Karwa Chauth is a fasting festival celebrated by married ladies, on the fourth day of the dark lunar fortnight in the month of Kartik (October-November), according to the Hindu calendar. The fast is observed mainly by the woman of Western and Northern states of India like Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The fasting takes place right from the sunrise till the moon rise. Consuming food and even water during the period is strictly prohibited.
People only relate this festival with a prayer for husband’s longevity but in actual this festival was celebrated to rejoice the friendship shared between girls of one’s own age. In earlier times, women were married off at a very early age. They had to leave their house and village and settle with new people, in a new house. There were no telephones or good commuting options so whenever they faced issues with their new family members or their husband, they could not communicate or ask for help from their own friends and family. Thus a newly wedded girl, befriended a girl from the same village and of her own age and confided in her. She could ask for help from her and tell her all about her problems and issues. They use to behave like real sisters, always ready to provide help and love to each other. So this festival was celebrated by them to strengthen and celebrate their new bond of friendship. The legend of fasting and praying for husband was added later to increase the cultural and social significance of the festival.
According to a legend, there was a girl named Veeravati, who was the only sister of seven brothers. She was doted by them all. After her marriage, it was her chance to observe first karwa Chauth and she performed all the rituals with complete dedication. By the evening, she was unable to take the thirst and the pangs of hunger any longer. The brothers couldn’t see their sister in such a condition and decided to absolve the situation. They built a massive fire near a mountain. The light emitted from the fire was mistaken as the moon by Veeravati and she then completed her fast by offering water to the moon and eating the food.
As soon as she consumed the food, the news of her husband’s death was received. She couldn’t believe and started wailing. She cried for hours and then she was visited by ParvatiParvati
After the death of Shiva's first love Sati, Shiva... who told her how she was cheated by her brothers, out of love. She told the girl to observe the fast again and this time without committing a mistake. Veervati did as she was told and YamaYama
Also known as Yamaraja, Yama is the controller of the hell (Naraka)... was forced to restore her husband and give his life back.
Draupadi had also performed the same ritual on the guidance of Krishna. According to Mahabharata, Arjuna went to the mountains to perform penance where he faced numerous problems. Back home, Arjun's brothers were also facing many issues. DraupadiDraupadi
Draupadi (Wife of Five Pandavas), also known as Krishna, because of her dark complexion, is the daughter of Drupada... was unhappy to see such conditions of all her husbands and thus asked KrishnaKrishna
It is described that there are three aspects of the Supreme that must... for help. He asked her to pray to Parvati who finally told her about the rituals of Karva Chauth. After observing the fast, Pandavas were able to overcome all the problems.
The other two popular legends are of Karva and SavitriSavitri
Savitri has been idolized as an ideal woman.... There was a woman named Karva who was dedicated to her husband and such devotion gave her spiritual powers. Once her husband was taking bath in a river when he was caught by a crocodile. Though Karva was able to capture the crocodile with a cotton yarn, she summoned Yama and asked him to send the crocodile to hell for harming her husband. Yama denied the request initially but when Karva threatened to curse him, Yama agreed to follow her command as he was scared of being cursed by a devoted lady. He sent the crocodile to hell and the couple enjoyed a long life. Thus karva chauth is also celebrated in her honor.
Savitri was dedicated to her husband but when Yama came to take the soul of her husband, she stopped eating and drinking. She only followed Yama to wherever he went. Touched by her dedication, Yama agreed to grant her a wish except the life of her husband. She agreed and asked for kids. Yama accepted the requested and as a devoted wife she could only have kids through her husband. Yama was tricked and was forced to give her husband’s life back. She unconsciously observed a fast for the whole day and in return she was given back her companion.
The customs for this festival start many days in advance as women buy new clothes and jewelry for the day. They do a lot of shopping and spend a quality of time in beauty parlors in order to maximize their beauty. They also apply henna on their hands which symbolizes good luck. It is believed that darker the color of henna appears on the girl’s hands, deeper is the love of her parents-in-laws and husband for her. They also buy various other items like earthen lamps, decorated plates and matthi for the ceremonies of Karva Chauth.
The fast is considered one of the most sacred things for married women. They get up early in the morning and take bath before sunrise. They eat food and drink water before sunrise and these eatable items are given to them by their mother-in-laws and it is known as sargi. It includes sweets, fruits and matthi.
In the evening, they gather at a place like a temple’s compound or a garden, for a ceremony. An elderly lady narrates a legend (mentioned above about the girl named Veeravati) explaining the importance of the festival. Women dress up in new clothes and the colors of their dresses are majorly red, maroon, pink or orange. They bring the essentials items for the puja with them which includes a mud pot, an urn filled with water, some flowers, unbroken rice grains, fruits, matthi and idols of GauriGauri
Gauri is another form of Parvati who is known for her fair skin and radiance. She is a gentle goddess who is kindhearted and nurturing... or Parvati. They decorate their plates and keep vermillion, incense sticks and rice grains in it. They sit in a circle and pass their plates to each other till the time their own plate comes back to them. They do it in between the narration of the story. The elderly lady takes various pauses and women sing songs during the breaks.
Women eagerly wait for the moon to rise and as soon as it does, women see reflection of moon in a water placed in a plate through a sieve or scarf. Women offer water the moon using a pot, also called ‘Karak’. Thus the day is also known as Karak Chaturthi.
Finally women perform Aarti It is a Hindu religious ritual of worshipof their husbands and eat and drink from their partner’s hand. They also touch their feet and seek for their blessings. Husbands, in return, present gifts to their wives as a loving gesture. In many places, parents of the daughter send various gifts and symbols of marital status like jewelry, vermillion etc., to their daughter, blessing her to enjoy a long time of marital bliss.
There is another ceremony, named Baya in which the parents of the daughter bring gifts for their daughter’s mother-in-law and other family members. The gifts include clothes and utensils. The utensils are distributed among the ladies who join the newly married girl in her first ceremony of Karva Chauth.
Women are allowed to rest on this day. Usually, they do not perform much of the household work and are also given a leave from their work places. They visit their female friends and relatives and spend time enjoying with each other.
One can feast after the moon rises but overeating should be avoided as it can lead to hazardous effects on one’s health and also a woman who is on medication should not observe the fast. Keeping fast is also prohibited for the pregnant ladies.
The most significant reason of performing the fast is to pray for the well-being and long life of their husbands. Prosperity and a happy married life is also an outcome of observing the fast.
Now-a-days even unmarried ladies have started observing the fast in order to get an ideal match. The fast can also be kept for a fiancé or a would-be husband. The festival strengths the bond shared between the two partners and bless them with marital bliss.
Matthi- It is a Rajasthani snack that is made up of flour and cumin seeds. It can be preserved and consumed for days. It can be served with pickle and is majorly eaten as an evening snack with tea. It is used in marriage ceremonies and religious occasions.