We had a lovely surprise yesterday. 12 pilgrims coming for this Swostinika Ko Puja Festival came to stay with us at the Star View Guest House for the night. We could only take about 12 guests, but many others stayed overnight with local villagers. This morning everyone enjoyed puja at the nearby pine forest.
This festival is one only for serious devotees of Shiva and Prabati. The devotees wear no shoes and only the red robes. They literally eat only once a day without salt, take only cold baths in the river and walk during this 30 day pilgrimage. They walk barefoot from Pharfing, all the way on the other side of the Kathmandu Valley, to Pashupatinath and then to Changunarayan and then to Saku.
Why would anyone do such a thing? The reasons vary, but they all have one thing in common. They have a strong desire for a blessing. This pilgrimage offers an amazing opportunity to demonstrate to the gods that they are truly serious with their wish. From days gone by until now this is a proven way to get the gods' attention.
In these pictures you can see a pole and a little fire and incense at the base of the pole. The pitcher represents the god with many items for worship nearby. One might expect the devotees of such a difficult month to be sad and downcast, but quite the opposite is the case. In fact, it is a Hindu belief that one must smile and be as happy as if the blessing has already been received. You can find a mirror at every Hindu temple so devotees can check to see if they are happy enough to receive.
The meaning of Swostinika Ko regards telling of a story. In this case it can be thought of as the devotees gaining access to Shiva and Pravoti, Ganesh's parents, to tell their story. From this puja the devotees will be able to gain a listening ear of these two deities. We have admiration for anyone this devoted to their god. A few months ago Birbahadur, our next door neighbor, did a pilgrimage and his life took a lovely turn. We know for all of these devotees that their wishes are being answered, too. And so blessed they are!