Karva Chauth is a very important festival for married women and is celebrated mostly in the Northern part of India, and also some parts of Pakistan. The ritual is to observe a total fasting from sunrise to moonrise by all married women, and pray for the safety and long life of their husbands.
The festival of Karva Chauth, according to Hindu lunar calendar, falls on the 4th day after the poornima (full moon) in the month of Kartik (October-November). The fasting is generally meant for married women, but some unmarried women also observe the fast for long life of their fiancée or beloved.
The origin of the Karva Chauth is not known, but there are various legends associated with this day; two of them are as follows:
- Once upon a time, there was a beautiful girl, and her name was Viravati. She had seven brothers, and was the only sister. The brothers loved their sister a lot. When she got young, she was married to a king. For the observance of her first Karva Chauth after the marriage, Viravati visited her parents. She started observing the fast strictly as was required, but as the day passed slowly, she desperately started for moon to rise; she was feeling too much hungry. Her brothers could not bear the site of their sister suffering as such, so they decided to play a trick for her to break her fast. They reflected a mirror through leaves of a tree, and Viravati took it to be moonrise, and hence broke her fast before actual moon rise. No sooner that she had broken her fast, she received the news that her husband was critically sick.
Viravati immediately left to see her husband; on the way, she happened to meet Lord Shiva and his consort, Devi Parvati. Devi Parvati informed her that her husband had died because of her breaking fast at wrong time. Viravati was left heartbroken, and asked for forgiveness to the Goddess for her unintentional mistake. Devi Parvati was pleased and assured her that her husband would be revived; the condition was that she would need to undertake the fast of Karva Chauth very rigorously. Virvati happily agreed to it, and undertook the fasting again, and thus succeeded in reviving her dead husband.
- It is stated in Mahabharata that Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas also observed this fasting. The Pandavas were going through hard time and Draupadi remembered Lord Krishna for help. Lord Krishna reminded her of a pastime of Devi Parvati, where she was suggested by Lord Shiva to observe Karva Chauth . Draupadi followed the fasting, and thus helped Pandavas to come out of that troublesome situation.
The preparations for fasting start much earlier than the day of fasting itself. Married women buy new clothes, cosmetics and decorate their palms with henna.
On the day of Karva Chauth, they wake up before sunrise and eat something, according to customs in different parts of Northern India. After this, for the whole day till moon rise, fasting women don’t eat or drink anything. Parents send different gifts to their married daughters on this day.
Some other customs are also observed, which varies according to different regions.
At the end, the moon rise is awaited. As soon as the moon is visible the fasting woman sees its reflection through a sieve. The husbands also stand nearby their wives at this time. The women offers water to moon and they pray for the blessings. After this the woman sees her husband again through a sieve. The husband, at this time, gives his wife some water and a little piece of food, mostly a sweet. Thus the day long fast is broken. The husband also gifts his wife a nice gift as a token of appreciation.
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