Nagamandala also referred to as Nagaradhane is a multi-day festival and worship program in honour of the snake god.
People of Dakshina Kannada perform an elaborate ritual called Nagamandala to appease the serpent spirit. It is conducted in an extravagant manner throughout the night, wherein dancers known as the Vaidyas dress themselves as nagakannikas and dance the night away. The Vaidyas cavort around an elaborate serpent design drawn with natural colours on the sacred ground in a pandal, specially erected in front of the shrine. This nocturnal ritual is performed between December and April.
Major highlights of Nagamandala
- Nagabanas: Nagamandala ritual is often centered around Nagabana, of snake homes, location inside local farms and forests where snakes build their nests.
- The ritual: Nagamandala ritual celebrates the union of male and female snakes. Rituals are performed by two priests, one enacts male snake while the other female snake. Ritual involves rigorous dances and moves. Some of the rituals continue till early morning hours.
- Decorations: Areas around Nagabana are extensively decorated with natural colours and designs. A ‘chappara’ or temporary roof made of coconut leaves is often laid to give some respite from intense heat.
Most Nagamandala programs are held with support of a local sponsor. Program runs for several days and involves feeding thousands of guests each day, hence is deemed an expensive affair.
Where to witness Nagamandala:
Nagamandala program details are advertised in local media. When in coastal Karnataka, scan local newspapers for any upcoming Nagamandala program or take help from your host. Nagamandala is open to all and all visitors are served with meals and prasada.