Nepal concludes month-long Swasthani Brata with holy dips, fasting rituals

World Sunday 25/February/2024 08:03 AM
Nepal concludes month-long Swasthani Brata with holy dips, fasting rituals

Kathmandu: Thousands of devotees in Nepal on Saturday took the holy dips in the Salinadi River of Sankhu and broke their month-long arduous fast of Swasthani Brata performing rituals.

Dedicated to the Hindu goddess Swasthani, the fast that began on the full moon day of the Nepali month of Poush, concludes a month later.

Devotees recite everyday a tale documented in the Hindu religious texts called Skanda Puran. The story involves a conversation between two mythical characters Kumar and Agastya Rishi, a revered Vedic sage.

Hindu devotees read stories dedicated to Goddess Swasthani, Shiva and other gods and perform rituals during the festival. Swasthani is depicted as the four-handed deity possessing Chakra, Trishul, Sword and Lotus in each hand.

"The Hindu Nepali women today end the fast which they have kept for the well-being of their husband, today is the full moon night and they end their fast. They have been following this age old tradition till date," Anju Chaulagain, one of the devotees told ANI.

On the concluding day of the Brata Katha, 108 janais (holy threads), 108 beetle nuts, 108 fruits, 108 selroti (Nepali traditional sweet dish made of rice flour which is similar to doughnut in shape), a collection of verities of flowers, red sandalwood, sindoor (vermilion powder), clothes, and cash are offered to Goddess Swasthani.

From the offerings, eight are given to husband, if there is no husband then to son, and if no son then to a friend of son and if no friend then it is to be released on the nearby river by the woman who observes fast during this period.

Hindu devotees observed the festival on the banks of the historic Salinadi in Sankhu on the north-eastern outskirts of Kathmandu. Tradition says observing Goddess Swasthani festival by strictly following rituals (fasting) unites separated couples.

It also helps devotees get rid of illness, overcome trouble, get good spouse for those unmarried, and well-being of the husband if a woman is married. Some men also observe this festival.

Swasthani is the Hindu deity known for miraculously granting wishes made in a solemn state by the pure. The sacred book originated in ancient civilizations of Nepal. The book has 31 chapters which tell the story of life of various gods and goddesses. The story focuses mainly on Goddess Swasthani and Shiva.

"Goddess Parvati had kept this 'Brata' to get married to Lord Shiva and underwent this Swasthani Brata following the instructions given by Lord Narayan- Bishnu. Upon the successful completion of this brata, Parbati got Shiva as her husband, that's why this brata is best and is recommended for all," Nepali priest Jeevan Prasad said.

Skanda Purana is the largest Mahapurana, a genre of eighteen Hindu religious texts. The text contains over 81,000 verses, and is part of Shaivite literature, named after Skanda, son of Shiva and Parvati.

Devotees who take on fast for a month don't eat foods cooked by others which also exclude salt and other spices. They only eat rice, beaten rice, sugar, ghee, sugar candy, molasses, spinach from Patan, peas amongst those considered sacred.

The annual ritual of Swosthani Brata Katha starts from the full moon day of Poush (9th Month of Lunar Calendar) kick starting the recitation of the religious sermons.

The book of Swosthani mainly tells the story of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati that is decribed in Skandha Purana, belonging to the Hindu Secondary Scripture. It also has directives which states about do's and don'ts to be followed while undertaking a month long fast that has been followed on long run.

Goddess Swosthani is worshipped throughout month with priests and devotees taking on fasting along with those who aren't taking fast recite tales of Swosthani Devi, Lord Shiva and other gods.

Hindus in Nepal read one chapter a day of 31 chaptered religious book which comprises of stories including tales about the creation of the world, Hindu deities and demons.

The scripture also has a section which states about the start of taking on the fast which brought in prosperity and happiness which mentions about Salinadi which also is the reason for people to flock to particular place to take on the fast.

Religious sermon recited for a month also mentions that Goddess Parbati prayed to Goddess Swosthani to become Lord Shiva's wife because of which unmarried females also take on the fast praying to get a suitable groom. The married one on the other hand pray for the well-being and progress of their spouse and children.

In case of illness/injury within the period of fasting, devotees are not subjected to medical assistance-it should be cured by natural process. Even if the leg is injured during the journey, ointment or other medicine should not be used. That is why this fast is considered as one of the toughest fast practices.

This hard penance by the devotees indeed results in fulfillment of the wishes and desires. The month-long ritual ends with immersing all the offerings made to the goddess into the river.