The Fast of Karva Chauth

Karva Chauth is a day-long festival celebrated by women in North India. Women fast from sunrise to moonrise to pray for their husbands. Karva means clay jug, while Chauth means four. On the fourth day, married women fast for the wellbeing and a long life for their husbands. Karwa Chauth is immediately after Dusshera and 9 days before Diwali.

Karva Chauth was a day to enjoy the company of friends and family. Later, many mythological legends have got added to give a religious touch. There are several hypotheses about the origin of this celebration. In prehistoric times military campaigns generally ended before the winter set in. Women would keep fast to pray for safe return of their husbands from the wars.

During the day, the women dress in their finery, adorned with a bindi, and colorful bracelets. They put vermillion, paint their hands and feet with henna and wear their best jewels. The newlywed would wear their wedding dress on this auspicious occasion. They usually pink or orange ghagra choli, lehenga choli or red banarasi sarees. They complement them with gold, diamonds, and rubies.

In the evening the women gather in a common place like a temple or a garden. They pray for the husbands until the moon appears. Each woman lights a lamp and puts mud with sindoor, incense sticks and rice in their thalis. Once the moon rises, women see their reflection in a thali with water, or through a dupatta or a sieve. From that moment the fast ends. The first sip of water and the first bite of food get offered by the husband. It gets followed by a sumptuous dinner. The ceremony ends when they touch the feet of their husbands to show their love.

Karva Chauth is unique in the northern region and the festival is popular in the state of Rajasthan. It is also common in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Punjab. Women begin preparations for the celebrations a few days in advance. They buy makeup and cosmetics or shringar, ornaments, jewelry, Karva, lamps, and plates. Local shops and bazaars decorate their shops with festive products for Karva Chauth.

Women wake up before sunrise on the day of Karva Chauth and have something to eat and drink. In Uttar Pradesh, women eat sutarfeni, the traditional milk-based dish. The Sargi in Punjab is an important part of this meal before sunrise. If mother-in-law lives in the same house, the pre-dawn meal gets prepared by the mother-in-law.

Women take part in community activities during the fast. In the morning, they spend time with the other women in the community and paint henna on hands and feet. Before sunset, they meet in a place like someone's home to perform the rituals associated. Together, they pray for the welfare and longevity of their husbands. They exchange a gift basket with products such as almonds, jewelry, and other things.

Husbands shower their wives with gifts and sweets after the fasting and prayers. This festival also serves as a reminder of the eternal bond between husband and wife.

In Punjab, the markets get flooded with accessories and decorative objects. It includes bangles, bracelets, saris, beautiful embroidery suits, candy stalls, and other foodstuffs. Artists from cities like Agra, Jaipur and Delhi gather here for special mehndi henna tattoos.

Among women of Rajasthan, women make themselves the karvas with mud and fill it with rice and wheat. In Uttar Pradesh, married women decorate the walls of her house with pictures of the moon and the sun. They also make karva with mud and perform puja at night with earthen lamps. Before looking at the moon, women pray at their doorstep.

In Maharashtra, a similar one called Vat Savitri get celebrated. In other regions, Teej gets celebrated. Karva Chauth has also inspired Bollywood.