Hundreds of festivals and culturally valued holy days are celebrated here in Nepal. Some are solemn religious affairs, while others bring people joy and occasion to let loose. Swasthani Brata (fast) is one of those extraordinary ones, bound by piety and month-long fasting, shouldered by hindu devotees. Recitation of Swasthani Brata Katha, which is dedicated to Goddess Swasthani, starts from Poush Shukla Purnima (the full moon day in mid-January) and lasts for a month until Magh Shukla Purnima (the full moon day in mid-February).
The Swasthani Katha book has 31 chapters dealing with how a Goma Brahmani reunites with her son Nawaraj, who later becomes the king of Lawanya, as a result of Goma’s fasts. The stories are mainly about devotees, who commit sins out of ignorance but are redeemed by the grace of Goddess Swasthani. There is also the story of goddess Sati who was helped by goddess Swasthani after she burnt herself at Dakhsya Prajapati’s Yagya, after hearing her husband, Lord Shiva, being insulted. As per this legend goddess Swasthani helped Sati Devi overcome the troubles and then to reincarnate and win over Lord Shiva as her husband again. Because of these many mythical, symbolism-laden stories Swasthani Brata is undertaken with great zeal and dedication.
During the Swasthani brata, married Hindu women observe a month of fasting for the well being of their husbands, while unmarried women observe it in order to get a good husband. Women wear red colored clothes and bangles during the one-month period as it is believed that red is a sign of good luck. Devotees who take part in the brata are also not allowed to wear foot wears and can only eat one meal a day. The month-long ritual is dedicated to the stories of Swasthani Devi, God Shiva and other gods. Devotees also take a soul cleansing dip in the holy river of Sal nadi, a river located in Sankhu valley.
Hindu devotees all around the country visit this valley around the month of Magh either to offer their prayers to Goddess Swasthani, to observe the religious Salnadi fair, or to participate in the month-long fast of Madhav Narayan. Throughout the month of Poush, we can notice an entourage of people participating in this brata wearing red and white dhotis. As a part of Swasthani Brata, devotees also offer prayers to god Madhav Narayan by rolling on the ground, chanting God's name and parading with the statue of the god after taking a holy bath. The statue is paraded from Sankhu to Panauti’s Tribeni Ghat, Changu Narayan, Pashupati Nath, Pharping’s Sesh Narayan and back to Sankhu.
The journey for parading abdicates traveling by vehicles and it strictly is on foot. On the concluding day of brata katha, after the completion of the month, the final ritual takes place. That day on a copper plate the holy symbol of Om Kar is painted and a Shiva Lingam of holy sand is to be erected on it. Later, puja (worship) of the Shiva Lingam takes place. In this way Shree Swasthani Brata Katha comes to an end.