Karwa Chauth: The Significance & Origin

Karwa Chauth is on Thursday, October 17, 2019

Bollywood and Indian daily soaps have played a big part in romanticising and popularising this special event of Karwa Chauth.

Karwa Chauth is a traditional Hindu festival where women fast from sunrise to moonrise for their husbands’ longevity and safety. It falls during the Krishna Paksha Chaturthi in the month of Kartik, according to the Hindu lunar calendar.

Married women and those reaching the marriageable age pray for the safety and long life of their husbands, fiancés or desired husbands. Decked up in fancy bridal wear, they fast during the day and eat only after the moon sighting. 

What does Karwa Chauth mean?

Karva Chauth can be broken down to Karva and Chauth – ‘Karva’ means earthen pots used to store wheat and ‘chauth’ means the fourth day.

In India, it is mostly observed in the northern belt in states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and parts of Uttar Pradesh.

Women observe a full day of fasting on Karva Chauth and it is only when the moon rises that they break their fast and eat their first meal of the day.

Women dress in bright and colourful ethnic wear and try to recreate their wedding day look by wearing beautiful traditional wear, accessorising with heavy jewellery and applying gorgeous mehndi on their hands to impress their other half. Right after the moon rises, they look at the moon through a sieve and then look at their husband, seeking his blessing while praying for his long life.

ALSO READ: Mehndi designs for Karwa Chauth

Origins of Karwa Chauth

The origin of Karwa Chauth can be traced back to Mahabharata when Savitri begged the god of death, Lord Yama, for her husband’s soul. Another episode in the epic talks about Pandavas and their wife Draupadi.

Arjuna went to the Nilgiris to pray and meditate for a few days, worried about his safety Draupadi sought her brother Krishna’s help. He advised her to observe a strict fast just like Goddess Parvati did for her husband Shiva’s safety. Draupadi adhered to it, and soon Arjuna returned home safely.

The festival falls on the fourth day of the Kartik month in the lunisolar calendar. It gets its name from ‘Karva’ which means earthen pots used to store wheat and ‘chauth’ means the fourth day. Women buy new earthen pots or Karwa and decorate them and put gifts like bangles, bindis and sweets inside them. On the day of Karwa Chauth, they exchange their karwas with other ladies.

Women wake up early before sunrise to observe the rituals. They begin their day with sargi – a plate full of heavy and nutritious meal which consists of ghee loaded halwa, dry fruits and fresh fruits given by their mother in laws. Following which the women observe a rigorous fast without food and even water for the entire day. It is only when the moon rises that they perform further rituals and worship the moon to break their day-long fast. Usually, husbands and fiance are expected to feed the first bite of food to their wives.

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