Observed by married Hindu women, Karva Chauth is a holiday festival that falls on the fourth day after Purnima (the full moon) in the month of Kartika. On this day, women, especially women who hail from Northern India, fast from sunrise to moonrise to ensure the safety and the long life of their husbands.
This is a holiday that’s celebrated by Indian women all over the globe, but it mainly occurs in the states of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, and Madhya Pradesh. The literal meaning of Karva Chauth in English is “Fourth Pot,” a reference to the fact that it falls on the fourth day of the fortnight.
The Origins Of Karva Chauth
Even though no one truly knows when this holiday was created or who created it, there are some theories about its origin. Some people believe that it was created by women during wartime. When husbands left to go to war, which was fairly common in Indian history, the women would say prayers for their safety and longevity. This festival also falls around the time when wheat is supposed to be sown, so big it may also be a holiday that coincided with the prayers given to ensure a good harvest.
Rituals And Traditions Of Karva Chauth
Several days before this holiday even begins, women will begin to make preparations for its celebration. They will begin by buying jewelry, adornments, and Karwa lamps. This time before the beginning of the holiday is very much like Christmas time in other cultures in that bazaars all over Northern India begin to sell all kinds of holiday merchandise for women to purchase.
After they have obtained all of their holiday products, women will then be ready to celebrate the holiday. They will get up before dawn to eat and drink. And many will eat Soot Feni — a dessert that’s made with milk and sugar. Supposedly, eating this dessert makes it easier for them to go without water until the next day. At dawn, the fast begins, and women will not eat as they perform various rituals.
Another thing that women will avoid is doing housework for the day. Instead, women will gather with one another and apply cosmetics and henna to one another. This is a holiday in which women meet with friends and relatives.
It’s also customary for women to exchange painted clay pots that are filled with small items of clothing, bangles, homemade candy, and bangles. Some communities also stage harvest festivals at the same time as this holiday. And parents will often send their married daughters gifts on this date.
When evening comes, a women-only ceremony is held by the community. All of the women dress in their finest clothing and wear their best jewelry. Oftentimes, the dresses worn are in colors of orange, gold, and red — colors that are considered to be very auspicious. Stories are then narrated on this night to all of those in attendance. There are also poems recited and songs sung by everyone.