On the first Monday of Shrawan this, I met a 10-year-old girl, Sarita Giri. In between conversation, she said had kept fast praying to Lord Shiva to bless her in her studies. Sarita’s parents live in Biratnagar so she here lives in Maitidevi with one of her aunts, and helps around in household chores. For her Shrawan fast, on the very first day of the month, she decorated her palms with mehendi. She even wore red, green and yellow bangles, and kept fasting for whole day like adult women do.
Shrawan, fourth month in the lunar calendar, is a month devoted to Lord Shiva. Many married and unmarried females keep Shrawan fast every Monday. Where married ones fast for their respective husband’s long-life, unmarried one fast praying for a good husband. They get up early morning and worship Lord Shiva, chanting mantras for prosperous and happy life.
I’m now used to seeing women clad in red and green this month. But, meeting Sarita, I realized the trend is common in younger girls as well though their reasons were different. Nevertheless, she had also joined the mass who had their wrists full of tri-colored beads and palms full of different designs of mehendi. I got curious and asked her why she was fasting like the adults. What she said melted my heart, “One year ago my father died and mom went into depression. She asked me to keep fasting for my better education. I am her only support so I decided to do so she won’t have to worry about me.”
Adhering to her mother words, she stayed empty stomach whole day and plans to fast today too. After talking to her, I found out she was not the only one though. In Padma Kanya Vidhyashram School, other girls from age nine to 16 too fast every Monday in Shrawan. Some have kept Shrawan fasts following their elder ones, some for their studies while some were being forced by their parents to do so. “Every Monday of Shrawan, I only eat fruits and some fresh juice because mother said we need to fast and eat only pure food on those days,” said Sushila Kumari Gupta of the same school.
On the other hand, those who want to keep the fast cannot as they like for various reasons. Manisha Basnet, a 10th grader, loves to decorate her palm with mehendi but is sad that her teachers don’t allow it, as it’s against the dress code. But she also didn’t get to keep fast. “I had plans to start Shrawan fast from this year. But, my family said to begin fast from this (odd) year is bad luck so they didn’t let me,” said Manisha.
However, not every girl believes the tradition of fasting. Some think the tradition is a blind belief and don’t agree that women staying on empty stomach whole day will fulfill their wishes. Sunita Karki, student of Master in Child Development from Padmakanya College, has never kept fast her entire life. In fact, she doesn’t have plans to fast even in the coming days. “I don’t believe staying empty stomach fulfills our wishes. Empty stomach only gives you gastroenteritis. It’s just their superstitious beliefs.” says Sunita.
There are also some women who keep the fast neglecting their health, I would really like to request all to take care of their health. It’s okay to follow traditions but if fasting doesn’t agree with your body, it is also okay that you don’t fast. Your husband, would-be husband and even Lord Shiva will understand.
Different women have different opinions but most of the Hindu women continue to keep fast during the month of Shrawan. They visit different Lord Shiva temples and stay hungry all day no matter how hard it is. They say it’s their belief in Lord Shiva that gives them strength to stay hungry and keep going.
Happy Shrawan to all!!!