In Hinduism, there are many religious fast done, worshipping different deities. These kinds of religious fast could last for one day to one month. However, the intensity of fast increases as the days for fast rise. One such rigorous month-long fast is taken for Goddess Shree Swasthani and God Madhav Narayan.
Hindu women observe the fast along with the recitation of 31 chaptered scripture the Shree Swasthani Brata Katha. The stories in the scripture highlight the miracles of the goddess, in order to receive her blessings. The scripture also contains tales about Lord Shiva, Goddess Parbati and other Gods.
The fasting (Brata) that lasts for a month falls during January and February every year starting from Poush Sukhla Purnima (Full Moon Day of 9th month) and ends on the day of Magh Sukla Purnima (Full Moon Day of 10th month)
In Kathmandu, the festival takes place at Shalinadi, a river mentioned in the scripture. The devotees stay at Sankhu as the holy river of Salinadi is in Sankhu. Sankhu is just 17km far from Kathmandu and it is one of the oldest Newa civilization of Nepal. And this is the center for devotees during Swasthani Brata.
According to the myth, Chadrawati who was cursed by the god, took an advice from a fairy and went through tough fasting beside this river to please Goddess Swasthani. Later when she succeeded to please the goddess, she got freed from all her sins and was granted with the blessings. Thereafter, fasting during this period beside Salinadi has been a tradition.
During the fasting period the devotees take a holy bath in the morning. Then they wear fresh clothes, trim their finger- and toe-nails and eat only after praying and reciting. Married women observe a fast to pray for the prosperous life of their husbands. Meanwhile, the unmarried ones fast to get a good husband.
The devotees go on pilgrimages to various temples, perform religious rituals, and take a holy bath in the rivers. They fast for a month, especially among women who believe fasting helps in their family’s well-being or in getting them a good husband.
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Cover: Seezal’s Photography