Karwa Chauth is a festival observed in the northern parts of India to strengthen bonds between the husband and wife. Interestingly, it is also observed to foster better relations with the in-laws (in case of a bride) of the house, especially with the women at home.
Karwa means earthen pot, which symbolizes prosperity and Chauth means the fourth day after the full Moon or the waning phase of the Moon, in the month of Karthik (Oct-Nov). It is observed 9 days after Dussehra and 11 days before Diwali. The day is spent by the married women in fasting without even consuming water or food, till Moonrise in the evening.
In epic Mahabharata, it is said that once Arjuna went to Neelgiri Mountain to do penance. In his absence, Draupadi and the four Pandavas met untold suffering and difficult situations to surpass. In her agony, Draupadi sought refuge in Krishna, who immediately appeared before her. Draupadi narrated her difficulties to Krishna and Krishna replied that Lord Shiva himself had asked Parvati to fast in the auspicious day of Karwa Chauth to remove the problems in marital life. Krishna asked Draupadi to observe this fast to resolve marital problems and for the victory of Pandavas in the battle. Thereupon, Draupadi observed this fast on Karwa chauth and her problems got resolved.
Importance of fasting
Women fast on Karwa Chauth from the morning till Moonrise for the longevity of their husbands. Fasting brings balance of Pitta. Pitta is one of the Tridoshas (3 basic physical energies) in the body, which is responsible for the metabolic activities of digestion and biochemical reactions. Formed by the combination of water and fire, it maintains the homeostasis in the body. Fasting is a sequential process that helps to remove the toxic substances in the body.
Prayer to the Moon
Women end their fasts only after seeing the Moon. Once the Moon rises in the skies, the women devoutly pray and see the Moon`s reflection in a plate of water, or through 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. In the month of Karthik, the cooling rays of the Moon help to maintain the metabolism of the body and balance the heat of the body with its transforming cooling energies. It helps to eliminate the wastes of the body through sweat. Moon is worshipped for positive thoughts, calmness and happy, peaceful married life.
- Women wake up early in the morning before sunrise and take bath. Before sunrise, they eat specially prepared food called `sargi`. They do not eat or drink anything till the Moonrise.
- The day is spent by applying henna to their feet and hands, decorating their pooja plates for the evening, meeting friends and family members.
- In the evening, they dress in fine clothes and bridal jewellery and gather at a temple or in a place where the pooja is conducted.
- An elderly lady narrates the story of Karwa Chauth. The pooja includes a special mud pot or karwa, which is considered to be Lord Ganesha. He is invoked for fulfilment of wishes. Other things include: a metal urn filled with water, flowers, idols of Mother Ambika( made of earth and cow dung) and Goddess Parvati, fruits, food grains and delicious food offerings
- Women light an earthen lamp in their thalis or plates, while listening to the story of Karwa Chauth. Sindoor, incense sticks and rice are also kept in the thali that is to be offered to the Moon.
- The fast is then broken only after Moonrise. Women take a glimpse of their husbands through a sieve and then look at the Moon. They pray to the Moon for well-being and prosperity of their husbands.
- Then they perform aarti of their husbands and take his blessings. It is the husband who breaks their fast by giving the first sip of water and the first taste of food to his devout wife.