The day of Karva Chauth is celebrated mostly amongst the entire North Indian community settled either in India and other parts of the world. The most important aspect of this day is that a dawn to dusk fast is undertaken by the North Indian ladies and seeing the moon they finally break the fast. The fast is unique perhaps because nowhere in the world does a wife go without food or water just to pray for the longevity and well-being of her husband.
In modern day, with all the trappings of commercialization attached, Karva Chauth, the big fasting day has turned into a full-fledged event. The event is growing bigger with each passing day. Karva Chauth celebrations promise to grow bigger with each passing year. The Halwais, the Mehendi and Churiwallis have traditionally been busy on this auspicious day. But joining the bandwagon in recent times are the beauty parlour owners, the event managers and the restaurant owners.
Karva Chauth special eateries are gearing up for now. Cashing in on the popularity of 'eating out' most restaurants have special menus for this special day. No wonder almost every happening-eating joint around town is offering plenty of attractive options to choose from. Various clubs organize special events on this festive day with various stalls, bumper Tambola and even a dance competition. With so much feasting and fun added to it, fasting had never been so good before.
The fast of Karwa Chauth is of particular importance to all Hindu married women in India. They believe that the festival ensures prosperity, longevity and well-being of their husbands. The origin of this festival was based on a very sweet and noble idea. Though this idea has lost its true sense as today the whole outlook of this festival has changed.
In the ancient time, girls used to get married at a very early stage, and had to go and live with their in-laws in other villages. After marriage, if she faces any problem with her in-laws or her husband, she would have no one to talk to or seek support from. There used to be no telephones, buses and trains long ago. Her own parents and relatives would be quite far and unreachable. Thus the custom started that, at the time of marriage, when bride would reach her in-laws, she would befriend another woman there who would be her friend or sister for life. It would be like god-friends or god-sisters. Their friendship would be sanctified through a small Hindu ceremony right during the marriage.
Once the bride and this woman had become god-friends or god-sisters, they would remain so all their lives and recognize the relation as such. They would also treat each other like real sisters.
Later in life, if she faces any difficulty related to her husband or in-laws, she would be able to confidently talk or seek help from each other. Thus, Karwa Chauth was started to as a festival to celebrate this relationship between the once-brides and their god-friends (god-sisters). Fasting and praying for husband came later and is secondary. It was probably added, along with other mythical tales, to enhance the festival. The husband would always be associated with this festival, because the day of starting this holy friendship between two god-sisters was essentially the day of bride's marriage to him. Thus, praying and fasting for him by his wife during a celebration of her relationship with the god-friend would be quite logical.
Hence, the festival of Karwa Chauth was to renew and celebrate the relationship between god-friends (god-sisters). It had a tremendous social and cultural significance when world was not having the way to communicate and move around easily.
The fast of Karwa Chauth is kept 9 days before Diwali. It falls on the fourth day of the Kartik month by the Hindu calendar (fourth day of the waning moon or the dark fortnight).
Karwa Chauth is considered one of the most important fasts observed by the married Hindu women. On this day the women pray for the welfare and long life of their husbands. The festival is followed mainly in the northern parts of the country.
Married women eat food early in the morning, before sunrise. They are not supposed to eat or even drink water during the day. In the evening the ladies listen to the Karwa Chauth Katha (the legend). The fast is over after the moonrise.
The Puja Process
The pooja preparations start a day in advance. Married women buy the shringar or the traditional adornments and the other pooja items like the karwa, matthi, heena etc.
Early in the morning they prepare food and have it before sunrise. The morning passes by in other festive activities like decorating hand and feet with heena, decorating thepooja thali and meeting friends and relatives.
In the late afternoon women gather at a common place like temple or a garden or someones' place who has arranged the pooja. An elderly lady or the pujarin narrates the legend of Karwa Chauth.
The essentials of this gathering and listening of the Karwa chauth story , a special mud pot, that is considered a symbol of lord Ganesha, a metal urn filled with water, flowers, idols of Ambika Gaur Mata, Goddess Parwati and some fruits, mathi and food grains. A part of this is offered to the deities and the storyteller.
Earlier an idol of Gaur Mata was made using earth and cowdung. Now just an idol of Goddess Parwati is kept. Every one lights an earthen lamp in their thalis while listening to the Karwa story. Sindoor, incense sticks and rice are also kept in the thali.
At this time the women wear heavy saris or chunries in red , pink or other bridal colors, and adorn themselves with all other symbols of a married women like, nose pin, tika, bindi, chonp, bangles, earrings etc.
Once the moon rises, the women see its reflection in a thali of water, or through a dupatta or a sieve. They offer water to the moon and seek blessings. They pray for the safety, prosperity and long life of their husbands. This marks the end of the day long fast.