The month-long Sri Swasthani Brata Katha - dedicated to Hindu Goddess Swasthani - began today.

Generally, the festival falls on the full moon day of Poush - the ninth month of the Nepali calendar - and concludes on the next full moon. This year, it fell on the full moon day of Magh.

On the occasion, devotees thronged the Shalinadi, a holy river at Sankhu, on the northeastern outskirts of Kathmandu valley. A special arrangement was made on the banks of the Shalinadi for the convenience of devotees, the festival organising committee said.

It has been made mandatory for women devotees to test negative for COVID-19 to be eligible to observe the monthlong fasting and puja in the holy site.

Goddess Swasthani is worshipped throughout the month with priests reciting tales of Swasthani Devi, Lord Shiva and other gods. Some women devotees fast throughout the month taking meal only once a day. For the entire month, Hindus read one chapter of the religious book at home and shrines every day. The text comprises stories, including the tale of creation of the world, deities, and demons.

On the final day, all the offerings are immersed in the river.

The festival is believed to bring together estranged relatives and improve fortunes.

Meanwhile, special security arrangement was in place in and around Shalinadi to ensure safety of women devotees.