After chanting a month, the month long Shree Swasthani Brata Katha festival devoted to goddess Shree Swasthani, which began on the full moon of Poush concluded on Saturday, the full moon of Magh.
Swasthanikatha is dedicated to Shiva and Parbati. However, this is a practice to tell various aspects of religious values and faith .
Goddess Shree Swasthani is portrayed as a four-handed deity with a charka, trishul, sword and lotus in each hand sitting in the centre while Asta Matrika or eight deities of power – Mahakali, Baishanavi, Brahmi Maheswari, Kaumeshwari, Barahi, Indrayani and Chamunda are depicted around her.
On the occasion large crowds throng Salinadi, Gaurighat the banks of the river to observe the last day of the festival. The popular Hindu festival which is celebrated during the winter is considered auspicious for married women to pray for the prosperous lives of their husbands while the unmarried ones fast to be blessed with suitable grooms.
The holy book Swasthani is read throughout the month. The devotees take a holy bath in the morning and wear fresh clothes, trim their finger and toe nails and eat only after praying and reading the book the entire month.
Donned in marron red outfits, women here gathered at the banks of Salinadi river on early Tuesday morning to take dips and worship Lord Madhav Narayan.
After offering prayers, the women will eat food devoid of salt and other spices and that too only once a day. Braving the winter chill, the devotees follow the same rituals for the entire month to celebrate the festival of Shree Swasthani Brata Katha.
The festival, which kickstarted on January 10, with the worship of Hindu deity Swasthani and recitation of religious sermons, will conclude on the next full moon day.
Hindus in Nepal read one chapter out of 31 lessons a day from the religious book 'Swasthani' which comprises of stories including tales on creation of the world, Hindu deities and demons.
Devotees, who take on fast for a month, do not eat foods cooked by others. They only eat rice, beaten rice, sugar, ghee, sugar candy, molasses, spinach from Patan, peas amongst those considered sacred.
The 'Swasthani' book mainly tells the story of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati that is described in Skandha Purana, belonging to the Hindu's secondary scripture. It also has directives which states about do's and dont's to be followed while undertaking a month-long fast that has been followed on a long run.
The scripture also has a section that states about the start of observing fast which brought in prosperity and happiness and mentions about Salinadi which is also is the reason for the people to flock to a particular place to observe the fast.
The sermon recited for a month also mentions that Goddess Parvati prayed to Goddess Swasthani to become Lord Shiva's wife because of which unmarried females also observe fast praying to get a suitable groom.
The married men, on the other hand, pray for the well-being and progress of their spouses and children.
Special arrangements have been made on the banks of Salinadi for the convenience of devotees in Sankhu area of Kathmandu.
On the final day of the fasting, all the offerings made to the goddess is immersed in the river.