Nepali women light up their closets with greens and yellows as the month of Shrawan swings in. It is considered the holiest month of the year. Women dress in green, red, and yellow saris and bangles and fill their hands with intricate henna ‘mehndi’ drawings. This festival recites stories of love amongst families.
It is believed that Goddess Parvati took month-long fasting ‘vrat’ to pray to have her true love Lord Shiva as her husband. Her wish came true as Lord Shiva married her right after. That is why all women fast on the first day of Shrawan and every Monday, also known as ‘Shrawan somvar’. These days, they also visit temples to worship Lord Shiva.
After a busy month of Ashar in the fields, the beginning of Shrawan are days of joy and celebration in the villages. By the end of Ashar, all the plantation is wrapped up and on the first day of Shrawan, families gather and visit the temple. After working in the summer heat for days, many tend to get rashes and allergies. Many cultures perform a ritual called ‘Luto Faalne’, where luto refers to a kind of skin condition. People believe doing this helps them bid goodbye to any possible disease or heal any diseases that a family member is suffering through as well.
“This is the time of the year when my granddaughters come to live with me–that is why it is so special to me,” shares 62-year-old Sitambara from Tokha shares. “They help me on the farm and then they insist to put mehndi on me even if I deny it at first because of my frail hands,” she laughs. To her, this day reminds of how beautifully her family has grown and after every plantation season, she looks forward to bringing together the family at her home.
32-year-old Kaashi visits her hometown Rolpa from Kathmandu every Shrawan to sit beside her 75-year-old grandmother who spends this day worshiping God and performing the ‘Luto Faalne’ ritual to wish wellness for her kids and grandkids. “My grandmother lives there with my aunt, while the rest of the family members are scattered around Kathmandu and even abroad,” she says, “Even if I am not a very religious person myself, I want to make sure I go to her every year on this time to make sure she knows that she is just as important to me as I am to her–this is what Shrawan Sankranti means to me.”
To some, it is a form of sharing love. Women gather together to put on mehndi on each other and celebrate with pujas and easts. “As a kid, I remember every year on Shrawan I used to sit with my mom and aunties and make them put Mehendi on my tiny hands too–I absolutely loved the designs,” shares 26-year-old Samara, “Slowly I learned to draw on my own hands, and now all my aunties come to my house and I do their Mehendi. It brings us all together and this day is very close to my heart.”
Akriti, 29, shares how this day builds a beautiful bond with her father. “My mother passed away when I was very young, and I lived with my dad and grandparents for most of my life. Every Shrawan Sankranti, my dad used to buy matching sari and dress, and bangles for me and my grandmom that I absolutely loved to wear. Now I realize it was my dad's way of showing love to the women in his life.”
Aanchal, only 7, comes hopping in with her clattering bangles as her 35-year-old mother Subarna is sharing her Shrawan story. “When I tell her I will only eat fruits for the day because I am on a fast on that day, she pretends she is also fasting and refuses to eat lunch at all,” Subarna laughs as she embraces little Aanchal on her lap. “Even if she has lived in Australia almost all her life, it fills my heart to see how interested she already is in our culture and so our recent move back to Nepal has been an easy settlement for her.”
Green and yellow, in modern Nepal, symbolizes togetherness and love. It resonates with the spark of being close to our culture one has been taught and has learned to hold very close to their hearts. It connects to the feeling of home.