KATHMANDU – Nepal’s Hindu community began on Tuesday celebrations for the Swasthani festival, during which devotees bathe in various sacred rivers to wash away their sins and pray for prosperity.
The religious festival, also known as Madhav Narayan, is dedicated to Shiva – the god of destruction – and the goddess Swasthani; and hundreds of thousands of participants gather on the river-banks in Nepal for the ceremonies.
“We are expecting over two million devotees to come for the bath here during the festival period,” Jeevan Shrestha, the vice-chairman of the festival organization committee for the Salinadi river – outside Kathmandu –, told EFE.
Festival goers also visit other river banks including Hanumanghat, located about 15 kilometers from the capital, for ceremonies where the women dress in red and the men roll around on the ground before taking a dip in the water.
“Taking holy baths in the rivers during the festival period (...) washes out the sins committed by an individual,” Uttam Baral, a Hindu priest, told EFE.
The celebrations include night-long recitals of the story of Swasthani, a 31-chapter legend which narrates the origins of the Earth, the suicide of Swasthani – the first wife of Shiva – and how Parvati became his second wife.
“It is believed reciting these stories pleases goddess Swasthani who grants wishes to the devotees to overcome their troubles,” Baral said.
The festival – which is unique to Nepal – includes worship of the goddess in various rituals at different locations.
Hindus form 81 percent of Nepal’s 30 million people, while around 9 percent of the population is Buddhist.