Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Legen...wait for it.. Dary Karwa Chauth of North India

I still remember it as if it was just yesterday that I witnessed one of the most important festivals in North India - The Karwa Chauth. It is the day all married, and some unmarried women, fast for the health and long life of their husbands (present or future). Legend goes that there was a woman called Karwa who snatched her husband's life from the jaws of God of Death Yamraj himself, such was her love and dedication for him. So every year, millions of Indian women around the world fast and pray for their husbands with the same love and dedication.



My mother is a Jain and was never obliged to perform the Karwa Chauth, especially because she never had any in laws to enforce any rituals. However, she and her sister were very fond of the festival and ever since they got married, they have observed the fast, come hail or high water. To add to it, they don't take the easy way of fruitarian fast, but go the whole nine yards in observing a nirjal or non-water fast. As a kid. even though I never fasted with them, it was an exciting and fascinating day for me as well.


The preparations of Karwa Chauth began a couple of days in advance. Fruits, mithai, mud karwa etc were bought and decorated. Mehndi was applied the night before - my favourite part and a way to participate. Mom woke up at 4 am on Karwa Chauth day to have sargi (I woke up too in excitement). Then she would wear her finest silk saree, apply the solah sringar and get ready for the day ahead (while i wore my best suits and bangles and bindi). We then went to our mausi's place where her daughter and daughter-in-law would also join us, along with another few relatives. We would sit around and chat all day, having fun catching up. I would be the only one having lunch, not enjoying it at all.

In the evening the puja would begin. All married women would sit in a circle and start narrating the story of Karwa, and queen Veervati who was a devout wife observing karwa chauth but tricked into breaking her fast early by her brothers who couldnt see her starve. As a result her husband dies - the story narrates her grief and her resolve to redo the fast to get her husband back and how she painstakingly but surely succeeds in the task. It was an engaging and fascinating story that I had memorized in the first few times I attended the puja. During the puja the women would break for singing a couplet every now and then and pass their thalis around till every woman got hers back.. it was a beautiful spectacle of shimmer and colour!

By sunset the puja finished and so did the patience of the fasting women. Everyone was now waiting with bated breath to see a glimpse of the moon. The fast is broken by looking at the moon, offering water to it from the mud karwa and then breaking the fast. It is known fact the moon rises most late on Karwa Chauth day when millions of women are begging it to oblige them with its appearance. Many times its been hid behind clouds and women have had to break their fasts by looking at its pictures. We kids were made to run up to the terrace every 15 mins to see if the moon had risen... though the exercise was exhausting, it was exciting as well. We wanted the moon to rise ASAP as well - we were just as hungry as the fasting women, at the thought of a yummy feast awaiting us, with just the moon between us and the food.

Finally the moon would do everyone a favour and relent with its appearance. Many sighs of relief, feet touching, first sip of water and bite of food later, the fast would finally come to an end and we all finally got some really awesome dinner! We went back home, sated, after a long day of hard work! :)



I have never fasted in my life, especially the women-fasting-for-men ones. Am an agnostic feminist and don't believe doing any of this would make any difference to my husband. But I do love all the festivities and traditions of karwa chauth - the dressing up, the mehndi, the meeting relatives, the excitement, the food, the community coming together and celebrating as one. And today I really miss being part of all the fun. A Happy Karwa Chauth to all the lovely women out there!

7 comments:

RaVarma said...

Hehe mekko to yeh aadhi cheezein yaad bhi nahi :P

virtualradhika said...

Super like...well written!!!

Aditi Varma said...

lol.. im not surprised RaVarma..
Thanks Radhika... :)

Aenur Ridwan said...

ahay

Unknown said...

Well said. I also don't fast for health reasons. But yes do the poojas though doesn't make any difference either way to my hubby as according to him his life won't be affected with all this. My mom never celebrated this festival as gujjus don't. But growing up in Delhi have witnessed the festival in full glory around me and loved the shimmer and fun.

Unknown said...

Well said. I also don't fast for health reasons. But yes do the poojas though doesn't make any difference either way to my hubby as according to him his life won't be affected with all this. My mom never celebrated this festival as gujjus don't. But growing up in Delhi have witnessed the festival in full glory around me and loved the shimmer and fun.

Unknown said...

Well said. I also don't fast for health reasons. But yes do the poojas though doesn't make any difference either way to my hubby as according to him his life won't be affected with all this. My mom never celebrated this festival as gujjus don't. But growing up in Delhi have witnessed the festival in full glory around me and loved the shimmer and fun.