• There are three types of people in the world, those who don't know what's happening, those who wonder what's happening and those on the streets that make things happen.

Indian Cultural Diary: Karva Chauth

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on November 2, 2012

Today, millions of women across North India are observing a day long (sunrise to moonrise) for long life of their husbands. My wife has remained without food and water for ove 14 hours and it will be another hour or so before we see the moon. She has become fidgety and is giving me the “I can’t believe I’m doing this for you” look 🙂  But she’s taking it well and I’m glad to see her sense of humor coming to the forefront in this time of distress!

This age old tradition has never failed to impress me. The day is filled with beautiful rituals which are conducted by women dressed in some of the most gorgeous Indian outfits and adorned with sparkling jewels and radiating henna designs on their hands. The communal prayers are a sight to behold and nothing is more exciting than the manner in which women break their fast at moonrise. The wife performs her prayers while looking at the moon. She then looks at the moon through a sieve and then turns and looks at her husband through the same sieve. The process is better described here,

The fera ceremony concluded, 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 fasting woman can successfully confront and defeat death (personified by Yama).

Hats off to all wives who go through such a tough ritual for their husbands. I wish there was a similar way for us husbands to show our affection. Too bad the scriptures didn’t address this 🙂

You can read more about this wonderful festival and its mythological origins here.

20 Responses to “Indian Cultural Diary: Karva Chauth”

  1. Traci said

    I enjoyed the cultural lesson!

  2. Ooh heck. I don’t know what to make of this. I was going to ask if it was reciprocated but you answered me in your last paragraph.
    I think the ceremonies/colours/dresses are wonderful, but I’m kind of appalled that women go through this – I could never let my wife do this to herself for me. It smacks horribly of a subjugative religious practice written by men. Maybe it’s a cultural divide I can’t get past?

    • Raunak said

      there’s not much subjugative about it. It is a festival that women enjoy. Those who do not, don’t observe it. Women get together in communal prayers which lead to bonding.

      • That’s a relief – I’m clearly ignorant of these things! If it’s not compulsory that totally transforms it into something I can see the value of.

  3. Thanks for the lesson. So many wonderful ceremonies in the world, all designed to bring people together. Maybe politicians in the US should have more humble ceremonies and less sound bites!

    • Raunak said

      John, one thing I love about India is the fact that we have festivals all the year. Thanks to the diversity, some region somewhere is always celebrating. To be part of these festivals and celebrate them with my family and friends was one of the biggest factors that made me return to India. I just couldn’t take missing all these festivals by being abroad.

  4. Misaal Shah said

    It does seem incredibly stupid to me, but your last comment holds true. So many women enjoy doing it. They secretly enjoy the pouting and “things we do for love” confirmation to themselves.
    Either way, I don’t think it hurts anybody.

  5. I am sure you could create a tradition that fits modern times. 🙂

  6. I love traditions like this. I think it’s beautiful, really. I think it all comes down to the intention and in this case, it’s wonderful.
    Thanks for sharing this, Raunak!

  7. WH said

    What a beautiful tradition! Thank you for sharing. I always learn so much reading your blog.

  8. this really is for “ruleofstupid” – I am a European, living here in the deep South of India with my indian husband for the past 11 years and as a European let me tell you, those women enjoy this and other ceremonies very much, or they would NOT participate, lol, lol. All my (girl)friends agreed on this when I did a quick phone-around – they would not miss it for the world.And as Raunak said, there is a festival every week, at least, in one or the other State. And all of them look so beautiful – a photographers delight. Thank you Raunak for explaining this so well. Follow you now.

  9. Good Deed said

    Great thing to see, and I hope I will see it. Thanks for bringing India closer to me. It has always been in my heart, now it’s closer to my eyes 😀

  10. nyctanthesarbortristis said

    Have your wife ever been food-less?

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