Poush and Magh are one of the important months where a month-long festival is celebrated. Swasthani Puja(Festival) begins from the full moon of Poush month of Bikram Sambat and ends on the next full moon day. Generally, it happens between January to February.
In this festival, people worship Hindu Goddess Swasthani, and Shiva is mainly focused. It is believed that Goddess Swasthani is a source of power from where the devotee can get their wishes fulfilled.
Swasthani Brata Katha
This book consists of 31 chapters that depict stories of Goma Brahmani, Lord Vishnu, Shiva, Parwati, and many more. It is a sacred book by Ancient people, derived from Skanda Purana. However, it is believed that it was first written in Nepal Bhasa as early as 693 Nepal Sambat or around 1573 A.D. by Jayanta Dev. Later, it has been translated to many common languages including English too.
Overview of Swasthani Brata Kathas
These stories are mythical stories narrated by the son of Lord Shiva and Parwati; Lord Kumar to Agasthya Muni, a saint about how this universe was formed.
Some chapters depict the story of Goma Brahmani, how she was married to 70 years old when she was just 7 years old, her struggle with social stigma, her union with her son, Nawaraj, who later became king of Lavanya as a result of Goma’s fastin
Also, it tells stories of Sati Devi, first wife of Lord Shiva, insult of her husband, how she shared a bond with goddess Swasthani during her hard times.
It also presents events of how Parwati got Lord Shiva as a husband through her devotion and fasting. Furthermore, there are stories of Lord Vishnu and other gods and goddesses.
How it is celebrated
The Swasthani Brata Katha is in fact not a festival. This is a ritual of fasting for 30 days. Every night, family members gather around, recite one chapter for 31 days every morning or night before a meal. This festival is marked by fasting all month long especially by women for the long life of their husband and welfare of their family.
It is concluded with an Ashwamegha Yagya, where devotees worship Lord Shiva for the whole night. Various foods are prepared and believed everything has to be of 108 pieces whether it be 108 flowers, 108 Sel roti, 108 fruits, 108 holy threads, and other necessary items.
Sali Nadi, a river in Sankhu, on the northeastern outskirts of Kathmandu is crowded with devotees throughout the month where thousands and thousands of devotees flock to worship goddess Swasthani.
Apart from Sali Nadi, devotees can do the one-month long pilgrimage. On the 13th day, male devotees visit Bajrayogini Temple from Sali Nadi. Thus ritual is called Dun Danegu where they lay flat on the ground with their hands stretched out front. They return to the riverside in a sane way without taking a single step.
On the 14th day, pilgrimage visits Pashupatinath Temple followed by a visit to Shesh Narayan Temple at Pharping.
On the 19th day, Tribeni Ghat of Panauti is filled with devotees whereas, on the 27th day, devotees visit Changu Narayan Temple, Bhaktapur.
It is believed that Lord Vishnu first reached at Pashupatinath Temple to collect Ek Mukhi Rudraksha, then went to Pharping to collect 108 types of flowers and to collect rice grains from Satyayog, he went to Changu Narayan Temple. The most fascinating thing is that he went all on foot. Therefore, devotees, these days follow the same but by transportation.
This is how Hindus of Nepal celebrate Swasthani Puja(festival) throughout a month. After this fast, it is believed that the sins committed out of ignorance are redeemed and we can start afresh.