Nag Nathaiya in Varanasi

Location: Celebrated at Tulsi Ghat

When: Fourth lunar day of the dark fortnight in the Hindu month of Kartik (October or November or December).


Nag Nathaiya is an important festival of Varanasi and celebrated as a part of the Krishna Leela ceremony, a mythological tradition involving depiction of a famous episode in the life of Lord Krishna. Nag Nathaiya festival is held at famous Tulsi Ghat and organized on the fourth lunar day of the dark fortnight in the Hindu month of Kartik (October or November or Decmber) to celebrate the victory of the God Krishna over serpent Kalia. On this occasion, a large Kadamba tree (Neolamarckia cadamba) branch is planted on the banks of the River Ganga so that a young boy enacting the role of Krishna could jump into the river on to the effigy representing Kaliya. The boy stands over the effigy in dance pose and plays flute, the effigy along with the boy standing on it is given a rotation in front of the audience. A large number of people watch the act standing on the banks of the river or from river boats.

The episode of Nag Nathaiya is from great Indian epic Mahabharata. According to Mahabharata, while playing, young Krishna lost his ball in the river but when little Krishna dived into the river to get his ball back, he was challenged by toxic snake King Cobra, known as Kaliya. The conflict went for long between the Kaliya and Little Krishna. Recognizing the strength and power of Lord Krishna, King Cobra withdrew and lifted up Little Krishna on his head to bring him outside the water. Nag Nathaiya festival was started in the 16th century by the great saint named, Tulsi Das at Tulsi Ghat. The whole event is known as the Nag Nathaiya. The priests of the temple perform various religious rituals and pujas during the Nag Nathaiya festival. Nag Nathaiya is celebrated with the great joy and happiness by the people of Varanasi and also attended by the Kashi Naresh who views Krishna Leela from his royal boat. After the act Kashi Naresh offers awards to the actors who have performed in the festival.