Karva Chauth

Some say marriage is a union of two body and soul while others simply state it an age-old tradition. Nevertheless, after passing a certain legal age, all have to marry at least once in their lifetime. To sanctify the husband-wife relation, the Hindu and the Sikh community in India celebrate an annual festival they call it Karva Chauth. The northern states and Gujarat celebrate this festival. It is celebrated according to the Hindu lunar calendar in the month of Kartik and on the fourth day after the dark-fortnight. It usually falls eleven days before the Diwali celebration.

Karva Chauth Festival

The word 'Karva' in Hindi is referred to the small earthen oil-lamp used in the rituals, and 'Chauth' means fourth thus signifying the fourth day of the Krishna Paksha month. Married women celebrate it by fasting for the entire day from the dawn until moonrise. The idea is to wish for the safety and longevity of their husbands' lives. There is no definite link to point towards the origin of the festival. However, as usual, numbers of opinions and stories are attached with it clearing the way to observe this day.

History of Karva Chauth

There are several different stories narrated for the birth of Karva Chauth and all are convincing enough to follow it. The most interesting anecdote and one that is repeated by elders every year is that of Veeravati. She was the only daughter to her parents and only sister to seven brothers. After marriage, she comes to stay with her. This being the first festival after marriage, she decides to celebrate it at her parents' place. On that day, she keeps fast for the whole day without any water or food. However, as the day progresses, she becomes impatient due to hunger and thirst. Seeing her condition, all the seven brothers create an illusion of the moonrise and make her to break the fast. Soon, she gets the news of her husband's death. She realizes that being overly concerned about her wellness, her brothers did what they should not. She then decides to do fasting again with utmost devotion until she gets back her husband. Eventually, Yama blesses her by returning the life of her husband. Hence, the belief that if married women fast for the whole day with devotion, they can even convince Yama to spare the life of their spouses.

There is another story of grit and determination of a devoted wife known as Karva. She was so in love with her husband that she never used to give importance to anything other than her husband's happiness and long life. She was ready to return all the heavenly pleasure just being married to her husband. She used to pray to gods time in and time out for a husband. Apparently, she gets all the spiritual power. Then one day, while having a bath in a river, a crocodile grabs her fiancé's leg. She calls Yama through her prayer and asks him to save her spouse from the crocodile. Therefore, married women celebrate this festival to honour the devotion of Karva.

Karva Chauth Celebration

The preparation of this festival begins few days early. Women go for shopping and buy their favourite jewelry and sarees for the occasion. City women rush to beauty parlours to look their best for the 'D' day. An early bath is followed with routine pooja in the house. Punjabi women eat a special dish before the sunrise cooked by mothers-in-law. The meal is called 'sargi.' There are some who prefer to go without any water and food for the entire day or until they see the moon in the night. The pooja and ritual are held according to the prevalent custom in that locality.

At home, they offer prayer to Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesh and Kartikeya. They invoke god to offer long life and prosperity to their husbands and children. Parents sent gifts or a basket of fruit and vegetables along with a saree to their daughters. As the night falls in, all neighborhood women gather at one place on a terrace with a pooja thali, diya, a glass of water, sindhur and a sieve. They place an idol of Goddess Parvati at a center. All the women then apply sindhur to the idol and then to each other. After the prayer, women sing religious songs and wait for the moon to appear in the sky. And when it does, they offer prayer to the moon and look at it through the sieve. In some regions, women see the reflection of the moon in a water-filled jug. After offering prayer to the moon, husbands stand before them and wives see them through the sieve. They touch their husbands' feet and seek their blessings. Husbands then feed them water and a morsel of something sweet to break their fast.

Karva Chauth is a festival of fast observed by women for the long lives of their husbands. It is believed that women who keep fast on this day and pray to the moon, and Goddess Parvati sustain a long married life.