Wednesday, 13 April 2016

K for Karva Chauth




A woman doing Karva chauth looks through a sieve after completing the fast, first towards the rising moon and then at her spouse.

Karva Chauth is a one-day festival celebrated by Hindu women in North India in which married women fast from sunrise to moonrise for the safety and longevity of their husbands. The festival falls on the fourth day after the full moon, in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik (oct – nov). This is one of the most glamorized festivals and sometimes unmarried girls also observe the fast for their fiancés or desired husbands. (A similar festival on the concept of longevity of husband is celebrated in other parts of North and is called Teej)

Origin & belief:

The name Karva Chauth has been derived from Karva means 'pot' (a small earthen pot of water) and chauth means 'fourth' in Hindi (a reference to the fact that the festival falls on the fourth day of the dark-fortnight, or krishna paksh, of the month of Kartik).

The festival originated and came to be celebrated only in the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent. The hypothesis is that military campaigns were often conducted by Hindus who were defending India against Mughal invaders, they would often leave their wives and children to go off to war. Their wives would often pray and observe a day of socialising, with other women, by preparing special meals, and dressing up in their finest regalia, and having what would today be deemed as a romantic evening with their husband before he went off to war.

Women whose husbands had already gone off to war, observed the fast to pray for the safety of their husbands at this time as they ventured away from home to defend India. The festival coincides with the wheat-sowing time (i.e., the beginning of the Rabi crop cycle). Big earthen pots in which wheat is stored are sometimes called Karvas, so the fast may have begun as a prayer for a good harvest in this predominantly wheat-eating region.

Celebration & Rituals :

Women begin preparing for Karva Chauth a few days in advance, by buying cosmetics (shringar), traditional adornments or jewellery, and puja items, such as the Karva lamps, matthi, henna and the decorated puja thali (plate). Local bazaars take on a festive look as shopkeepers put their Karva Chauth related products on display. On the day of the fast, women take Sargi a pre-dawn meal mainly consisting of Sweets, milk delicacy or liquid before sunrise. It is believed to help them go without water the next day.

Women sitting in circle and celebrating Karva Chauth

The fast begins with dawn. Fasting women do not eat during the day. Women apply henna and other cosmetics to themselves and each other. The day passes in meeting friends and relatives. In some regions, it is customary to give and exchange painted clay pots filled with put bangles, ribbons, home-made candy, cosmetics and small cloth items (e.g., handkerchiefs). Since Karva Chauth follows soon after the Kharif crop harvest in the rural areas, it is a good time for community festivities and gift exchanges. Parents often send gifts to their married daughters and their children.


Women dressed for Karva Chauth

In the evening, a community women-only ceremony is held. Participants dress in fine clothing and wear jewellery and henna, and (in some regions) dress in the complete finery of their wedding dresses. The dresses (saris, lehngas or shalwars) are frequently red, gold or orange, which are considered auspicious colours. They sit in a circle with their puja thalis. Depending on region and community, a version of the story of Karva Chauth is narrated, with regular pauses. The storyteller is usually an older woman or a priest, if one is present. In the pauses, the Karva Chauth puja song is sung collectively the singers perform the feris (passing their thalis around in the circle).

Mehndi (Henna) decoration on palm

The first six describe some of the activities that are taboo during the fast and the seventh describes the lifting of those restrictions with the conclusion of the fast. The forbidden activities include weaving cloth (kumbh chrakhra feri naa), pleading with or attempting to please anyone (ruthda maniyen naa), and awakening anyone who is asleep (suthra jagayeen naa).

In Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, participants exchange Karvas seven times between themselves. In Rajasthan, before offering water seven times the fasting woman is asked "Dhapi ki Ni Dhapi?" (are you satiated?), to which she responds, "Jal se Dhapi, Suhaag se na Dhapi" (I am satiated by water, but not from [love of] my husband).

After the fera ceremony concludes, the women await the rising of the moon. Once the moon is visible, depending on the region and community, it is customary for a fasting woman, with her husband nearby, to view its reflection in a vessel filled with water, through a sieve, or through the cloth of a dupatta. Water is offered (arka) to the moon (som or chandra, the lunar deity) to secure its blessings. She then turns to her husband and views his face indirectly in the same manner. In some regions, the woman says a brief prayer asking for her husband's life. It is believed that at this stage, spiritually strengthened by her fast, the woman can successfully confront and defeat death (personified by Yama). In Rajasthan the women say "Like the gold necklace and the pearl bracelet, just like the moon may my suhaag always shine brightly."

A women seeing rising moon from seive

The husband now takes the water from the thali and gives his wife her first sip and feeds her with the first morsel of the day (usually something sweet). The fast is now broken, and the woman has a complete meal.

A scene from the Bollywood Movie DDLJ

In modern North India and North-western India society, Karva Chauth is considered to be a romantic festival, symbolizing the love between a husband and wife.



Aditya Sinha
11.04.2016

That’s for today with F. Tomorrow it would be another festival with “G”
List of Other Festivals : Anant Chaturdashi, Akshay Tritiya ,Buddha Purnima, Basant Panchmi, Baisakhi,  ChhathaDiwali/DeepawaliEasterFestival of Breaking Fast - Eid ul FitrGanesh ChaturthiHoliId-ul-Zoha or Bakra-Eid , Janmashtmi 

For my parallel second Challenge blog with A pls visit : Let the Soul Pour

For other A to Z challenge blogs visit : A to Z Challenge 2016