Short Essay on Karwa Chauth

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Karwa Chauth is basically a day long fast observed by married women for the welfare and longevity of their husbands. It is celebrated with fervour and is quite popular among the married women. The festival falls on the 4th day of Krishna Paksha in the month of Kaartik, according to Hindu calendar. It generally arrives in October/November month as per the modern calendar. The fast is observed mainly in states of Northern India like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan etc.

The exact commencement of the festival is unknown but according to folk tales it is inferred that it was present in the historic times. There is a mention when Draupdi observes the Karwa Chauth fast for the well being and longevity of Pandavas. In conversation with Krishna, a reference is made when Parvati observed the same fast for lord Shiva. Hence, without any evidence to support, it can be derived that the festival is celebrated from ages. There are various stories that describe how the festival started and explains its significance:

The first tale is about Queen Veeravati who was the sister of 7 brothers. She observed the fast for her husband for the first time, but got restless and her condition deteriorated due to hunger and thirst. Her brothers could not see her pathetic condition and created an illusion of moon in the banyan tree. The queen offered her prayers to the false moon and broke her fast. But this brought bad luck for her husband and he suffered huge losses and poor health. After exploring the reason behind, Veeravati apologised for not properly carrying out the fast and repeated the ritual next year with complete sincerity and dedication. This in turn brought fortune and health for her husband.

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This is just one narration of various tales prevalent in different regions where the festival is celebrated. Similar instances and story line is described for Savitiri and Satyavan, where Savitiri compelled the God of death, Yama, to give back life of her husband. In another story a lady named Karva, saved the life of her husband after observing this fast.

Women wake up early in the morning and eat fruits and a special dish called feniyan, before the sunrise. It is meant that eating these things help to keep thirst at a bay during the day time. After this, the whole day long strict fast without food or water is observed. Women apply heena on hands and wear best of clothes and traditional jewellery. The prayer is recited in the evening, mostly in groups. An elder lady or the priest tells the tale and women exchange thalis. The fast is opened at night, with the arrival of moon. Women worship the moon and in the same manner follow the rituals for their husbands. After this they drink the water and eat some kind of sweet by the hands of husband. Husbands also offer gifts such as clothes and jewellery to their wives on this occasion.

The karwa chauth festival is gaining popularity with the advent of time. It is however also criticised by a section of society. They claim it as sexist where females behave as an inferior creature to males. There is no such fast for the males described in the texts or society. But due to increasing market influence, this is another festival when lots of shopping is done; hence it is being promoted by the advertisement and market agencies.

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