Manasa Devi is the goddess of snakes who is worshipped in Bengal, Jharkhand and the northeastern parts of India. She mainly worshipped for preventing snakebites, curing them, blessing the humans with fertility and prosperity. Manasa was a tribal goddess. She is also known as Jaguli. She is the wife of sage Jaratkaru. Astika is her son and Vasuki is her brother. Vasuki is the king of snakes whose name has often been mentioned in the ancient Puranas. Vishahara which means to be a destroyer of poison is used as an adjective to her name along with Padmavati and Nitya.
Manasa is a very strong-headed goddess. Due to her life stories and being rejected by her parents, she is very harsh when it comes to people who do not wish to worship her. However, after this is said it is also important to know that she is caring, loving and empathetic towards the devotees that wish to pray to her. Manasa’s appearance is described to be covered with snakes. The reason she is called Padmavati might be due to her sitting on the lotus. She is also described to be standing on a snake. She is sheltered safely by a hood created by seven cobras. She is also depicted with a child on her lap at times which is assumed to be Astika, her son.
Manasa’s story has been described in various Puranas including the Mahabharata. This ancient epic tells the world about her marriage with sage Jagatkaru. Sage did not want to get married and practised every ritual to get away from marriage. One fine day he saw a few men hanging upside down from a tree. When he went closer, he found that they were no one else but his ancestors. They were in such a condition due to their children not fulfilling their last rites properly. They requested and advised Jagatkaru to get married and birth a son who would do the job of freeing them from their miseries by performing all the ceremonies in the correct manner.
Vasuki, the king of snakes and brother of Manasa offered her hand to Jagatkaru in marriage. Jagatkaru accepted and got married to Manasa. She gave birth to Astika who fulfilled his duties properly and gave eternal happiness to the ancestors. Astika being closely related to the Nagas helped to save the race when a yajna was being planned to destroy the entire race of snakes. Some versions of the story of Manasa’s marriage tell the tale of how Kashyapa, her father got Manasa married to sage Jaratkaru. Jaratkaru had some conditions before he married Manasa. He made her promise to never disobey him or he would leave her to not return again.
One day, Jaratkaru was woken up late by Manasa which made him delayed in his worship. He left her temporarily but the Hindu gods convinced him to go back and accept her. He did this but to leave his wife once again.
There are myths around the power of Manasa. There is a story that suggests that Manasa saved Lord Shiva after he drank poison and hence she was started to be called a remover of poison. Manasa Devi is worshipped with a branch of a tree, pot or snake image. She is majorly worshipped on the day of Naga Panchami, a festival celebrating snakes. She is truly a powerful goddess with unmatched powers.