On the day of Rishi Panchami homage is paid to the 7 Rishis or sages i.e Kashyapa, Atri, Bharadhvaja, Vishvamitra, Gauthama, Jamadagni and Vashishta. Women observe the Hartalika Teej (fasting) for three days. For them, Rishi Panchami is the final day of fasting. The fast on the fifth day (Panchmi) of the waxing moon (shukl paksh) of Bhadrapad is undertaken by men and women alike. Its effect is to wash away sins done voluntarily or involuntarily. The devotee should after a bath in the sacred water, clean his/her hands 108 times, the mouth 108 times and listen to the story of Ganesh, Navagreh, Saptarishi and worship Arundhati. Fruits should be eaten only once in a day.
As the legend goes, there was a king called Sitasale who asked Brahma to advise him about a fast that can free one from all the sins of past lives. Brahma narrated him a story of Brahmana called Uttank whose daughter was widowed a few months after her marriage, was badly bitten by worms and experienced other great sufferings. Brahmanas meditated in order to discover the cause of the daughter’s sufferings. They came to know that the daughter had made offences in her previous life by entering the kitchen on the day of menstruation. After realizing this, the daughter observed the Rishi Panchami Vrat and purified herself.
The fast is strictly observed in this day. Most of the women used to eat fruit or root vegetables only, however, nowadays, they eat rice and curry after the worship is completed. This is one of the very strict and tuff fasts. Many women these days do not take the menstruation taboo seriously which is a reason for Rishi Panchami Vrat being unpopular these days. Whatever be the case, Rishi Panchami is still strictly followed in the rural and town areas of Nepal. This fast is observed by women to seek forgiveness for the mistakes committed during their menstruation period.