Friday, November 2, 2012

Karva Chauth -- 11/02/2012

Karva Chauth is a fast that married Hindu women keep for their husbands. This is primarily a Northern and Western Indian tradition. They do this for the prosperity, longevity and well-being of their husbands. This fast means no form of food or drink is allowed after sunrise until the moon is seen. The term Karva means an earthen pot with a spout, which is a symbol of peace and prosperity and Chauth means fourth, because this festival falls on the fourth day after the full moon, immediately after Dussehra, in the month of Karthik (October-November).

Mehendi (Henna) by me
This happens to be the toughest fast observed by married Hindu women. The fast can only be broken after the moon is sighted. Now, if there are too many clouds, you might end up waiting a long time. My husband tells me this year, the moon is expected to rise after 11:00 pm. I don't know if he's just messing with me or if he's serious. Haha. Either way, I guess we'll find out. I'm glad I'm with my Sister-in-Law, Astha, this year or I'd have been alone in Utah on this day. Ankit said he'd fast with me, too :) I think that's super sweet. It's usually not hard to go without food. The tricky part is going without water and I feel thirsty all the time. I guess we should try to sleep a lot and talk less ;)

Karva Chauth is fun because married women dress up in pretty sarees or lehengas. Most newly weds wear their wedding outfit for their first Kava Chauth. I didn't bring mine to the states because it was way too heavy, but I would've liked to wear my wedding dress again. On this day, we are not supposed to do any work in the kitchen (yay), we are to dress up, wear heavy jewelry, do a lot of make up, put mehendi (henna) on our hands, look pretty and just chill :) Sounds fun minus the not-being-able-to-drink-water bit. On this day, we are supposed to exchange gifts with our mother-in-law and of course, expect lavish gifts from our husbands *hint hint, Ankit* ;)...then our husbands take us out for dinner :p
How I dressed up on my first Karva Chauth
Women in India usually exchange gifts such as bangles, a clay pot, a ribbon, bindi, sindoor, and sweets, etc (called Suhaagi). The Mother-in-Law sends a sargi which is a basket of goodies, such as fruits, mathadi, dry fruits, sweets, jewelry or saree. In the morning before the sun rises, we eat from the sargi which has to have seven different items. We have to perform a ritual and cleanse the food before eating it. 

Our Sargi this year.
**Now pizza is not part of a sargi but we figured if we were going to be fasting all day, we might as well eat something fulfilling along with the rest of it before the sun rises.
**The plates covered in shiny red cloth are our puja thalis.
Before the sun sets, all the women who are fasting get together at a place for puja (ritual). Usually an elderly woman narrates the legend of Karva Chauth. Women sit together in a circle, the story is narrated and after each chapter, all the women sing a song and rotate their thalis (plates; the plate has a pot, almonds, uncooked rice, a small oil lamp, sindoor, red string, and sweets). 
In the temple, before the evening puja
The Song:

Veero Kudiye Karwada
Sarv Suhaagan Karwada
Ae Katti Na Atteri Na
Khumb Ch Rakhda Pheri Na
Gavaand Pair Paayi Na
Sui Ch Dhaaga Paayi Na
Ruthhda Manai Na
Sutda Jagayi Na
Behen Pyari Veera
Chand Chadhe Te Paani Peena
Le Veero Kudiye Karwada
Le Sarv Suhaagan Karwada

The Story:

The story is about a girl called Veerawali who is married to a King. She is the youngest daughter with seven loving brothers. She is young and naive and to keep herself distracted and busy, she spends her day sewing, on her first Karva Chauth. Her brothers are so protective about her that when Veera has her first Karva Chauth, they become worried about her fast. They worry about her being able to go all day without eating and drinking, so they create a fake moon in the jungle and trick her into breaking her fast sooner. Because she does this, her husband dies (also he is pricked with hundreds of needles in his body, because she was sewing all day). A Goddess tells her to complete her Karva Chauth. She spends all year pulling needles out of her husband's body and waiting for Karva Chauth to come around again. On the day of Karva Chauth, she goes out to buy her karwadas (typical Karva Chauth delicacy) and leaves her maid behind with her husband. The maid pulls out the last needle out of the King's body and he is revived. Upon waking up, the King mistakes the maid for his wife and the maid does not correct him. Because of this Veera is reduced to a servant's status in her own home and the maid becomes the Queen. She becomes shocked and spends her spare time talking to her doll and repeatedly saying "Jo rani si so goli hoyi, jo goli si so rani hoyi" (the Queen became the maid, the maid became the Queen). Curious about her words, the king demands her to tell him why she says this again and again. Veera recites her story of Karva Chauth and the King realizes his mistake. Veera becomes Queen again and lives happily ever after. 

Now there are various different versions of this story but the idea is what I just explained above, briefly. Most Hindu women in the North take Karva Chauth very seriously because they believe this ritual will extend their husband's life.

When the moon finally rises, we are to sight it through a sieve, offer it water (arg) and pray to it. After this ritual, we are allowed to drink water, eat and our Karva Chauth is completed.

Now, I seriously don't see logic in the story:
--Why is it that no one in Veera's home tells her not to sew? I mean, she had seven brothers who all had wives, too. Why didn't any of them, including her own mother, tell her what to do and what not to do, or even stop the men from ruining her Karva Chauth? 
--Why is it that the seven men were oblivious to the sacrifice of this ritual when their own wives fasted for them every year?
--Why did she have to go off on her own to buy the karwadas when she had a maid working for her? 
--Shouldn't she be concerned about her husband at this point when there was just one needle remaining?
--Why didn't anyone tell the King that Veera was his wife? Where did all the relatives go (especially the seven protective brothers) when the King mistook the maid for his wife? Shouldn't the brothers have been furious when their darling little sister became a maid?
--Why couldn't Veera open her mouth when this injustice was happening? I mean, she is Queen after all and has a right to speak up even in front of the King. King aside, he is her husband first. 

Women are not to wake their sleeping husbands or solve a quarrel because this day is considered to be a holiday for them. Their mother-in-laws can't ask them to cook in the kitchen or sew. They are to just look pretty and expect gifts. Why is it that they can't have this sort of a holiday without starving themselves? Who came up with the idea of Karva Chauth? Why is it that it is just for extending the husband's life? Why did no one come up with a ritual for men to fast for their wife's life? Why was this ritual placed on a day when the moon takes the longest to rise? Lucky for us who have sweet husbands, who want to fast with us but a lot of men don't and are not even required to.

Over the years, I've learned that a lot of the stories and legends from the past don't really make sense and a lot of them defy logic. But we go ahead with it anyway because it's a long, continuing tradition and part of the culture. I do it, too, because -- what can I say? I'm superstitious and worry about my husband all the time. It's just the way it is.

Right now I'm waiting for the moon to rise so we can all go out to eat!

Hope all you pretty ladies have a lovely Karva Chauth and your husbands shower you with all the love in the world, because that's what is more important. :)

God bless you.


  1. Nice description of Karwachauth. thanks for the song really wanted the lyrics. what i did was played the katha on youtube and and did the pooja :p

  2. That's cool. We went to the temple and the pandit read the story for us.