Nepal is a country rich in age-old art, culture, and heritage. It is the land with a heady mixture of unique and scenic nature and diverse culture.
The peaceful coexistence of multiple religions and the age-old tradition are unique among the cultures of Nepal.
Nepal’s culture, festivals, art and many other artistic objects are dynamic, enthralling events for all. The influx of new sights and sounds are full of energy and life, and rich with genuine excitement.
Nepal’s wonderful cultural heritage is an invaluable resource, one which the Nepalese are striving to preserve.
Among many festivals Shree Swasthani Brata is one of them. The solemn worshipping of Goddess Shree Swasthani (the Hindu deity known for miraculously granting wishes made in solemn state by pure souls) in every Hindu household begins on in January (Poush Shukla Poornima) according to Hindu Vedic calendar.
This year (2020) the month long telling of tales of Lord Shiva and many other gods and goddess focusing on the Goddess Swasthani was started on 10th of January and ended today 9th February-Sunday.
To mark this Swasthani Katha, (Swasthani Tale) women take brata (fasting), for the wellbeing of their husbands or in order to get a good moral husband, for a month long, wearing every thing red which is a sign of good luck for Nepalese women.
The month long holy occasion takes place on the bank of rivers. However, in Kathmandu the festival takes place at Salinadi, a well-known and related river with the Swasthani brata katha, situated in Sankhu, the eastern part of Kathmandu.
Besides this, notwithstanding the chilly winter, every member of a family infallibly gathers in a room, clean and sanctified, in the morning or evening (suitable accordingly) where the deity is worshipped collectively, amid chanting of holy hymns from Shree Swasthani Brata Katha scripture recording divine feats of Swasthani Devi and later, the elderly male or female member or Guru read aloud the Brata Katha.
Innumerable episodes, a breakdown in thirty-one chapters, depicting the Bhaktas’ (devotees’) sufferings, and later, being redeemed, in a state of salvation, are read aloud and solemnly listened to by everyone in the winter evening with the Guru or the elderly member chanting the hymns in Sanskrit languages or translated version in vernacular Nepali usually do so in a state of fasting so as to purge themselves for the holy purposes while others listen to him in a spellbound manner.
The Shree Swasthani Barta Katha as the holy ceremony is sacredly called is widely observed by people of Hindu belief.
An unflinching belief coupled with high reverence to the deity among Hindu perhaps, remain a strong force of motivation. The belief that anyone observing the holy ceremony for a month is attains a state of purity and solemnity by strictly adhering to the rituals prescribed and will have his/her wishes, whatsoever, granted. This has added to the seriousness of the ceremony.
Goddess Shree Swasthani is portrayed as a four-handed deity with charka, trishul, sword and lotus in each hand sitting at the centre while Asta Matrika eight deities of power) namely Mahakali, Baishanavi, Brahmi Maheswari, Kaumeshori, Barahi, Indrayani and Chamunda remain around her.
The Brata-Katha (tales related to miraculous feats performed by goddess Swasthani), not merely enlist the omniscient Goddess’ miraculous presence at the time of need of her suffering and wretched Bhaktas (devotee), which has been repeatedly picturized, but also her supremacy over other deities of power, in Hinduism, has been tried to establish.
In the first few chapters, episodes related to Lord Shiva’s wife Satidevi’s sufferings and her bearing them with greater fortitude and, eventually, Shree Swasthani rescuing her from her troubles and agonies, are explained.
Lord Shiva’s wife sanctifying her soul summons Goddess Swasthani by power of her prayer and harbour the deity in her soul which enables her to bear all kinds of pain and sufferings the sufferings which befell on her due to Lord Shiva’s approach towards his wife Satidevi.
Despite undergoing sufferings as in the state of purgation, Satidevi ultimately wins Lord Shiva who eventually showers love and affections towards his wife and take her to his abode in Kailash Parbat where finally they settle and live together.
The tales virtually convenes the message that even those in divine province too, suffered worldly pains and agonies, and it is Shree Swasthani who rescued them when demons and demi-Gods perpetrated atrocities against a deity of the deities.
Equally, the unearthly humans too, can rely on her divine helping hands provided they too, pray in state of solemnity with purity of their souls.
Though wishes are widely believed to be fulfilled and troubles alleviated, the rituals required for strict adherences may not always be easy for materialistic and luxury-loving human folks.
Before sitting oneself for observing the Shree Swasthani Brata Katha, one must purge himself a day in advance by cutting his nails, trimming his hair and taking only one swatik (vegetarian) meal a day.
The next day-the beginning day of Shree Swasthani Brata Katha –one who committed to observe the brata in utmost austerity required by rituals, should pledge in heart that he or she would continue it until the completion of the story. Then right from that day for a complete one month.
Early morning shower is a must to keep oneself clean, then after refreshing oneself, the pooja (worshipping) of Shree Swasthani begins. In the afternoon, all required holy stuffs for pooja must be ready for the evening chanting of brata- katha. The routine shouldn’t break. It should go on uninterrupted for a complete one month from the date of commencement.
Every day after the Sunset, before supper or even after supper, the brata katha episodes must be read aloud amid the gatherings of family members and neighbours, who are expected to listen to them, in a state of solemnity. However, some people also tell the tales in the morning too.
At the completion of chanting hymns, the phool prasad (holy flower and fruits) are to be distributed among all those listening to brata katha. Shree Swasthani’s blessing is showered not only on those reading aloud the tales but equally on those who listen to it.
On the concluding day of brata katha, after the completion of the month, the final ritual takes place. On that day on a copper plate holy symbol of Om Kar is to be painted and a Shiva Linga of holy sand is to be erected on it. Later, in state of solemnity, with required holy worshipping, pooja (worshipping) of Shiva Linga takes place, in this way Shree Swasthani Barta Katha comes to end.