Swasthani

Last week’s full moon marked the beginning of a new month in the Nepali calendar. One of the rituals of this month is the reading of a book of Hindu mythology called “Swasthani.” As mentioned before—even after 7 years of knowing P, there are always bits of culture that I am picking up along the way—and Swasthani is one such new piece.

I was introduced to Swasthani a few months ago when I saw an English language edition on S-di’s bookshelf. I didn’t know the significance of the book, but asked if I could take it home to read. Inevitably it wound up on my pile of “to read” books, and there it sat.

Then last week P and D were talking about the reading of Swasthani (unusual—since neither ever talk about reading, conversations are more often about soccer, drinking tea, or eating). It piqued my interests.

Apparently in households across Nepal, starting on the full moon during Poush/Magh, families celebrate by sitting together each evening, reading a passage from Swasthani and conducting a puja. P seemed excited about this, recalling memories of sitting with his family reading passages from the book on cold winter evenings. He even found a website where individuals could listen to passages from the book if you don’t have a copy abroad.

As the voracious reader of our family, I was enthusiastically ready to embrace a ritual which involves the family coming together each night to read. I googled Swasthani and realized that the book was the same as the English language book S-di let me borrow months earlier. So I told P, let’s do it.

Each evening for the past few days I’ve been laying a table cloth on the living room floor, lighting a few tea lights, and occasionally an incense stick, gathering a few fruits and a carnation flower. P and I sit on the floor (we even get our dog to sit with us, he is part of the household). P will pass out bits of the carnation flower, open the book and read the first passage (a prayer in Sanskrit), then I’ll take the book, read the story for the day in English, then hand the book back for P to read the closing prayer in Sanskrit. We put the carnation pieces in the book and the petals each day are pressed between the pages. Later on we make smoothies out of the puja fruit to drink with dinner.

I enjoy it, because I like hearing stories, many of which I have not heard before. P enjoys it because it reminds him of reading the stories back home. He even knows the prayers to say at the beginning and end of the readings by heart, something I’ve never seen him do before.

The English copy that I have only has 22 stories, in abbreviated form, whereas the Nepali versions from P’s childhood have 31 readings and are usually much longer and more detailed. If anyone is interested in reading the stories, let me know, I’ve scanned them into a pdf format and can email them out (since the book is not available in the US).

Here is information on the stories from the publisher (Spiny Babbler):

For those interested in Eastern culture, Swasthani is essential reading. There is, perhaps, no other document like it on the entire Indian sub-continent. The Swasthani stories, some of which may be 1,200 years old, will tell you more than the most pedantious text book about how many Nepalese people perceive the universe, their religion, and their deities.

Definitely, the Swasthani scriptures do more to shape the cultural fabric of the Nepal Himalaya than the Ramayana or the Mahabharata. The stories of creation, the stories of the great Lords Brahma, Bishnu, and Shiva created by one God, the way of life in the Himalaya are all in this single slim volume.

For every traveler, every scholar, every person interested in Oriental religions, cultures, and people, the Swasthani scriptures are a must read. Every year, Swasthani is read aloud in thousands of Nepalese homes. This is a simple yet exquisite presentation of Swasthani stories by Pallav Ranjan, a writer, according to one critic, who can capture the “fog’s moisture and the light of a million fireflies” with his words.

Beautifully adapted stories, 25 full-page Swasthani related paintings, a chart outlining God’s creations, and a map of sites that you can visit after reading the scriptures, this may be the most comprehensive and enjoyable guide to Nepalese culture that you will find.

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21 responses to “Swasthani

  1. Joan Chamberlin

    Hi!
    I would so much love to have a copy of this book by email. I have been reading your entries every time you send them out. Thank you so much for this blog. It is wonderful and I’ve learned so much. I am going to Nepal on March 12 and will be there for 35 days with a Nepali friend. Thanks so much.
    Joan

  2. I’ve been reading your blog since October and read the whole thing from the start. I’m so greatful to you for blogging about your relationship and Nepali culture! I’ve been seeing my boyfriend, who is also from Nepal, for just under a year and since I don’t know anything about his culture, I’ve found it hard to get him engaged in a conversation about it. Your blog has helped tremendously! Thank you so much for blogging and I hope you continue for a very long time!

    • Thanks KD! :)

      • I recently came across your blog when I was trying to find out more about Swasthani. My husband (who is Nepali) and I were invited to a puja tonight (I’m guessing to celebrate the end of the festival). Please do send me a copy of the book.
        I really love your writing and your take on the Nepali culture. I try to get acquainted as much as I can with the culture because of husband and now that we have a baby, I want my son to identify with this part of his heritage.

        • Hi Pat,

          Thank you for your interest. I was contacted by the publisher of the book who asked me to stop sending out copies, and I wanted to respectively adhere to the publishers wishes. If you would like to find out more information about Swasthani you can check out their website: http://www.spinybabbler.org/publications.php

          I hope you enjoyed the puja!

  3. I would like to have copy also, thank you! :)

  4. hi! thank you so much for your blog. i’ve been reading it for quite some time and i learned a lot of things about nepali culture.. btw, i am happily engaged with a nepali guy.. :)

    p.s.
    can i have a copy of the book? thanks!

  5. I would really appreciate if you would email me a copy of the book…and I’m sure my husband would too. Thanks!

  6. Hi – I love your blog. I have a Nepali friend who lives in Ktm, and although we are not romantically involved (I’m married, he’s much younger) we have connected as very good friends. Your blog helps me understand him, and possibly what he might face when he comes to the US. I’ll be going to Nepal in March to work on a library project and to meet him. I’m so excited :) I would love to have a copy of the book. I think it would surprise him if I knew something about it!

  7. Hi,
    I would love to have a copy to read also!

    Your blog is awesome. Its just so amazing you are learning so much and so fast about the Nepali culture. And the fact that you desire to learn is something I haven’t seen in other cross-cultural couples. I think your future husband is truly lucky to have you.

  8. Can I also get a copy? I am more interested in learning difference in Nepali and Indian Culture.:)

  9. Hi! Once again you have given me inspiration to learn all that I can….B and I are now engages and expecting a baby girl in April. Knowing about nepali traditions is so important for me as we both experience this unique journey. With B only being in America 2yrs I see so many differences that can’t compare with those that have been here longer. But learning from you and others has helped me with our relationship.
    Although B is reluctant to see how this tradition would work here in the US without a Brahman and proper “things”, I’d love a copy of the book just to show him that we can still practice many of the rituals/traditions .

    Thanks!

  10. hey. nice to know that u guys still spare some time to follow our traditions..i am so glad to know that..may goddess swasthani bless u for yr homage.. most of the hindu families in nepal have this book in their home and they read this everyday in winter from a full moon day to another full moon day.(for a month). it is said that if u read this book , hear or even keep it in your home, yr obstacles will be vanished. if you have no one to accompany to read this, u can read it with all your furnitures, brooms, etc. i beleive in it so much..

    you are really in path of being a real nepali women…i am loving it
    cheers.

  11. I would like a PDF copy if possible. I am an American Indian, Cherokee, currently in a relationship with a Nepali woman, who is amazing by the way. This is a great blog!! I just found it because she sent the link to help me understand her culture better and now I am spending to much time reading your site here at work. :) Thank you for this site and again, I would love a copy of the book.

    • Hi Den A…

      I was contacted by the publisher and asked not to give out copies anymore, which I totally understand. I believe you maybe able to order a copy through amazon now. Best wishes with your relationship! :)

  12. Thanks for the good wishes! I found a copy on Muncha.com. Again, love this blog, Excellent work!!

  13. Hi Sorry i clicked the button too soon.
    I really enjoyd reading your comment above. I have been doing lots of reaserch to find this book in English and had no luck so far. If you could send me a copy via e-mail i would be very grateful please.
    Many thanks
    N

    • Hi Neeru,

      I would love to, but the publisher contacted me and told me I couldn’t send it out in this way. I’m sorry.

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