Happy Karva Chauth
Today is Karva Chauth, a one-day festival celebrated by hindu women originating from the north and north-west of India. They observe a fast from sunrise to sunset, praying for the wellbeing and prosperity of their husbands. Some unmarried girls also participate in the hope for a good husband. Although a predominantly female custom, more and more husbands (like my gorgeous man) are supporting their wife’s by fasting too.
The origins of Karva Chauth are unknown. Karwa is an earthen pot, a symbol of wellbeing and prosperity; and chauth means four, as the festival falls on the fourth day of the month of Kartik in the Hindu calendar. It is believed that the tradition has been around since the ancient times and celebrates the relationship between the bride and her mother-in-law, as well as other women in her new household. Over time, that meaning has changed slightly to also include prayers for the well being of the bride’s husband, as some women would “observe a fast when their husbands used to go on military campaigns and long official assignments” (Source: DNA News).
How is it celebrated in my family?
The day before Karva Chauth, my mother-in-law brings over a basket of goodies, known as a sargi, full of Indian sweets, fruits; glittery bangles, colourful bhindis, pheni (sweet made out of milk and thin threads of semolina) and mehndi to adorn the hands. She also cooks parathas (stuffed flatbread) to eat the next day.
On the morning of Karva Chauth, my husband and I wake up early, before sunrise, and go to the kitchen to eat the food prepared by my mother-in-law. Unfortunately for me, it is too early in the morning to stomach any heavy food, so I try and eat a little of everything given in the sargi before reaching for a strong cup of coffee. I also gulp down a couple of glasses of water to ensure I stay hydrated throughout the day. We then say our prayers.
In the afternoon, we get dressed in our finest attire, with some women choosing to wear their wedding outfits, put on our sparkly bangles and head to our friends house, where we pray, read the Karva Chauth story and sing songs. The ladies sit in a circle, placing a statue of the Goddess Parvati in the centre, with a karwa (pot) filled with water placed next to the idol. We all apply tilak on the statue and pray for a long, blissful and prosperous married life. One of our aunty’s will begin narrating the Karva Chauth story (click here) and with each verse, the women rotate their puja thalis, reciting the karva chauth song.
As I mentioned earlier, women observing the fast (and some husbands too!) are not allowed to eat or drink anything until they have seen the moon. However, in my family, we can choose to drink a cup of coffee, tea or orange juice after the afternoon prayers are finished. And coming from someone who is always hungry, that cup of coffee is the most satisfying drink of the year.
After the prayers, we head back to our respective homes, or in my case we go to our mother-in-law’s, where we prepare the evening meal. We only eat vegetarian food that day, with no garlic or onions. Tonight we will be eating kali daal (black lentils), aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower curry) and sarsaon ka saag. We also prepare a sweet halwa made of semolina, ghee and sugar, known as prasad.
The fast is broken only after seeing the moon. Trying to catch a glimpse of the moon in itself entices excitement amongst those fasting, with constant pacing around the garden trying to catch a glimpse of anything, and jumping with joy when someone phones to say they have seen the moon. The fast is then broken by observing the moon through a sieve. We offer water to the moon in return for good blessings. We then look at our husbands through the same sieve. They feed us water and prasad (and we them) before sitting together for the family meal.
As an outsider, who’s family never observed Karva Chauth, I used to think of this as a somewhat sexist and outdated custom. And I was wrong. Since getting married and carrying out the tradition myself, I see a different side to the day. For me, it is a way of maintaining close bonds between the women in my family and spending time with friends. It is a reminder of how blessed we are to have each other. And best of all, it is a day off from work to dress up in my fine attire and spend precious time with my husband.
Happy Karva Chauth to you all 🙂