The ordeals of the rituals one has to go through during these chilly mornings would make an onlooker question the extent of one’s faith.
The month-long festival of Madhav Narayan commences on the full moon day of Poush, the ninth month of Bikram Sambat. Since the first day, devotees practice a strict fasting in reverence to Lord Madhav Narayan and Shree Swasthani for the entire month. People make their way to the holy rivers—especially in Bhaktapur, Panauti, Sankhu, Pashupati—and begin preparing for the rituals for the day before the day breaks, backed by the echoing sounds of conch shells.
Songs of prayers fill the paatis of surrounding temples, and religious tales of the lord and the goddess, especially the tale of Swasthani, are retold among an entranced audience of devotees every evening.
Women are endowed with the duty of taking care that the rituals are not disrupted in any way.
The ordeals of the rituals one has to go through during these chilly mornings would make an onlooker question the extent of one’s faith. The age is no bar or excuse to not abide by the strict rituals of the ceremony. Devotees, young and old, wrapped up in nothing but a flimsy muslin dhoti, roll their way to the sacred river over a white path of cloth chanting strings of “Madhav Narayan, Madhav Narayan”, occasionally stopping at points where fires are made to keep them warm.
Women are endowed with the duty of taking care that the rituals are not disrupted in any way. They clear and sweep the way the devotees take, gradually spreading the cloth that goes up to the river, and light up fires along the way to help them survive the cold. No other being is allowed to even touch the devotees while they perform the rituals.