Karwa Chauth

Karva Chauth is celebrated on the Kartik Ki Chouth
- the fourth day of the waning moon or the dark fortnight, some time in
October or November. The festival of Karwa Chauth is celebrated
throughout North India in states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar,
Gujarat, Delhi and others.

Karva
Chauth is a ritual of fasting observed by married Hindu women seeking
the long life, well-being and prosperity of their husbands. Married
women keep a strict fast and do not take even a drop of water. It is
the most important and difficult fast observed by married Hindu women.
It begins before sunrise and ends only after offering prayers and
worshiping the moon at night. No food or water can be taken after
sunrise. The fast is broken once the moon is sighted and rituals of the
day have been performed. At night when the moon appears, women break
their fast after offering water to the moon.

Karva
Chauth is celebrated midst harvesting of summer crops. Apart from the
fast, kept by married woman for the long life of their husbands, people
like to remember and meet their relatives and friends, and exchange
gifts with them.

A
few days before Karva Chauth, married women buy new karvas, the
spherical clay pots and paint them on the outside with beautiful
designs. Inside the pot, they put bangles and ribbons, home-made candy
and sweets, make-up items and small clothes e.g. handkerchief.

On
this day, women adorn themselves by wearing heavy saris or chunries in
red, pink or other bridal colors, and put on all other symbols of a
married women like, nose pin, tika, bindi, bangles, earrings etc.

Early
in the morning they prepare food and have it before sunrise. The
morning passes by in other festive activities like decorating hands and
feet with heena, decorating the pooja thali and meeting friends and
relatives.

In
the late afternoon women gather at a common place like temple or a
garden or someones' place who has arranged the pooja. An elderly lady
or the pujarin narrates the legend of Karva Chouth.

There are many legends associated with this festival.

The Legend of Queen Veeravati

According
to one legend, there was a lived a beautiful girl by the name of
Veeravati. She was the only sister of seven brothers and hence her
brothers loved her very much.This girl was then married a king. On the
occasion of her first Karwa Chauth, Veeravati went to her parents place
and observed a strict fast for her husband, however being very
delicate, she could not withstand the rigors of the fast and fainted.
Seeing the distress of their sister, the brothers thought of deceiving
her by showing her a false moon. Her brothers flicked a mirror through
some trees; Veeravati assumed it to be a moon and broke her fast. The
moment she broke her fast, Veeravati received the news that her husband
was dead so she rushed to the king. On her way she met Lord Shiva and
his escort Goddess Parvati. The Goddess told her that since she had
broke her fast, her husband was dead. Veeravati asked for forgiveness
and promised to follow strict fast from then onwards. So Goddess
Parvati forgave her and granted the boon of giving the King's life
back. Thus Veeravati understood the importance of this fast and revived
the King back to life.

The Legend Of Mahabharata

The
belief in this fast and its associated rituals goes back to the
pre-Mahabharata times. Draupadi, too, is said to have observed this
fast. Once Arjun went to the Nilgiris for penance and the rest of the
Pandavas faced many problems in his absence. Draupadi, out of
desperation, remembered Lord Krishna and asked for help. Lord Krishna
reminded her that on an earlier occasion, when Goddess Parvati had
sought Lord Shivas 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 problems.

The Story Of Satyavan and Savitri

There
is the story of the Satyavan and Savitri. When Lord Yama, came to
procure Satyavan's soul, Savitri begged him to grant him life. When he
refused, she stopped eating and drinking and Yamraj finally relented.
He granted her, her husband's life. To this day, Karva Chauth is
celebrated with great faith and belief.

The Legend Of Karva

According
to another legend, 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 a cotton yarn. She then went
to Yama, the Lord of the death, and requested him to send the offending
crocodile to hell. 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 or hell, and blessed Karva's husband with long
life.

These stories of faith and devotion are heard by the fasting and married ladies during the Pooja.

The
essentials of this gathering and listening of the Karva Chauth story
are a special mud pot, that is considered a symbol of lord Ganesha, a
metal urn filled with water, flowers, idols of Ambika Gaur Mata,
Goddess Parwati and some fruits, mathi and food grains. A part of this
is offered to the deities and the storyteller.

Earlier
an idol of Gaur Mata was made using earth and cow dung. Now just an
idol of Goddess Parwati is kept. Every one lights an earthen lamp in
their thalis while listening to the Karva story. Sindoor, incense
sticks and rice are also kept in the thali.

Once
the moon rises, the women see its reflection in a thali of water, or
through a dupatta or a sieve. They offer water to the moon and seek
blessings.

Karva
Chauth festival is widely celebrated by North Indian women and the puja
song sung by punjabi women, while they exchange thalis seven times.
They place 'Bayen' which usually consists of salted mathris, dry-fruits
and some gifts. in the thali and sing this song while offering water to
the moon.

Veero Kudiye Karwada,
Sarv Suhagan Karwada,
Aye Katti Naya Teri Naa,
Kumbh Chrakhra Feri Naa,
Aar Pair payeen Naa,
Ruthda maniyen Naa,
Suthra Jagayeen Naa,
Ve Veero Kuriye Karwara,
Ve Sarv Suhagan Karwara....... (6)

This
Stanza is sung 6 times i.e. It keeps on repeating till the time Thalis
have been exchanged and all women have their own thalis... it goes on
six times, 6 feras / circles.

The seventh fera or circle or exchanging goes like this...

Veero Kudiye Karwada,
Sarv Suhagan Karwada,
Aye Katti Naya Teri Nee,
Kumbh Chrakhra Feri Bhee,
Aar Pair payeen Bhee,
Ruthda maniyen Bhee,
Suthra Jagayeen Bhee,
Ve Veero Kuriye Karwara,
Ve Sarv Suhagan Karwara.......

Finally, they pray for the safety, prosperity and long life of their husbands. This marks the end of the day long fast.

First Karva Chauth

Karva
Chauth is of great importance for married Hindu women but the festival
is seen as a big occasion for women undertaking their first Karva
Chauth fast after marriage. A newly married woman is given utmost
importance by relatives and immediate family members when she observes
her first fast for the long life of her husband. She is showered with
blessings of blissful married life and loads of Karva Chauth gifts
especially by her mother-in-law.

First Sargi

Mother-in-law
prepares an elaborate Sargi (the pre-dawn Karva Chauth meal) when her
daughter-in-law observes her first fast. She wakes up much early to
prepare a sumptuous and lavish meal inclusive of sweets and other
delicacies for daughter-in-law. Saasu-ma blesses her bahu with an
ashirvaad of 'Sada Suhagan Raho' which means, 'may you always enjoy a
blissful married life' when the latter touches her feet with reverence.
She also presents her daughter-in-law with gifts, which may be a piece
of jewelry or a heavy saree on the first Karva Chauth.

First Baya

Baya
is a gift given to a daughter's mother-in-law on the occasion of Karva
Chauth. It usually consists of salted mathris, dry-fruits and some
gifts. This Baya is a little more special when the daughter is
observing her first Karva Chauth. Mothers of newly wed daughters bring
gifts for all her family members. Some utensils are also included in
the baya which are to be distributed amongst women who join the
newly-wed on her first Karva Chauth Puja.

Elaborate Puja Preparations

Elaborate
preparations are made for the customary evening Karva Chauth Puja in a
family where a newly wed daughter-in-law observes her first
Karva-Chauth. Married female relatives are invited to participate in
the puja. The newly married woman often wears her bridal lehanga or a
heavy saree and adorns herself with lot of jewelry and make up. After
the puja ceremony she seeks blessings for happy married life from all
elder women. The newly wed woman distributes mathris or utensils
amongst the ladies that were a part of baya.

Gifts from Husband

Husband
of the woman who observes her first Karva Chauth feel proud and great
to see her better half observing such a rigorous fast for him. He gets
overwhelmed with love and respect for her wife and pampers her with
loads of Karva Chauth gifts.