Karva Chauth is an extremely important festival that is observed on the fourth day of Krishna paksha in the Vedic month of Kartik, just nine days before Deepawali. Karva means an earthen pot and Chauth means fourth in Devanagari, and it symbolises the love and devotion between married couples. Observed in Northern India primarily by married women, but also by unmarried ones, this festival has some of the strictest rules of fasting and prayers.
Legend speaks of Satyavan and Savitri, where when Lord Yama came to take Satyavan’s soul, Savitri with her sheer determination and wit was able to undo the hands of fate. She requested Yama to spare her husband, but when Lord Yama refused, she sat in fasting without food or water for days. Seeing her determination, Lord Yama granted her one wish of anything but her husband’s life. She wished for children and in order to fulfil her wish, Lord Yama had to bring her husband back to life.
Another legend is of Veeravati, the only sister among seven brothers who loved and cared for her. During a fast one day, her brothers could not bear to see her sacrificing food and water the whole day, and they misled her into believing that the moon had risen. As soon as Veeravati broke her fast, she received news of her husband’s death. Distraught and grief-stricken, she prayed to Goddess Parvati for a whole year. Pleased with her devotion the Goddess brought back her husband to life.
Rituals and Celebrations
On this day, women observe a nirjal vrat – fasting without food and water, for a long and healthy life of their husbands. The ritual starts before the break of dawn with sargi – a meal prepared by mothers-in-law, followed by maintaining no food and water all day long. During the day women spend time chanting and performing various pooja. The fast is observed to seek blessings for a long life, well-being, and prosperity of their husbands.
The fast is broken by unmarried women at the sight of the first star in the sky and by married women at moonrise. At dusk, women dress up in traditional attire and exchange 10 karvas filled with sweets. The fast is broken with the worship of the moon with lit diyas and seeing it through a channi. The first sip of water is usually offered by the husbands followed by a morsel of food. This festival is a celebration of the marital bonds and strengthening of the love and affection between couples.