Karva Chauth is perhaps the most lauded and celebrated festivals observed by married women all over northern India. It is a festival which has of late come to be celebrated with a lot of pomp and fanfare.
Essentially the Karva Chauth celebration was about the bonding between the bride of the house and her in laws and the other women folk. This fast is mostly observed in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. An almost similar festival is known as Chhath and is celebrated Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand etc area.
This observance is done on the chaturthi of the Krishna Paksha in the month of Kartick according to traditional Hindu calendar. As per the Gregorian calendar this falls in the dark phase of the moon in the month of October. In 2019, Karva Chauth will be celebrated on the 17th of October.
Origin of the Karva Chauth festival
Etymologically Karva Chauth is the amalgamation of two words/ Karva means earthen pot and chauth means chaturthi or the fourth day. The observance came into being in the north and western part of India. It is believed that men of those areas used to go to war very frequently leaving their wives and the small children at home. This was in the period when the Mughal invaders were raring to enter the land. These wives would dress up and spend time with their husbands and socialize with other women. The festival also fell in the time when the wheat sowing was going on. Thus it was also a prayer for the good harvest.
There is also the theory that previously young girls would get married and they would go to their in laws house. There they knew no one and this festival helped them to bond with the other women. Thus Karva Chauth started as a festival to celebrate for the safety and well being of the husbands along with the newly made friends of the wife. Before the day of the Karva Chauth the women would buy new Karva or earthen pots and put bangles, ribbons, make-up items, small items of clothing, homemade candies etc and then they would exchange it amongst the friends.
Legends behind Karva chauth
Long ago there was a beautiful queen called Veeravati who had 7 brothers. The first Karva Chauth she was spending at her parental place when her brothers couldn’t tolerate her distressed state due to severe hunger and thirst. Thus they fixed up a mirror on the peepal tree and when Veeravati saw it, she thought it was the moon and broke her fast. The moment she ate, news reached her that the King was died. Griefstricken Veeravati kept crying till the time a Goddess appeared and told her how her brothers had faked the moon and she had unwittingly broken off her fast. The Goddess asked her to perform her vrat once again. This time Veeravati repeated the fast. The Lord of Yama was then forced to give her husband’s life back.
It is said that Draupadi too in the epic Mahabharata used to keep the fast of Karva Chauth. Once Arjun had gone to the Nilgiri forests and the rest of the Pandavas were in deep distress. Draupadi requested Lord Krishna to show her a way out of this difficulty and Krishna advised her to keep the fast and reminded her of the story of Veeravati. He also said that Parvati too had observed the same penance for Lord Shiva.
There is also the story of a woman called Karva, who was a dedicated wife. Once, her husband was being dragged by a crocodile in the water, when Karva asked the Yama raj to take the crocodile with him. Yama refused and Karva enraged threatened to curse him. However, finally Yama relented and sent the crocodile to hell and blessed Karva and her husband with a long and prosperous life.
Rituals of Karva Chauth
Women start preparing for the Karva Chauth a couple of days before from the original date of the vrat. They buy jewelry, cosmetics, the Karva chauth lamps, mehendi and beautifully decorated puja thalis. In Punjab, on this auspicious day women awake in the morning and then eat and drink to prepare for a day long past. In Uttar Pradesh, women eat soot feni on the eve of this festival.sargi is an important aspect in Punjab, which is given from the mother in law to the bride of the house.
Women start their fasting from the morning and traditionally on this day they do not have to do any house work. They apply henna on their hands. It is a custom to exchange the Karva filled with various gifts among other women. Since Karva Chauth is also a harvest festival, it is also a very good time to exchange gifts amongst selves.
In the evening women wear beautiful clothes and in certain regions they wear complete bridal fineries too. The color of their dresses and saris are mostly red, orange or gold. The fasting women all sit in a circle with their puja thalis, and listen to a story of the Karva Chauth. While singing the Karva Chauth songs the puja thalis are passed on, which is called feris. The first six cantos describe things which are forbidden, like weaving cloth, attempting to please someone, awakening the sleeping and the seventh describes the lifting of the restrictions.
In the state of Uttar Pradesh, women exchange Karva s 7 times and in Rajasthan women are asked if they are satiated, to which they reply that they are satiated with drinking water but not with the love of her husband. After this, the fasting women offers Prasad or bayna like puri, halwa, meethi and namkeen mathri etc to the Goddess and later on to their mother-in –laws or sister-in-laws.
After the fera is done, the fasting women wait for the moon to rise. Once the moon is up, the woman watches the moon through a vessel of water or a sieve or a dupatta, and then watches her husband. It is the belief that throughout the day’s penance, the woman gains the strength to challenge Yama even to protect her husband. The husband now takes the glass of water from the plate and makes his wife sip water and also offers her the first morsel of food, and breaks her fast.
Significance of Karva Chauth
In the modern times Karva Chauth has become a festival which signifies the love and bonding between a husband and a wife.
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