Yesterday was Karwa Chauth – a day when married women fast and pray for the prosperity and longevity of their husbands. This ritual signifies their devotion to their husbands because they are willing to suffer for their husbands well-being.
Karwa means clay pot and Chauth means fourth night after the full moon.
On the morning of the fourth day after the full moon in the month of karti (9 days before the festival of Diwali), married women will dress in fine clothing, don bangle bracelets, and eat a meal prepared by their mother-in-laws. The meal is prepared and eaten before the sun rises. Then they will begin a day-long fast. They will eat nothing – they will not even have a single drop of water for the entire day.
The women will spend the day visiting with family and decorating their hands and feet with henna (mehendi). It is believed that the darker the mehendi appears, the deeper the love of their husband is for them. They also exchange gifts with their in-laws.
At the end of the day, the women of the house will gather together and sit in a circle and share the folklore of Karwa Chauth. They will go around the circle 7 times. After the story-telling, the women will go out and make offerings to the moon. The offerings will be put in a clay pot and will include flowers, specially prepared food, and jewelry. They will light an oil lamp as a symbol of their reverence.
They will look for the moon in the reflection of water in a thali (selection of different dishes served on a round tray) or through a dupatta (long scarf) or sieve (a colander). After they see the moon, the women will break their fast with a meal offered by their husbands.
One of my friends in India told me about her experience with Karwa Chauth. Last year was her first year as a married woman and her new husband joined her in her fast. Then he gave her a diamond necklace in appreciation for her devotion. This year, he did not join her in her fast. But this year, he is giving her a car. That sounds like a fair tit for tat. 😉
I know what some of you are wondering – is there a day that the husbands return the favor? The answer to that would not be yes.
Needless to say, I did not participate in the fast. Today, I am diamond necklace-less. But I am not hungry.
All in all, it sounds like a lovely way for women in a family to bond and celebrate their lives as women and as wives. Kind of a “we’re all in this together” experience.
The story below is an example of the legends the married women will share with each other (taken from Wikipedia).
The Story of Queen Veeravati
A long long time ago, there lived a beautiful girl by the name of Veeravati. She was the only sister of her seven loving brothers, who was married to a king. On the occasion of the first Karva Chauth after her marriage, she went to her parents’ house. After sunrise, she observed a strict fast. However, the queen couldn’t stand the rigors of fasting and was desperately waiting for the moon to rise. The seven brothers who loved her dearly, were very disturbed watching the distress of their sister and decided to end her fast by deceiving her. Then the brothers reflected a mirror through Pipal tree leaves. The sister, taken it as moon rise, broke the fast and took food. However, the moment the queen ate her dinner, she received the news that her husband, the king, was died. She wept the whole night. Then suddenly Goddess appeared and asked her reason of weeping. She explained the whole story. Goddess told her the truth that how her 7 brothers cheated her. She prayed Goddess to get back her husband. Goddess convinced her to repeat the fast again on Karwa Chaut with full dedication and devotion. She did the same and got her husband back alive.