I’ve been married for just over 12 years now and have been celebrating Karva Chauth since the day I got married. This festival is a one-day festival celebrated historically in Northern India in which married women fast from sunrise to moonrise for the health and longevity of their husbands. Sometimes, unmarried women observe the fast for their fiancés as well.
Karva is another word for ‘pot‘ (a small earthen pot of water) and chauth means ‘fourth’ in Hindi (a reference to the fact that the festival falls on the fourth day of the dark-fortnight, or krishna paksh, of the month of Kartik)
Growing up I watched my mom get up at dawn, after having prepared her thali (tray) of food the night before and get up with my dad for a meal to start her Karva Chauth fast. Something about that sentiment still sits with me today.
I am by no means a person who believes in gender bias or a patriarchal society and I don’t believe that if I don’t fast something bad will happen to my husband. If you’ve read any of my previous posts you’ll know gender bias and raising sons and daughters with equality is something I strongly believe in.
Years later, I also remember in my 20s when I was living away from home for work, going to a karva chauth party. I was single, not engaged and not fasting, but decided to support one of my friends who was fasting that day and having other women over to just have a night in with fun and conversation. It was a really great time and just bonding with friends and breaking the fast with so much awesome food, was a memory I’ll never forget. (Actually, what a cool idea: ‘Honey, I’m going to a Karva Chauth party, have fun with the kids, see ya!’)
Karva Chauth for me is a time to remember the day I became a bride and remind myself of the amazing person that I married. It’s also a time to thank my mother-in-law for giving birth to this amazing person whom I call my husband. My husband and I jointly also decide on a gift for his mom that we give to her on this day.
Every year, at this time, I remember my wedding, how we felt and the common bond that the women and our families have. It’s also the one time we can take a break from our ‘mom’ role and reflect on our marriage. That’s my personal view of this holiday.
On my first karva chauth, I went to the temple and came together with all the women in my house to celebrate the occasion. An entire community of wives were out from miles away in that space all dressed in their bridal outfits with candles, thalis and churiyaan.
While the concept of ‘fasting for your husband’ may seem sexist or misogynistic to some people, I think it’s all in how you look at this tradition.
While there are many stories about the origins of the festival historically, the most common one is that it’s a ritual signifying the relationship between bride and a woman in her in-laws household.
It was centred around this relationship because, in the olden days, when a bride leaves her parents’ house after marriage, she looks out for friendship with another woman in her husband’s household to share her emotions and problems. The custom then began that once the bride befriended another woman, this woman would be her friend or sister for life. Thus Karva Chauth started as a festival to celebrate this special bond of friendship between the brides and their ‘god-friends’.
While some of the traditions around Karva Chauth may have changed from its original history, to now one that is a day for all married women fasting for the long life of their husbands, some things remain the same.
Married women get up by dawn, have a big fat breakfast (I definitely do, and my husband usually makes it!) hydrate really well with water, tea, coffee, whatever their choice and have something sweet if they want before finishing up. My favourite? Jalebi! You are to eat nothing else during the day and then you can have some tea mid to late afternoon.
Then dressed in your bridal outfit or something just as spectacular, once moon rises, you’re then able to break your fast with another big fat feast. My favourite is chole (chick peas) or aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower) actually and then some chocolate! I forgo the heavy Indian sweets in the evening usually.
Women are not supposed to use sharp objects or cook or clean on this day. It was in a way, paying respect to the fact that women were the ones that did all of this historically in the home and so they deserved a day off from it. Some of us masalamommas fast for the health of our kids or we fast on Tuesdays to give our bodies a break or we fast for another reason. Why should this day be regarded differently? It’s what you do for YOU and how it makes YOU feel.
Like other traditions or rituals in any family, if you feel good about doing them, then take part and if you don’t, speak up and be comfortable with your decision.
There’s something beautiful about going back to your wedding day, dressing back up like a bride (or just dressing up!) while you take a moment to reflect on your relationship.
I do love dressing up when I can on Karva Chauth, and most of the years, I have spent it with all the women in my house or mostly my own mom. We chat, we look for the moon and we break our fast together. We talk about things I’ve learned since becoming a wife, what bugs me and what makes me happy. We like being pampered and being given a break from the usual things we do at home, who doesn’t? This year, I will be celebrating Karva Chauth with my mom like some other years and hope to continue to remember why I celebrate it and how it makes ME feel.
How do you decide what rituals to celebrate at home? Do you celebrate Karva Chauth? I’d love to hear your opinions on why or why not below!
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Great post Anjum! And a lovely perspective.
thanks so much Deepika, it was a post I’ve been meaning to write since last year! Anjum Nayyar, Editor-in-Chief, Masalamommas.com
What a fabulous way to celebrate your love and your marriage! And since the women do fast, they do get a lot of attention and pampering from everyone. In the contemporary times I know of couples who fast for each other. I personally love the fuss and glamour around it!
Wish you a very happy KC!
Thanks so much for reading Shuchi, it’s all in how you view this ritual:) Anjum Nayyar, Editor-in-Chief, Masalamommas.com
Love this Anjum!!
thanks so much Bhanu, it’s been stirring in me for a while to write something on this subject:) Anjum
I love this! I feel there is a lot of negativity going out to women who choose to fast, as if we are giving in to a sexist holiday. I have chosen to fast for 2 years now. The first year, we were not yet married. This year we were.
I had a hard time this year, because my family does it differently. We stop eating and drinking before midnight. It’s even harder. This year I was very sick, because I was dehydrated.
If I had a big breakfast and hydrated at the beginning of the morning, I would never feel sick.
I think it’s time to change the tradition up a bit, for the sake of my health.
But all in all, I love the symbolism of Karva Chauth!