There are in fact only three known statues of Swasthani. The first, installed by a devotee in his Patan courtyard in 1669, is no longer in situ. King of Kathmandu Pratap Malla installed a second stone image of the goddess in 1674, which is now located in Makhan Tole, though few Nepalis know this is Swasthani. She appears here seated next to Shiva on a lion vehicle in a consortly fashion and is frequently mistaken for Parvati or Uma.
The third image of Swasthani is of much more recent origin. Consecrated in the early 2000s in the town of Sankhu on Kathmandu’s northeastern outskirts, Swasthani, here carved in black granite, sits tall atop a pedestal representing a lotus flower, the eight-petals of which are adorned with the Astamatrika, or the Eight Mother Goddesses.
This twenty-first century Swasthani represents two major shifts in the goddess’s history and iconography, namely, from bodiless outside of the Swasthani Vrata Katha text to physically and publicly embodied, and from represented as Shiva’s consort to being an independent goddess associated most closely with a host of fierce, protective mother goddesses. In yet another striking development, Swasthani in Sankhu, which is closely associated with her tradition because it is believed that key events in the Swasthani Vrata Katha occurred at the Sali river that flows alongside Sankhu, is housed in her very own temple. For the first time in the goddess’s history, Swasthani has her very own place.
Main photo: Bikram Rai