Women across Nepal Friday celebrated the Rishi Panchami festival, whose rituals aim to cleanse devotees of impurity.

Hundreds of women went to the Manohara River in Kathmandu to perform the Rishi Panchami rites in the water, an efe-epa journalist reports.

Wearing body-length lungi, the women waded into the river and brushed their teeth using leaves of the Danti plant, regarded as holy in Nepal.

They then doused each other with water poured through wooden sieves, on which pieces of gold were placed, with some women doing it themselves and others helping them.

It is believed the gold helps purify them.

The Manohara, as a tributary of the main Bagmati River which flows through the Kathmandu Valley, suffers from regular pollution problems, as the UN-Habitat program noted in August in its Bagmati Action Plan to clean up the river.

That has not deterred devout Nepalese from bathing in the river, especially elderly people who believe that performing rituals in rivers is clean and a means of purification.

Rishi Panchami is a time for women to seek purity and forgiveness for sins committed during their time of menstruation, an occurrence considered impure in the Hindu belief system.

The festival also focuses on the worship of Sapta Rishi, seven prominent saints as described in the Vedic scriptures.