People used to know India as worshipers of cow and snakes in the past. Things have changed in the 21st century a lot(I mean the perception of India as land of cows and snakes with beggars on the road) due to globalization and IT/ITES sector.
On a trip to New York I met one cop. On a casual chat he asked me do you Indians dance on the road? I said no. Then I asked why he felt so? He said he watched some Bollywood movies.
I was amazed that a white cop had seen an Indian movie. Well I told him that Hollywood movies gives perception of violence and sex as a common thing in west to Indians (I hope people will agree with me except the Hollywood graphics which is amazing). After the success of Jai Ho, world has officially acknowledged Indian cinema and music (though the movie was made by a foreign director with Indian cast and music).
Irrespective of globalization, a lot of Hindu cultures and faith still remain intact among the followers. Though Gen-X seems to be distancing them from tradition, the proportion of people following customs is greater than vice veraa.
Today is “naag panchami”. People especially in north and west India worship snake god (Naag/Cobra). This festival comes during the shravan month (shravan lasts for a month and ends before Ganesha chaturthi. People do not eat non veg food and some people do not eat garlic and onion too)
Women specially fast on the occasion of naag panchami. Devotees offer milk to snake god and feel lucky if snakes drink it (scientist claim that snakes cannot digest milk but this cannot beat the belief). In lot of places, farmers do not tilt lands today respecting the serpent god. Special food is prepared and served to cows and crows on the name of dead parents by their children. In Marathi homes they prepare a sweet made from jagery, coconut and rice flour. I am missing it this month because I am away from home.
One of the relatively similar festivals of worshiping snakes is shivrathri where the India god Shiva is worshiped. Lord Shiva has a snake around his neck(Snake is supposed to be lord shiva ornament). People think it as auspicious if snake milk during this shivrathri.
Irrespective of belief, i think the reason for origination of this festival is different. People panic on seeing a snake but on such Hindu festivals people feel lucky to get a vision of snake. Probably these festival might have been one way to protect cobra. It Might be, but today lot of snake charmers capture cobra for making money. Most important the habitats of snake are getting destroyed by human encroachments. if this continues, in future we might have to celebrate naag panchami in a zoo or in front of a photo frame. Happy Naag Panchami