India is home to many festivals, a predominant one is the Karva Chauth. One of the most important festivals for the married women, on Karva Chauth, wives fast from sunrise to the moonrise for the longevity and safety of their husbands. Such is the dedication and importance of this day among married women in India that they go through the day without a drop of water.
Significance and date
Karva Chauth derives its name from two words-Karva which is an earthen pot that is used to offer argya to the moon and the day it falls which is the Chaturthi of the Karthika month. According to the Hindu lunar calendar, Karva Chauth falls on the fourth day of the dark fortnight during the Karthik month every year.
It is important to note that Karva Chauth is not celebrated all over India but mostly in the northern region. Traditionally the festival is celebrated in Punjab, Rajasthan, some parts of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi. In Andhra Pradesh this festival as celebrated as Atla Tadde.
The Origin of Karva Chauth
There is more than one anecdote that point towards the origin of Karva Chauth however the most prominent ones are:
Tale of Queen Veervati: The most beloved sister of seven brothers, on one of the Karva Chauth, Veervati, was at her parents’ house fasting from sunrise. Suffering from hunger and thirst she was eagerly waiting for the moonrise. Her brothers unable to bear the pain of her hardship created an illusion with a mirror on a Peepal tree. Disguised by her brothers’ trickery Veervati broke her fast. However, the moment she broke her fast, news of her husband being dead arrived. This is why she was made aware of the trickery by a Goddess. Veervati did penance on Karva Chauth with an utmost dedication that made Yama, the lord of death, restore her husband’s life.
Mahabharata: Another folklore is Draupadi observed fast on Karva Chauth to help Pandavas resolve their problems. On one occasion, Arjun was gone to the Nilgiri mountains for self-penalty when the rest of the Pandavas faced some tribulations. Draupadi unable to find any solution, confined in Lord Krishna who narrated the Karva Chauth rituals performed by Goddess Parvati. On his advice, Draupadi observed Karva Chauth that helped Pandavas overcome their problems.
Satyavan and Savitri: It is said that Savitri was able to get her husband Satyavan’s life back from Yama by performing an intense fast. When Yama acquired her husband’s life, Savitri begged him to restore Satyavan’s life but the lord of death declined. This prompted Savitri to perform self-penalty and she sacrificed food and water. This forced lord Yama to grant her a wish except for the life of her husband. Savitri being a devoted and intelligent wife asked for children. Being a loyal wife, she won’t engage in any adultery which made Yama restore Satyavan’s life so that she can have children.
Karva Chauth in modern India
Today the popularity of Karva Chauth is prominent in the north and northwestern India. As a significant population of men from these regions are in Indian Defense Forces, their wives observe the day for their longevity and safety. Not only wives of policemen and armed forces personnel but all married women fast on this day to strengthen their marriage and show their loyalty and dedication towards their husbands and family.
Karva Chauth also coincides with the initiation of the Rabi crop season in the northern regions of India which is important for wheat sowing. This is why one of the rituals of this festival is to fill the earthen pot or Karva with wheat grains and offer it to Gods asking for a splendid crop season.
Karva Chauth Pooja Process
The celebration of Karva Chauth starts with a lot of shopping days before because it is customary for a married woman to be decked up like a bride. From clothes to jewellery to cosmetics, everything has to be brand new when performing the rituals.
As a tradition, women observing Karva Chauth wake up in dawn (3-4 am), take a bath and get ready with new clothes, footwear, bangles, henna, vermilion, etc. They eat and drink something to prepare themselves for the fast that begins at sunrise. There are some customs for the married women who are pregnant that allow them to consume fruits, kheer and milk through the fast.
Sargi is an important part of the ritual and refers to the collection of items like snacks, sweets, cosmetics and decorative items that are given as blessings to the daughter-in-law by the mother-in-law. In some parts Pradesh women observing Karva Chauth eat feni in the morning before sunrise which is generally prepared by the mother-in-law.
Henna is also an important part of the festival. A part of the Sholah Shringar (16 makeup essentials), henna is used to ornament hands and feet of the women. Married women gather together and exchange karva or clay pots that are filled with cosmetic items like bindi, lipstick, sweets, handkerchiefs, etc. Gift giving to daughters by the elders of the family is also an important part of the ritual.
Before sunset, women take another bath and prepare themselves for the festival getting ready as brides. A puja or worship of the deities follows along with singing songs. In some parts of the country, oldest women narrate the legendary stories of Karva Chauth to the younger women who all sit in a circle. The Karva Chauth celebration is deemed incomplete without listening to these stories or kathas.
Women sit in a circle and perform ‘feris’ which is passing their puja thalis to one another in a circle seven times. This completes the worship ritual and now fast keeping women have to wait for the moonrise to break their fast.
How To Celebrate Karva Chauth Puja
If you are not performing puja with other married women, then you have to follow a bit different tradition in the evening. You will need a picture of Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesh and Lord Kartikey. You can download their picture from the internet too. Put the Shiva family picture in a clean place preferably your pooja ghar and lit lamp and fragrance stick. Sprinkle fresh water on the picture and put vermilion and uncooked rick on it. Offer flowers, sweets or kheer.
After that, meditate for a few minutes recalling Goddess Parvati as a bride and requesting her to bless your husband and family. You can also read the Karva Chauth katha at home.
At night when the moon rises, married women come out, generally to the terrace or garden along with their husbands to perform the ritual. The ritual starts with women looking at the moon through a sieve or at the reflection of the moon in a water-filled vessel. Then they offer argya to the moon and seek blessings. After argya, women see their husbands’ face through the sieve and then the husband offers sweets and water to the wife from the puja thali. This is how women break their fast on Karva Chauth. After breaking the fast, women can have a full meal.
Ideas to celebrate Karva Chauth
We know Karva Chauth is not just a festival but a symbol of love and loyalty between a husband and a wife. But, the celebrations of the day don’t have to be just fasting and rituals. You can enjoy the festival of Karva Chauth just like another with a lot of fun. Here are some offbeat ideas to celebrate this day:
1. A Mehandi Party
Henna, as mentioned, is an important part of the celebration. Decorating hands and legs is a ritual, why not make it a party. Organize a Mehandi party with friends and family with some good music.
2. Theme Party
For the night you can plan a theme based party, preferably the one where couples have to dress as the mythology characters part of the Karva Chauth fables.
3. A Candlelight Dinner
You husbands out there got to respect the dedication of your wives and make the day special for them. What can be a better way to tell her your love than an exotic candlelight dinner at someplace romantic? Oh! Yes, don’t forget to get her a gift that she truly deserves.
If you are not much of a romantic, take her for a long drive and stay at someplace cozy, making it a second honeymoon for her.
The Karva Chauth is the time when brands come up with an exclusive sale for women. Why sit home all day and take your mind off the hunger by going shopping with family and friends. It will be fun we can assure you that.
5. Private Homestay
If the outing and shopping seem too much work on a Karva Chauth, then a great idea would be spending time the entire day with your wife. Help her with preparations for the rituals. You know what’s most romantic? Keep a fast with her.
Karva Chauth is a festival that married women dedicate for their husbands. It is not just a celebration but a deeply engraved occasion that derives its importance from the ancient culture and holds its meaning even today.