Nag Panchami / Garuda Panchami is celebrated in the month of Aashada or Shravan as per the Indian calendar.
Festival for Arch Rivals
Panchami is the fifth phase of the moon. Nag is snake and Garuda is eagle. Both are arch enemies. How come there is a festival on the same day for these 2 arch rivals?
Eagle and Snake, Arch Enemies
Let us fist understand this time of the year first. It is the month of Shravan. This means the Full Moon in this month occurs near the Shravan Star. This star is identified with Altair of Aquila constellation. This constellation is likened to an eagle in the sky.
Aquila, Shravan constellation
There are many Indian legends associated with why this constellation has been called Shravan.
Coming to the point of Garuda Panchami, this Aquila, eagle, Garuda constellation is prominent in this Shravan month as the full moon occurs here. Hence the Panchami of this month being referred to as Garuda Panchami.
Now, look at this from the point of view of the sun. When it is Full Moon, the sun is directly opposite in the sky on the other side of the earth. i.e this month, the sun will be near the Aslesha star in the sky. Aslesha star is likened to the snake, the constellation Hydra in the sky.
Hydra, Aslesha Constellatioin
Hence with reference to the sun, this Panchami is a Nag Panchami as the sun is close to Hydra, the snake.
Rivals in the Sky
The Aslesha star and the Shravan star are almost diagonally opposite in the sky being 13 stars away from each other in the lineup of 27 Nakshatra in the sky as per Indian Astronomy.
We see the snake, Nag and the eagle, Garuda to be rivals – not only on ground but also in the sky.
Is it not interesting that such a beautiful fact of astronomy has been brought out through this conjoint festival of Nag Panchami / Garuda Panchami?
It reminds us that Hydra and Aquila are opposite to each other in the sky.
It reminds us that during this time of the year, the sun is near Hydra (Aslesha) and Full Moon occurs near Aquila (Shravan).
Bringing 2 side together
These festivals are like two sides of a coin. Actually they are like two sides of the sky. Each opposite to the other.
This is perhaps why it got translated into the sentiment of women praying to the Nag, snake or tying Raksha Bandhan to pray for the safety and wellbeing of their brothers.
Is this also why, we also celebrate Friendship day to express love for our friends around this period?
It is perhaps a way of making the snake and the eagle come to respect each other.
The Nag (Hydra) and the Garuda (Aquila) indeed rule the day and the night sky respectively, throughout this month.