There are many festivals in Nepali lifestyle. The Lunar calendar is the guiding the schedule for the ritual and religious events around the year. Moreover, each event bears a significant importance and ethical values with stories behind to tell as well.
The month-long Swasthaani Brata is one of such events. The Brata (fasting) and worship of Lord Shiva, Narayan, Parvati, Goma, and Chandrabati take place at the riverside of Shalinadi at Sankhu (now in Shankharapur Municipality). The river links to some important stories and tells and considered as a divine river. This is a tributary of the Bagmati River which has a huge significance upon the entire Bagmati civilization.
The month long Brata starts from the full moon day in the month of Paush (usually in December) and conclude on the full moon day in the month of Maagh (usually in January). However, the one month event will take place from January 25 to February 24.
Taking bath at the Shalinadi and observing a month-long Brata followed by everyday recitation of Swasthani Bratakatha (the story of Goddess Swasthaani) is the everyday schedule for the participants and the priests.
The participants and priests travel to Bhaktapur, Changunarayan, Pharping, Panauti and Pashupati during the month.
Goddess Swasthani is unquestionably considered as the deity for good luck, purification, ego eradication, and happy life.
Shree Swasthani Bratakatha is derived from the Magh mahatmya series of Skanda Puraana, stories are narrated by Lord Kumara to the ancient Rhishi Agastyamuni. These series have 31 chapters and each chapter narrates a different lesson.
The households recite the story in the morning or evening for the month.
Shree Swasthani Bratakatha is one among those stories which explains the creation of this universe, social structures, patience, responsibility, salvation and manifestation of a newer form of humanity into its listeners.
The story moves forward with Lord Shiva and Paarvati turned later from Satidevi. Once, Daksha parajapati, father of Satiadevi insulted Lord Shiva and Satidevi could not tolerate that situation and got into the fire of Hawan and ended life. Then Lord Shiva being much angry destroyed everything that Dakshaprajapati was organising the holy Hawan. After that Lord Shiva goes around carrying the decayed body of Satidevi. Gradually the body parts start falling and wherever parts fell, a religious place was emerged. The places mentioned are all around the Kathmandu Valley.
Later, Paarvati was born to Himalaya Parvat. That is considered as a rebirth of Satidevi. Parvati starts a holy fasting for a month wishing Lord Shiva to be her groom. That comes to be true in the story and on an occasion she teaches others to take holy fasting for a month to attain health and happiness of the spouse and family.
Moreover, Swasthani is encyclopedic covering a wide range of topics such as love story, theology, philosophy, cosmology, gods, kings, heroes, sages, normal people, pilgrimages, medicine, grammar and more.
As mentioned in the story, a leprosy suffered Chandrabati regained her health, social status and good fortune after worshipping goddess Swasthani and taking holy dips in the Shalinadi.
The story of Swasthani mentions King Nawaaraj was ruling the country called Labanya. It is belived that Labanya is the old name of Sankhu which once was a separate kingdom.
Nabaraj became a king after his mother observed Swasthani fasting. His consort Chandrabati became a leper after insulting goddess Swasthani. Later, she became remorseful and worshipped the goddess which made her healthy again, according to the story.
There stands a large rock at bank of the Shali River which people worship as the symbol of Chandrabati.
In the concluding of the Swasthani Brata, various types of foods are prepared to mark this auspicious occasion, every food, flower, and Prasaad must be divided into 108 pieces as 108 is the auspicious number in the Hindu tradition. Out of every 108 pieces, 8 pieces are offered to husband and if there is no husband then to son and if there is no son then to offer for aquatic creatures by flowing them in the river. Male devotee shall offer these eight pieces to wife and if there is no wife then to son/daughter whoever is available and if that’s not possible then similarly can be flowed in a river.