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For the snake god

For the snake god
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The festival is of great importance in the states of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and western Rajasthan, where the day is celebrated with great zeal and fervour. Gogaji is a folk deity, who is worshiped as a peer among Hindus and Muslims. In 2014, Goga Navami will be celebrated on 19 August.

Gogaji, a man of powerful personality, was a Rajput prince and hero who had the supernatural power of controlling snakes. Even before he was born, Goga had received the blessings of Baba Gorakhnath, who was worshipped with great dedication by his mother. Having remained childless for several years, her mother Bachhal was given ‘Gugal’ fruit as a prasad by Baba Gorakhnath. Since the fruit of Guggal was cause of his birth, he was referred as Goga, whereas devotees call him Gogajee respectfully. Another belief is that he was called Gogaji because of his remarkable service to cows.

 Gugga (also pronounced as Gogga or Goga) or Jahar Vir, one of the snake-kings, and a Chauhan Rajput, had a kingdom called Bagad Dedga near Ganganagar that spanned over to Hansi near Hisar in Haryana and included territory up to the river Sutlej in Punjab. Goga is worshipped in Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar pradesh, Madhya Pradesh Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh.and Gujarat. In Gujarat, an annual procession is held in honour of the great warrior. Rabari community in Gujarat and Rajasthan is great believer in Gogaji.

 Gogaji is revered not only by the people of Hindu community but by Muslims as well. While the Hindus know him as Goga Veer, the Muslims refer to him as Jahar Peer. The most common image of Gogaji is that of a man riding a blue horse and holding blue and yellow flags. He is believed to be a protector of children and there are various legends prevalent about his divine birth and his ability to heal people bitten by snakes.

Worship of Gogaji starts in Bhadra month of Hindi calendar. Grand fairs are held at his birthplace and Smadhi sathal Gogamedi. Gogamedi is 359 km from Jaipur, in Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan. It is believed that Gogaji went into samadhi at Gogamedi. Thousands of devotees gather to pay homage at this memorial annually in the month of Bhadrapada during the Gogaji fair, which lasts for 3 days. The fair is held from the ninth day of the dark half of Bhadrapada (Goga Navami) to the eleventh day of the dark half of the same month.

 It is quite a sight to see people singing and dancing to the beats of drums and songs with multicoloured flags called nishans in their hands. The songs and bhajans on the life history of Gogaji are recited accompanied by music played with traditional instruments like damru, chimta, etc. At his birthplace Dadrewa fair goes on over a month. Devotees from far eastern places of Dadrewa start arriving from the beginning of the auspicious month of Bhaadra. These devotees are commonly known as purbia (those who belong to east). The largest of these fairs is held in the district of Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh. The festival is quite similar to another festival of Nag Panchami, which is also dedicated to snakes and snake god.

It is a common sight to see people with snakes lying around their necks. It is common belief among devotees that Gogaji will protect them from snakes.

According to a folklore in and around his birthplace Dadrewa it is believed that if someone picks up even a stick from johra (a barren land which has a sacred pond in Dadrewa), it would turn into a snake. Devotees of Gogaji worship him when they get a snake bite and apply sacred ash (bhabhoot) on the bite as an immediate remedy.

In addition to the fairs, huge processions in honour of Gogaji are also taken out in various cities. People also visit the Guga Mari temples where they perform special puja as a part of the festivities. People also tie rakhis on the hands of Gogaji as an assurance of protection from harm.

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