Tomorrow is Karva Chauth!
Karva Chauth is a one-day Hindu festival, typically celebrated by North Indian women. Karva means clay pot, and chauth means fourth. In this festival, married women fast from sunrise to moonrise to pray for the safety, long life, and well being of their husbands. Well… Not just married women, at least, not anymore. Traditionally, only married women celebrate – but these days, unmarried women also observe this fast for their true love, fiancé, or desired husband. The festival is observed on the fourth day after the full moon, which – according to the Hindu calendar – falls within the month of Kartik, the eight month.
One story suggests that women would fast to pray for the safety of their husbands as they ventured out and away from home during the harvest season.
In another story, as girls would leave home after marriage, a new life would begin. Everyone would be a stranger to the bride, in this remote village, and she needed support. It would be some time before she returned home to see her family. The custom became, that when a woman was married, as she reached her husband’s home, she would befriend another woman there. The woman, who would be known to the new bride as kangan-saheli or dharam-behn. Sort of like god-friends, or god-sisters. She would act as a source of comfort, and be like family. So in this story, Karva Chauth began as a festival to celebrate the unique bond between these two women, and developed into a prayer for the long life of her husband as well (since they were married on the same day these women became friends).
A few days before Karva Chauth, women would buy new karvas, clay pots, paint them and stuff them full of jewelry, sweets, make up, small articles of clothing, etc. On Karva Chauth, women would exchange their karvas.
Women prepare for Karva Chauth a few days in advance, by buying makeup, jewelry and other adornments, puja (ritual or prayer) items such as Karva lamps, henna, and the puja thali plate. Bazaars and markets are made festive, and on every corner, shop keepers are selling their Karva Chath related products.
Note: This ritual is practiced differently from home to home, and depending on society and region.
On Karva Chauth, some women wake before sunrise to eat and drink. The night before, women eat sweets such as sutarfeni with milk and sugar. It’s said to help go without food and water the following day. If the woman lives with her mother-in-law, the pre-dawn meal is prepared by the mother-in-law for her bahu (meaning son’s wife, or daughter-in-law).
In DN’s family, no food or water is taken after 12:00 AM, when the date changes to Karva Chauth officially. The logic behind it, is… Everyone is sleeping anyway, at that time.
When the sun rises, the fast official begins for most women. Women who are fasting will not eat or drink water for the entire day. Traditionally, fasting women don’t do housework either. Women apply henna, also known as mehndi, and makeup to themselves and each other. Gifts are exchanged, especially between the mother-in-law and her bahu – but the husband will also typically give a gift to his wife as well.
In the evening, a women-only ceremony takes place. Women attend, dressed in fine clothing, or sometimes bridal wear, jewelry and henna. Typical dresses include pink, red, gold or orange (auspicious colors) saris, lehangas or shalwars. The women sit in a circle and listen to the story or legend of Karva Chauth. Women also sing songs related to the festivities.
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Legend of Karva Chauth in English
At the end of the day, the fasting women go out to see the moon, usually through a sieve, through their dupatta or by reflection of water. When women see the moon, they offer water to the moon to secure their prayer. Next, they look at their husbands indirectly through the same manner and pray for their husband’s health and long life. Next, the husband gives his wife her first sip of water, and feeds her the first bite of food (usually something sweet). This breaks the fast, and they eat a meal together.
Karva Chauth is an extremely romantic festival, which symbolizes the love and bond between husband and wife. ♥