One of the most significant festivals in North India, Karwa Chauth is celebrated by most married women, who keep a one-day fast for their husbands' longevity. This festival is popular among Hindu and Sikh women, and is predominant in states such as Haryana, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan. According to the Hindu calendar, Karwa Chauth falls 9 days before the festival of Diwali and is usually celebrated in the month of 'Karthik' (between October and November). Today, Karwa Chauth has become more of a community festival, where all the married women of the community get together and observe a fast or a 'vrat' for their husbands along with praying for their long lives. The festival reflects the joys and splendor of being married and reflects the marital status of a woman with henna, jewelry, the traditional 'Sargi', marital attire and 'Roli'. Read on to know more about the customs of Karwa Chauth.
Rituals and Traditions
The celebrations for Karwa Chauth begin a day before the actual weds. Newly-weds, brides-to-be and married women get beautifully wrapped gifts and pots of baskets from their mother-in-laws. Tradition states that the mother-in-law fills earthen pots with a customary food known as 'Sargi' that has to be consumed by the women the following morning, before sunrise. Sargi usually comprises of foods such as fruits, fried potatoes, Indian bread and milk based sweets that strengthen the woman's body. These are 'sent' by the mother-in-laws to the women because, traditionally the married women are supposed to stay in their mother's houses during the festival, and return back to their husband's homes on the day of the festival.
The 'baya' includes money, earthen pitcher, clothes, jewelry and sweets sent by a woman's mother to her in-law's household. On the day of Karwa Chauth, married women adorn themselves with jewelry, bangles, and bright clothes, and also get elaborate henna patterns done on their palms and feet, which are the symbols of a traditional married woman according to Indian culture.
Puja And The Story
The women in the neighborhood get together and a puja is held in the evening. The area where the puja is about to take place is decorated with 'kharia matti' (mud) and an idol of Goddess Parvati is sanctified. Hours before the moonrise, the traditional story of Karva Chauth is narrated to all the married women. Legend states that a young woman, who broke her fast before the moonrise, found that her husband dead the same instant. Desolate and depressed, the woman prayed to Goddess Parvati to resurrect her husband from the death. The husband finally came back to life after a period of seven Karwa Chauth's. This story is read out to the married women, and a small prayer is recited at the puja for marital bliss.
Breaking The Fast
Women have to break their fasts in the evening, after sighting the full moon. The fast is usually broken in the presence of the husbands and is a ceremonious affair. Women start by lighting earthen lamps, and fill a container with water. They place this on a traditional “thali” or a plate, and carry it to a spot where they can see the moon. The husband stands in front of the wife, and the wife sees the moon through a fine mesh or sieve. Water is offered to the moon, and the wives look at their husbands through the sieve soon after. This is followed by a prayer for long life, and the husbands feed them their first morsel of food for the day, or sip of water, thereby ending their wives' fast. The Karwa Chauth customs end with a grand meal soon after.
Apart from conventional customs, Karwa Chauth is also an opportunity for women to get together with the people they love, socialize with others, exchange gifts, and share mouth-watering food.