The fourth day of the full moon of the Karthik month as per the Indian calendar is celebrated as Karwa Chauth in North India, where a wife fasts from sunrise to moonrise, praying for long life to her husband and also making an appeal to God to allot the same man as her husband in all her seven births. On a lighter note, I guess the Indian wife is smart. She puts so much effort into training her husband that she does not want to go through the same process in the next birth with a new man. Karwa Chauth today is equivalent to Valentine’s Day, where husbands and wives forget their tensions over the year and profess love for each other on that day once more.
The original concept of Karwa Chauth
Among all the myths and stories of Karwa Chauth, wherein basically wives believe that even if they take a sip of water during the day, their husbands’ lives will be in danger, the original concept of Karwa Chauth lies hidden. In ancient times, when girls would get married very young to a stranger and go far away from home, they would have no friends to talk to. So on the day of the wedding, along with a husband, she also got a new friend, a Soul Sister, from the same village or town, with a promise that the bond between them would never break. Karwa Chauth, in those days, was basically a Ladies’ Day Out, when once a year, the girls would leave the worries of work at home and meet somewhere out and spend the day fasting and celebrating the bond of sisterhood. They would vent their emotions, advice and motivate each other. This was the time when the husbands also realised the importance of their wives through their absence. At the end of the day after moonrise when they returned home, to the relief of their husbands, the women broke their fast and vowed lifelong companionship.
When one thinks about it, this concept of Karwa Chauth makes much more sense than the myths of fasting even without taking water.
The commercial aspect
Commercial organisations are never far away from any celebrations, have you seen them? And so today Karwa Chauth is no longer just about a celebration of love or friendship. It is also all about material things like new clothes and jewellery. In Hindi, it is known as Solah Shringar – The 16 items of jewellery and make-up a bride wears.
Today Karwa Chauth has evolved into a modern festival with all commercial trappings. Wives, in return for the love they show on that day, expect gifts in the form of jewellery. The cost of a simple item like Mehendi (Henna) shoots up with the artisans charging anything from Rs 500 for a single hand. The Thali (Plate) itself, which plays an important part in the puja in the evening, comes in different forms and costs anything from Rs 1000 to Rs 1500. Women compete in not only the dressing up part but also in the decoration of the Thali. But on the day of Karwa Chauth, even husbands feel money is no issue and splurge to please their wives. After all, it is a day for love.
Do you remember the movie Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge? In that movie, Karwa Chauth, the protagonist, the hero, fasted for his love too.
Today with the empowerment of women well on the way, the younger generation of women feels that if they are fasting for the long life of their husbands, why not vice versa? Husbands!!! Are you listening? Maybe you should also join the bandwagon or specify some other day in the Indian calendar when the husbands fast and pray for the well-being of their wives. Come to think of it, in the Indian calendar of festivals, there are many forms of Karwa Chauth. Down South it is Savithri Noimbu, in Bihar, it is the Teej festival. But there is nothing, where a husband prays for the long life of the wife. Maybe it is time to change that.
Festivals are always welcome. After all, it is a celebration of life and love. But in this day and age, we must try and remember the roots of the festivals, understand why it was originally celebrated, and not allow myths to mar something which is a beautiful, scientific and logical tradition. It is time to celebrate life and love. Let’s do it in the truest sense.