Karwa Chauth is a Festival for married women who celebrate by fasting, gift giving and bonding with sisters, mothers and friends. It was held on October 15th which was the fourth day of the dark moon and falls 9 days before Diwali.
I never heard of this festival before and when a group I belong to brought it up, I did some research.
Karwa Chauth is actually a North Indian festival in which married women will fast from before sunrise till she can see the moon that night. In some instances and for some families, if the moon is not visible then they will fast for a second day.
Absolutely no water or food is taken at this time, although some will drink lemon water for digestive reasons.
But I found something interesting. Karwa Chauth did not start as a fast for the longevity of one’s husband. It was actually started for a much different reason.
In India, not too long ago, women would be married at a young age and move to their Husband’s home to live with him and his family. Usually this would be far removed from the young woman’s own village, family and friends, leaving her alone in a new place to deal with the traditions, rituals and expectations of a new family.
Because there were no phones, internet or even trustworthy transportation, the young women were truly isolated.
So, a woman from the new village would be chosen to be a God-friend or God-sister (friend or sister by God). This bond would be created during the marriage to her new husband with a ceremony to link the two women together for life.
These two women would bond over issues with their family situations, marriages and life in general. They were the outlets that were needed when it wasn’t provided by the husband and his family.
Eventually, fasting for one’s husband and extra activities were added to the festival. Some say that it adapted to honor the husband who brought the friendship into being. Other’s thought that it was a way to offer acceptance for a strictly female based tradition into a patriarchal society.
Either way, today it has become a festival celebrated by many the world over, whether your heritage is North Indian or not. Special puja’s and thali decorations, elaborate henna designs, new clothes and jewelry, kajol and sindoor and gifts from other brides and one’s husband.
My husband’s family does not celebrate this festival. Our main fasting day is Teej and it is during this time that I fast all day for my husband.
What is your family traditions surrounding fasting for a spouses well-being and longevity? Do you both fast? Are you allowed anything during this, like fruit, sabudana, potato chips or water?
Happy Belated Karwa Chauth!