Karwa Chauth is a ritual that the married women follow to seek prosperity, longevity and good health of their husbands. "Chauth" means the fourth day and "Karwa" is an earthen pot with a spout. The pot symbolises peace and prosperity and is necessary for the rituals that are followed on this festival.
Reference/ Story related to the festival of Karwa Chauth
In the ancient times, it was a tradition to get the girls married at a very young age and send them to their in-laws place right after the marriage. Moreover, these young married women often didn't have any friends or relatives in their in-laws families to share their grievances and joys with. Besides, their own families lived far away and communication channels were not as fast and smooth as they are today. So they had nobody to talk to about their emotions and problems once they got married. This situation led to the formation of a ritual wherein the bride would befriend another woman in the in-law's residence at the time of marriage, and she would be her friend for life. Their friendship would be sanctified right during the wedding ceremony. Once the ritual is done these two women would be called god-sisters/ god-friends, and would stand by each other through thick and thin. The festival of Karwa Chauth was initiated to celebrate the bond the women thus shared. The tradition to keep a fast for her husband was added later on, probably to enhance the significance of this festival, because 'husband' was the primary reason why these two women became friends for life.
The modern day purpose/ significance of this festival:
The festival of Karwa Chauth is celebrated to renew the bond married women and their god-friends share. However, today the purpose of celebrating this festival is predominantly focused on seeking blessings for well-being and prosperity of their husbands. Moreover, it provides an opportunity to the married women to get closer to their husband's family and their clique. In the northern and western parts of India, this festival has a remarkable social and cultural significance.
Preparations for the Puja
The preparations for Karwa Chauth start a few days in advance. Married women buy jewellery, make-up and other shringar items. On Karwa Chauth, they wear attractive and colourful saris or chunries, particularly in red, pink or other bridal colours. Also, they adorn themselves with all other symbols of a married women such as, nose pin, tika, bindi, chonp, bangles, earrings etc.
Karwa Chauth Food Items
Since the women have to keep a fast from sunrise to moonrise, food items are prepared and eaten before the sunrise.
Sargi, which includes pheni (a sweet made by using milk and semolina), parantha, and various types of fruits and sweets.
Ten matthis with an equal number of puas (a sweet made of jaggery)
Items needed to perform a Karwa Chauth puja:
- Idol of Goddess Gauri (Parvati).
- Karwa (pitcher) filled with water.
- A diya (earthen lamp).
- A beautifully decorated chalni (sieve).
- A handful of fruits and food grains.
- A puja thaali (dish) made of brass or stainless steel.
- Incense sticks, kumkum (vermilion), chawal (rice).
- Lota (container) filled with water.
- A fancy tissue veil to cover the thali.
During the day, women put henna/mehndi on their palms, decorate puja thali (dish) and visit friends and relatives. Later in the afternoon, women go to a temple or to someone's place who has organised the puja, in a circle with their puja thalis and an elderly lady or a pujarin narrates the legend/story of Karwa Chauth. While the story is being narrated, the women pass their thalis in the circle. Depending on the region and community, there are some variations in the rituals.
In Punjabi communities, the Karwa Chauth song is sung seven times, the first six of which describe some of the activities that are taboo during the fast and the seventh describes the lifting of those restrictions with the conclusion of the fast. The forbidden activities include weaving cloth (kumbh chrakhra feri naa), pleading with or attempting to please anyone (ruthda maniyen naa), and awakening anyone who is asleep (suthra jagayeen naa). In Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, the women exchange Karwas seven times between themselves. In Rajasthan, before offering water seven times the fasting woman is asked "Dhai?", to which she responds, "Suhaag na Dhai". In Rajasthan, stories are told by older women in the family, including narratives of Karwa Chauth, Shiv, Parvati, and Ganesh. In earlier times, an idol of Gaur Mata was made using earth and cow dung, which has now been replaced with an idol of Parvati. Each fasting woman lights an earthen lamp in her thali while listening to the Karva story. Kumkum, incense sticks and rice are also kept in the thali.
In Uttar Pradesh, a priest or an elderly woman of the family narrates the story of beejabeti or Veervati. Women make Gauri, Ganesh and Shankar idols with mud and decorate them with colourful and bright clothes and jewellery.
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