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Festivals - Karva Chauth
 
The fast of Karva Chauth is kept by Hindu women for the well-being, prosperity and longevity of their husbands. The origin of this festival is based upon a very sweet and noble idea. In earlier times, girls would get married at a very young age, and had to go and live with their in-laws in other villages far away from their own parents. If she had any problems with her husband or in-laws, she would have no one to talk to or seek support from.

Karva Chauth is a fast undertaken by married Hindu women who offer prayers seeking the welfare, prosperity, well-being, and longevity of their husbands. Karva Chauth falls about nine days before diwali on the Kartik ki Chauth some time in October or November. It is the most important fast observed by the women of North India. A woman keeps such a fast for the well-being of her husband, who becomes her protector after she leaves her parents home. Her husband provides her with food, shelter, clothing, respectability, comfort and happiness.

Thus, there grew a custom where the bride would befriend another woman to share her joys and sorrows. Their friendship would be sanctified through a small Hindu ceremony right during the marriage. Once the bride and the woman became god-friends or god-sisters as they are commonly known, they would remain so all their lives and recognize the relation as such. They would also treat each other like real sisters.

The Meaning
The term 'Chauth' means the 'fourth day' and 'Karwa' is an earthen pot with a spout - a symbol of peace and prosperity - that is necessary for the rituals. Hence the name 'Karwa Chauth'.

The Ritual
Married women keep a strict fast and do not take even a drop of water. They get up early in the morning, perform their ablutions, and wear new and festive raiment. Shiva, Parvati and their son Kartikeya are worshipped on this day along with the 10 'karwas' (earthen pots) filled with sweets. The Karwas are given to daughters and sisters along with gifts.

The Fast

It is the most important and difficult fast observed by married Hindu women. (Unmarried women, widows, and spinsters are barred from observing this fast.) It begins before sunrise and ends only after offering prayers and worshipping the moon at night. No food or water can be taken after sunrise. The fast is broken once the moon is sighted and rituals of the day have been performed. At night when the moon appears, women break their fast after offering water to the moon.

The Custom
In the evening, women dress up in special clothes, usually a red or pink sari or 'lehenga-choli' with gold woven 'zari' patterns. New brides often wear their bridal costume. All deck up in jewelry and wear 'mehendi' or henna patterns especially on the hands. Decorative 'bindis' on the forehead are a must for all women taking part in this celebration. Fasting women from all over the neighborhood gather in a group and narrate mythological stories that underscore the significance of Karwa Chauth. And, of couse, all wives expect lavish gifts from their husbands!

The fast of Karwa Chawth truly sets the merry tone of the fun and frolic, festivity and feasting that come in good measure during Diwali — the biggest festival of the Hindus.
 
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