Women celebrate the festival of Karwa Chauth on the 4th day during the fortnight of Ashwin, to pray and wish for the well-being, prosperity and longevity of their husband. `Karwa’ means earthen pots, used to store wheat, and `Chauth’ means the fourth day. Karwa Chauth is considered a major and significant festival in the northern part of India. The fast of Karwa Chauth is mostly observed by married Hindu and Sikh women. Traditionally, it is celebrated in the states of Rajasthan, parts of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh.
How the Festival Started
Karwa Chauth was originally observed to celebrate the friendship, sisterhood, and, togetherness between women. In ancient times, girls would get married at a very early age to men who they were not familiar with, and had to go and live with their in-laws in other villages. They would feel all alone in an unfamiliar setting. Thus, the custom of `friends for life’ started in the form of this festival. When the bride would reach her in-laws, she would befriend another woman here who would be her friend or sister for life and with whom she could feel free to share her secrets.
With changing times, this ritual became a fast observed by a married woman for the longevity of her husband. However, nowadays, many husbands also keep the fast with (or for) their wives. Many young women, in newly founded relationships, also keep the fast for the well-being of their fiancés.
The major ritual followed during this festival includes the women keeping a day-long fast. The fast starts from dawn, when the women eat `Sargi’, a meal prepared by their mother-in-law in the morning. After eating the sargi, those keeping the fast are required to stay without consuming water and food all day long until the moon rises in the night. Devotees worship Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha, Lord Kartikeya, Goddess Parvati, and the moon at this time.
Women prepare for the festival by putting henna on their hands and dressing up as brides. They wear new, red-coloured clothing and red glass bangles.
In the evening, a prayer is offered in a temple by the gathering of fasting women, this is done for the long life and well-being of their husbands. They sit around in a circle with their puja thaali, each woman places a Karwa (a pitcher full of water), and seven pieces of pua, a sweet made in the form of a triangle, in the thaali. It is adorned with kharia, aipun and a little red roli. A red thread is also tied around the Karwa.
An elderly woman or the temple pandit narrates the legend or the Vrata Katha of Karwa Chauth
,. The women then pray for the long life and wellbeing of their husbands, while chanting the prayers; they pass their thaalis to each other in the circle.
They then wait for the moon to rise in the night. As soon as the moon is sighted, prayers are offered to the moon. The fasting women first observe the moon through a sieve and then their husband through the same strainer. Then they break their fast by offering a piece of sweet to the moon. The husbands offer them the first sip of water and the first morsel of food, and so, with this sweet gesture, the festival of Karwa Chauth comes to its conclusion.
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