Karva Chauth Fast for Married Women
Celebrated Annually on the Krishna 4th Tithi in the Month of Ashwini
Karva means a clay pot, and Chauth (from char meaning four) corresponds to the fourth tithi. It is celebrated on the 4th tithi of Krishna paksha following the Navaratri festival. As Chathurti tithi belongs to Lord Ganesha, this festival has a special significance of praying to Ganesha to give long life to your husband. Krishna Chathurti is known as Sankat Chaturthi or a tithi that can bring difficulties and challenges and often people fast on all Krishna Chathurti. But this tithi in the month following Navaratri is kept for married women. Women dress in Bridal clothes and celebrate this festival by keeping a fast during the day, praying to Lord Ganesha, Shiva and Parvati to grant long life to their husbands.
A Karva pot is bought and this signifies Lord Ganesha. It is filled with food and Sringhar (beauty items) items and given to the women by her mother in law. The women fast all day without drinking water until the Moon rises at night. They will gather together and chant mantras.
The first Karva Chauth after marriage is considered very special
The Myths of Karva Chauth
There are many myths connected to why the tradition of Karva Chauth begins. Here are a few:
Draupadi and Sri Krishna
The belief in this fast and its associated rituals go back to the pre-Mahabharata times in the Dwapar Yuga. Draupadi, the wife of the Pandava is said to have observed this fast. Once Arjuna went to the Nilgiris for penance and the rest of the Pandavas faced many challenges in his absence. Draupadi prayed to Lord Krishna and asked for help. Lord Krishna reminded her that of the occasion when Goddess Parvati had sought Lord Shiva's guidance under similar circumstances, she had been advised to observe the fast of Karva Chauth. Draupadi followed the instructions and observed the fast with all its rituals. Consequently, the Pandavas were able to overcome their challenge and Arjuna came back home.
Satyavan and Savitri
When Lord Yama, came to procure Satyavan's soul, Savitri, his wife begged Lord Yama to grant him life. When Lord Yama refused, she stopped eating and drinking and Yamraj finally relented. He granted her, her husband Satyavan's life. Therefore it became a ritual for women to do a tough fast to appease Lord Yama, the God of Death to grant long life to their husbands.
The Legend of Karva
A woman named Karva was deeply devoted to her husband. One day while bathing, he was caught by a crocodile. Karva came running and bound the crocodile with cotton yarn. She then went to Yama and requested him to send the crocodile to Yamalok, the abode of the dead. When Yama refused, she threatened to curse him. Afraid of the power of a devoted wife, Yama readily accepted and sent the crocodile to Yamalok, and blessed Karva's husband with a long life.
Importance of Karva Chauth
Karva Chauth is a very sacred fast for married Hindu women as it ensures the well-being, prosperity and longevity of their husbands. The fast itself is a prayer to prevent widowhood.
How to keep the Karva Chauth Fast
On this day the women get up before sunrise. They worship Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha, Kartikeya and the Moon. The blessings of the Gods are invoked for longevity and prosperity of their husbands and children. Mothers-in-law give their daughters-in-law sumptuous food called 'Sargi' to eat before sunrise, as the fast starts before sunrise and ends only after worshiping the moon at night. It is a tough fast, as the women do not take any food or water.
In the evening, the women wear their bridal finery or beautifully embellished clothing in silk and chiffons. She receives gifts from her husband, mother-in-law and mother.
Before evening, the married woman receives the baya or a basket full of goodies from her mother. The basket contains sweets, mathadi, fruits and a sari. Before the sun sets, most of the women in a locality gather in one house and prepare a corner for the puja. This puja chowk is beautifully decorated and a small platform is prepared against a wall. On this, the image of Gauri Mata or Goddess Parvati is placed.
The women sit around this image with their bayas. Each woman also places a Karva or a pitcher full of water and seven pieces of pua in front of her. It is adorned with kharia, aipun and a little roli. A red thread is tied around the Karva. At the beginning of the puja, women apply the roli teeka to Goddess Parvati and also to themselves. With the thumb and the third finger of the right hand, water is sprinkled on the image of the goddess. The same procedure is repeated with aipun and roli . Lastly, rice is showered on the image.
An elderly woman of the family narrates the legend of Karva Chauth. The women then pray for the long life and welfare of their husbands. While chanting the prayers, they pass their bayas from one to another. The wait for the moon rise and prayers are offered to the moon. It is inauspicious to see the Moon directly, the fasting women first observe the moon either through a sieve or in a bowl of water. It is then they break their fast. The first sip of water and the first morsel of food is offered by the husband.
If women want to keep this fast and are unable to do the whole ritual and keep a strict fast, they can honour the sacredness of this day, eat vegetarian food or keep a fruit fast- in the evening they can spend time with their husbands and seek to renew their wedding vows. Wear your best clothes. It is best not to see the moon directly on this day. Chanting and prayer to Lord Ganesha and Goddess Parvati is important.
— Komilla Sutton
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