Significance of the Month of Shrawan in Nepal
The Nepali annual calendar is full of life and filled with celebrations and festivals enjoyed by communities from different castes, ethnicities, and religions. Shrawan (July/August), the fourth month of the Nepali calendar, reflects greenery in the environment and in the lifestyle of women.
The entire month of Shrawan is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the supreme deity in Hinduism. Devotees offer their prayers and seek blessings from Shiva for success, prosperity, and a better conjugal life. Shrawan is filled with religious celebrations.
It is said that samundra manthan (the churning of the ocean) took place during Shrawan. Through that process, a number of valuable rubies emerged from the sea along with the halahal (a deadly poison with the potential to destroy the world). Lord Shiva came to the rescue by consuming the poison himself. It is believed that his neck turned blue due to the poison’s toxic effects, thus earning him the name Nilkantha (the one with a blue throat). The other gods came to help Lord Shiva using the water from the Ganges. He wore crescent moon over his head to reduce the effect of poison and maintains the temperature of his body. It is also believed that Lord Indra came to help by showering him with rain to reduce his body temperature. This is why water (particularly of the Ganges), leaves of the bel plant (bilva leaves), and milk are offered to Lord Shiva during Shrawan to earn good fortune.
Fasting and Bolbam
Shrawan is one of the most sacred months of the year in the Nepali calendar, and people devote themselves to religious activities. Although devotees visit temples regularly, it is believed that offering prayers on Mondays during Shrawan has special significance. People perform pilgrimages, also known as bolbam, barefoot and in orange attire to bring pure water from the holy river and offer it in temples to Lord Shiva. There are different practices of fasting. Some avoid grains, salt, oils, and spices on this particular day only, whereas others avoid meat, garlic, onion, and ginger for an entire month. Mostly Hindu women and girls continue fasting during this month. A married woman observes a fast for their husband’s healthy life while unmarried women do so in the hope of finding a better life partner.
Henna and Bangles
Nepali women and girls are often seen wearing green and orange attire, hennas, and bangles to mark this month. Nepalese markets are filled with brightly colored accessories and apparel for the whole month. The green color signifies not only the cultural spirit but also the environment, which is verdant after the monsoon season. Married women can be seen wearing colorful glass bead necklaces, known as potay, a symbol of marriage in the Hindu culture. The potay is an important piece gifted by a groom to his bride during the wedding ceremony.