Every year during the full moon of Poush Shukla, devotees flock to the holy river of Shali Nadi in Sankhu to offer their prayers to Goddess Swasthani and God Madhav Narayan. Devotees fast for their family’s prosperity till the next full moon. During the month family members read the book of Swasthani.
The month includes various rites and rituals performed for prosperity and well being, devotees arrive at the holy river before the crack of dawn. Offer their prayers at the Madhav Narayan temple, take a holy dip in the river and perform various rituals. The Swasthani Brata Katha believed to be first written in Newari is a sacred text based on the Goddess Swasthani. Goddess Swasthani is believed to be a four handed goddess placed in the centre of the Asta Matrika’s. The Asta Matrika’s ( Brahmayani, Maheswori, Kumari, Vaishnavi, Indrayani, Barahi, Chamunda and Mahalaksmi), are protective deities worshipped in the Newar pantheon who are the feminine energy (Shakti) of Brahma,Vishnu,Shiva, and Indra. The ancient cities of Kathmandul, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur are protected by a ring of Asta Matrika temples.
Swasthani Brata Katha is a tale narrated by Lord Kumar also known as Kartikay, the elder son of Loed Shiva and goddess Parvati, to Shanta Muni Agasthi about the formation of the universe. The tale begins with ‘Kumar Ji Agya Garnu Huncha Hey Agasthi Muni‘ which means ‘Lord Kumar Shall Ask Agasthi Muni’. The chapters in the book is mainly about the devotees who performed sins due to their ignorance and were rescued by goddess Swasthani after they performed fasting and puja to please her. Some of the scriptures are focused on goddess Parvati and some about Sati Devi, (Lord Shiva’s first wife) and goddess Swasthani recuing her from her dismay.
The mention of Sali River (Nadi), situated in Sankhu, in the Swasthani Brata Katha makes it a major holy place for the revellers to visit during the month of Swasthani.