Swasthani Brata Katha
The Swasthani Brata Katha is written in Nepali language, however, some believe it to be written in Newari language first and it is also said that the people of Sankhu village still have the hand written Swasthani book in Newari language. However, the narration of the story in other languages differs than that in Nepali. With chakra, trishul, sword and lotus in each of her hand, Goddess Swasthani is believed to be four-handed goddess sitting in the center of Asta Matrika or eight Goddess power. The Asta Matrika is Baishanavi, Brahmi, Mahakali, Maheshwari, Kaumeshwari, Barahi, Indrayani and Chamunda.
The Katha starts on full moon day of the Nepali month of Poush (January) and lasts for a whole month until next full moon. The story of Swasthani is recited in the Nepali households during this lunar month, however, it is not compulsory to recite the story or to observe fast. Usually, the families that have been practicing this tradition for long recites the story although some might not keep fast as it is one of the toughest fast to practice.
The women who keep fast for a whole month take only one meal a day and read the story of Swasthani Mata in mid afternoon while the people who do not fast also narrate the story either early in the morning or in the evening just after the daily puja. The Swasthani Brata Katha book is worshiped with abir, kesari, sesame, barley, flowers, incent sticks and batti before the recitation. And the women who keep the fast offer dhup (incent sticks), batti (butter lamps), sesame Laddu (ball cakes) and flowers, each in the count of 108. It is believed that goddess Swasthani grants the wishes of her devotees who keep fast in her name.
Swasthani Brata Katha is a story narrated by Lord Kumar (Kartikay), elder son of Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati, to Saint Agasthi about the formation of the universe. The chapters begins with ‘Kumarji agya garnu huncha hey Agasti muni‘ which means ‘Lord Kumar states hey Saint Agasthi’. The stories in the book is mainly about the devotees who performed sins due to their ignorance and were rescued by goddess Swasthani after they performed the month long fast and puja to please her. Some of the chapters are focused on goddess Parvati and some about Sati Devi, Lord Shiva’s first wife and goddess Swasthani recuing her from her troubles and sufferings.
The mention of Sali nadi (river), situated in Sankhu VDC, in the Swasthani Brata Katha makes it a major holy place for the devotees to visit during the month of Swasthani Brata katha recitation.
People perform special symbolic worships by painting the Mahamantra Om in a copper plate and making a Shiva Linga in the plate on the symbol on the final day of the Katha. The Swasthani Brata is completed after performing the puja in the Shiva linga on the final day of the brata.