Significance of Karwa Chauth

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  • This article tells you about the meaning of the words Karva Chauth, stories and rituals associated with the festival and why it is celebrated essentially in North and North western India.  

A variety of festivals, one more interesting than the other, and unique customs make India a very wonderful and lively country. These festivals and rituals are a true expression of its rich cultural heritage. The celebrations are a source of joy and happy memories such that even after festivals are over the sense of celebration resonates in their minds. 

One such interesting festival is Karwa Chauth (KC in short) – a festival i.e. very important for married women. All married women celebrate KC with immense love, purity and joy. Every married woman, regardless of her age, waits for this auspicious day.

 

The festival is very popular in North India esp. amongst newlywed Hindu and Sikh couples. However, thanks to Hindi TV serials KC has got known across India.

 

During the festival married women fast for the wellbeing, prosperity and long life of their beloved husband. Fasting is supposed to be rigorous although woman adjust the norms to suit their health for e.g. my mother fasted only till lunch because her body could not take it.

 

The preparations begin weeks before  the festival; during this time markets are full of colourful pooja items like Karwa, decorated thalis and murti of goddess Parvati . 

 

Why is Karva Chauth popular in North India?

 

I posed this question to my Dadaji (father’s father) years ago. He said since North India was perpetually under attack from foreign invaders men had to constantly fight wars. Every war had casualties. Therefore, during this festival woman prayed for the long life of their husband. Even though India is no longer faced by similar invasions the tradition has carried on.

 

It is a cultural festival and celebrated by the people of Punjab, Hindu & Sikh, because foreign invaders invariably attacked undivided Punjab first.

 

Even though India is no longer faced by similar invasions the tradition has carried on.

 

What does the word ‘Karwa Chauth’ mean? 

 

The word KC has a specific meaning. Karwa or Karva means earthen pot while chauth means fourth. So, Karwa Chauth is basically about offering Arghya to the moon using ‘Karwa’on  Chaturthi tithi during the Hindu month of Kartik.

 

KC is observed on the fourth day of Krishna Paksha in the month of Kartik. This festival is mostly celebrated in the North and North-western parts of India; primarily in Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh.

 

Stories associated with the festival

 

The first goes back to the Mahabharata. When Arjuna went to the Nilgiris for penance the rest of the Pandavas faced many problems. At that point their wife Draupadi remembered Sri Krishna and asked him for help who advised her to observe the fast of KC. Draupadi followed the instructions subsequent to which the Pandavas overcame their problems. 

Another story is of a devout wife Karwa. One day her husband was caught by a crocodile and sure to face death. Because of love for her husband she bound the crocodile with cotton yarn and asked Yamraj, the Lord of Death, to return the life of her husband. When Yamraj refused she threatened to curse him. Being afraid of her devotion Yamraj sent the crocodile to hell and blessed her husband with a long life. Such is the power of a wife’s devotion.

 

There are many similar KC stories of brave women who brought back their husbands from the death knell. The story of Satyavan and Savitri, Veeravati are also associated with KC.

 

Who celebrates Karwa Chauth?

 

Karwa Chauth is mostly celebrated by married Sikh and Hindu woman who fast for the long lives of their husbands. The idea behind celebrating this festival is to pray and wish for the longevity, well-being, and prosperity, of the husband. This festival celebrates the beautiful relationship between husband and wife.

 

In contemporary times many men have started fasting and participating in the rituals. It has become a way of expressing love for their wives or are influenced by the western concept of equality. Any way it is nice to see men fast for their wives.

 

In many states unmarried women also fast to get the desired life-partner. 

 

The rituals of Karwa Chauth

 

Although the rituals of KC vary by region there are certain common customs which we shall explain in detail.

 

On this day mainly Shivji, his wife Parvati and sons Ganesha & Kartikeya are worshipped. Goddess Chauth Mata is also worshipped by women.

 

Karwa has a special significance on this festival; it is basically a small pitcher which is used for offering Arghya and given as charity at the end of fasting. Usually, fasting and prayers are carried out in groups. 

 

Fasting is an important part of KC. It starts with sunrise and women break it only after offering Arghya to the moon. Most married women do not even take a drop of water until moonrise.

 

In some parts of India, married women wakeup in the wee hours to eat "sargi" which is a special meal prepared by their mother-in-laws.  Sargi consists of fruits, home cooked sweets, mathri and dry fruits. It is a gift or a token of a mother-in-law’s gratitude to her son’s wife who prays for his long life and prosperity. After eating Sargi women stay without consuming water and food all day i.e. until the moon rises.

 

Therefore, Karva Chauth is the festival that creates a special bond between the mother and daughter-in-law. In some parts of north India, parents send gifts and sweets to their married daughters.

 

Women dress up in bright and colourful traditional dresses. Newlywed ladies wear lehanga choli or their wedding sari. They apply mehndi and wear heavy jewellery on this auspicious occasion. 

Colourful rangolis are drawn in the front yard and melodious folk songs and bhajans sung.

 

In every household, traditional and delicious food items are prepared but this delicious feast is partaken only after the evening puja.

 

The thali or plate of Karwa Chauth is decorated with gota patti and sparkling cloth-piece. Sweets, fenia, dry fruits, matthi and kheer are carefully arranged on this plate. 

 

After morning preparations, women in the neighbourhood get together at someone’s household for the evening rituals. They decorate the pooja plate with an idol of goddess Parvati.  A few hours before moon rise old ladies narrate the story of the Karwa Chauth Mahatamya. 

 

After this ladies sit in a circle and pray to goddess Parvati for their husband’s welfare and marital bliss. Lastly, the women chant their holy hymn and pass their pooja thalis around in the circle. After pooja, women wait for the moon to rise. 

 

At moonrise, women begin lighting beautifully decorated diyas; they also offer prayers to the moon while chanting mantras. Beautifully decorated Karwa or clay pots are filled with milk, water, coins or precious stones. They see the moon through a round shape sieve and offer Arghya to the moon using their ‘Karwas’. After that, they look at their husbands through the same sieve and pray for his long life.

 

The fast is broken when the husband offers his wife the first sip of water and morsel of food. This is followed by a sumptuous feast. On KC husbands shower their wives with gifts for e.g. jewellery.

 

These traditional rituals add charm and bliss in the relationship of husband and wife. Love and care is the foundation of any marriage and festivals like KC make this foundation even stronger.

 

Karwa Chauth is after all a festival of love, care, faith and devotion.

 

To know more about the festival