Ganga here over the weekend to witness the 400-year-old Nag Nathaiya Festival-cum-Fair, which is observed in honour of the mythical Kalia Nag.
Legend has it that Kalia, the serpent, used to live in the River Yamuna that flows past Mathura and troubled people of the area.
It is only when Lord Krishna tamed this evil snake by dancing on its hood, that people could breathe a sigh of relief.
In Varanasi, the '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 crowns performed this act of taming of the serpent.
Locals said the festival was started by noted Hindu poet-saint Tulsidas over 400 years ago.
â€śPeople are thronging to pay visit to Lord Krishna. This tradition of Krishna Leela (the enactment of anecdotes from Lord Krishna's life) was started by Tulsidas Maharaj in the Kartik month of the calendar and todayâ€™s event is a special one. We believe that on this day Lord Sri Krishna pays visit and devotees throng in large number to witness the leela,â€ť said Ram Prakash, a local resident.
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 as it has become a source of spreading awareness for various social causes including pollution free River Ganga.
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 government 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.
Amid these trends, 'Nag Nathaiya' festival was observed as a day to keep the tradition alive and to create mass awareness about river pollution.
The festival attracted people from different parts of the country and the world. Foreign tourists said the festival was impressive and unique in its own way.
â€śWell it was very exciting. There was Lord Krishna, who jumped into the water and took out the snake. It was very interesting. I am very excited; the atmosphere was great, it was really something very special. I have not seen anything like this,â€ť said a tourist from London, Agem.
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.