Kathmandu [Nepal], January 17 (ANI): Separated from other devotees in an isolated area on embankments of Sali Nadi in Sankhu on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Hindu women donned in maroon red outfits sit next to the live-fire as they continue their month-long fast.
They tail down to the flowing river and take the holy dips in chilling water which they would continue for a month in the holy river "Salinadi" which has greater significance and due mention on the religious book of "Swosthani" which is recited throughout the fast.
"At the time of fasting, we establish a Shivalinga made of sand, take bath in the early morning, recite the story of Swosthani or listen to the verses recited by others and eat only sacred foods," Laxmi Khadka, one of the devotees, said.
For a month, the devotees get up at 4 in the morning after the conch is blown by priests which means the alarm for the fasting devotees. After getting up, they go down to the 'Salinadi' and start taking bath when Lord Madhav Narayan is also showered up in the temple. After taking bath, the devotees start performing the rituals.
Later, Lord Madhav Narayan is taken out on tour and there is 'Srahastra Dhara' on the head of Mahav Narayan; after offering Jal (sacred water) the fasting devotees can go to their room and eat items that are cooked on their own.
Devotees who take on fast for a month don't eat food cooked by others which excludes 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 started 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 described in Skandha Purana, belonging to the Hindu Secondary Scripture. It also has directives that tell about do's and don'ts to be followed while undertaking a month-long fast that has been followed in the long run.
Goddess Swosthani is worshipped throughout the 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 books which comprises 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 Salinadi which also is the reason for people to flock to a 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 prays for the well-being and progress of their spouse and children.
Special arrangements have been made on the banks of Salinadi for the convenience of devotees in Sankhu of Kathmandu as the COVID-19 pandemic is still on. On the final day of the fasting, all the offering made to the goddess is immersed in the river.
"This year we have not allowed the full-scale fair to commence here. It is just a continuation of fasting rituals and we only are allowing the daily worships and processions on small scale to commence," Mijendra Kaji Shrestha, Chairman of Salinadi fair management committee told ANI when asked about the commencement of fair despite the COVID pandemic.
"We only get the chance to worship Madhav Narayan once in a year at this time only. We hereby have requested all the devotees who throng here to worship Madhav Naryan to be inoculated with both the two doses of COVID-19 otherwise they wouldn't be allowed to visit the temple and we have arranged masks and sanitisers for the devotees as well," Shrestha added.
Nepal in recent weeks has seen a surge in COVID-19 infection confirming new cases averaging four thousand on daily basis. The Himalayan Nation in the last 24 hours (till Sunday evening) recorded a total of 4,961 new cases of coronavirus while 435 infected patients recovered.
Of the confirmed cases, 4,534 were detected through the RT-PCR method and 427 from the antigen method. Likewise, there are 2,545 cases in Kathmandu, 328 in Bhaktapur and 474 in Lalitpur, taking the total cases in the valley to 3,347 in the past 24 hours.
According to the Ministry of Health and Population, there was three coronavirus-related death reported in the past 24 hours. With this, the COVID-19 death toll in the country is 11,620 to date. There are 25,680 active cases of coronavirus in Nepal as of Sunday. (ANI)