Karva Chauth is a one-day festival celebrated annually by married Hindu women in which they observe a fast from sunrise to moonrise and pray for the well-being and longevity of their husbands. The festival is also observed by unmarried women who pray in the hope of securing a desired life partner. It falls on the fourth day of the dark fortnight (Krishna paksh or the waning phase of the moon) in the month of Kartik of the Hindu lunar calendar. The date roughly falls anytime between mid to late October. It is mainly celebrated in the states of Northern India such as Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
The word Karva Chauth is made up of two words, ‘Karva,’ which means an earthen pot with a spout and ‘Chauth’ which means fourth. The earthen pot is of great significance as it is used by the women to offer water to the moon as part of the festival rituals. It is said that this festival began when women started praying for the safe return of their husbands who went to fight wars in far off lands. It is also held that it is celebrated to mark the end of the harvest season. Whatever be the origins, the festival offers an occasion to strengthen familial ties.
What is Karva Chauth?
- Karwa Chauth is a gala Hindu event that is mostly celebrated by married women.
- Though the festival stemmed originally from the Northern parts of India, it has been immensely popular in other parts of India as well. Right from Bollywood celebrities to every other Indian married woman could be seen participating in this auspicious occasion.
- Karwa Chauth is a festival dedicated to the beautiful bond of marriage. It commemorates the unconditional love and support that holds the marriage together.
- It is observed on the fourth day after the full moon or Poornima in the month of Kartik according to the Hindu lunar calendar.
- The word Karwa or Karva means the ‘earthen pot’. While the word Chauth denotes the ‘fourth’.
- Deriving its name from the earthen pot, the festival is also known as Kark Chaturthi (wherein Kark means an earthen water pitcher).
- Married women observe a day long fast praying for the well-being and long lives of their husbands.
- One of the hypotheses behind Karwa Chauth is that during military campaigns men used to leave their homes and go for war. Their wives as a result resorted to prayers for their safety and health. Some traditions also state that newly wed women observe this festival to bond with their in-laws, befriend another woman and celebrate the bond of friendship.
- However, what remains common in these hypotheses is that the festival coincides with the wheat-sowing time (start of Rabi crops season). The earthen pots (karwas) were used to store wheat in them as a way of wishing for a good harvest.
- Women usually celebrate this festival of Karwa Chauth together with other married women exchanging gifts, singing songs and performing pujas. They get ‘sargi’ from their mother-in-laws. Sargi consists of special nutritious food items that need to be eaten before sunrise.
- Following which a day long fast is observed since dawn, and only after taking a look at the moon and the husband through the sieve can they break the fast. Throughout the day women engage in various rituals, dress up, do ‘shringar’ and pray for husband’s good health and prosperity. They break their fast by drinking a sip of water which the husband helps them drink.
- Though it is predominantly observed by married women, unmarried girls and boys can also observe this auspicious festival seeking a blessed life partner.
Karva Chauth Nirjala Vrat (Fast Without Water)
The festival entails keeping a ‘Nirjala’ fast in which women neither eat nor take a drop of water throughout the day and prayers are offered to the Goddess Gauri, an incarnation of Parvati, who bestows blessings for a long and happy married life.
Karva Chauth Reason and Stories
Story of Veeravati
The legend of Karwa Chauth is deeply associated with the story of a beautiful queen named Veeravati. She was deeply in love with her husband and was the only sister of seven loving brothers who selflessly pampered her. One fateful day, while visiting her home, Veeravati decided to keep a nirjala vrat, fasting without water and food, for her husband.
However, due to weakness, she couldn’t bear the hunger and eventually fainted. Witnessing her condition, her brothers couldn’t bear to see her suffer and pleaded with her to eat. Despite their requests, Veeravati remained resolute, stating that she was patiently waiting for the moon to rise.
To make her break the fast, Veeravati’s brothers came up with a plan. They climbed up a tree and held a flame behind a sieve, creating the illusion of the moon. Veeravati, convinced that the moon had risen, took a bite of food to break her fast, unknowingly leading to the demise of her beloved husband. Upon hearing the news of her husband’s demise, Veerawati broke down and cried vehemently and inconsolably.
Looking at her plight, Goddess Indrani, the wife of Lord Indra, arrived to console her and said that she could bring back her husband alive by observing fast every month throughout the year. She started following Goddess Indrani’s advice and prayed to Goddess Parvati, Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha, and Lord Kartikeya. Impressed by her devotion and patience, the God of death Yama returned her husband alive.
Story of Karva Devi and Savitri
The origin of Karwa Chauth can also be traced back to a woman named Karva Devi, whose husband got attacked by a crocodile while he was taking a bath in the river. Karwa exhibited great bravery by releasing her husband from the jaws of the crocodile but when the god of death, Yama, appeared to take her husband, Karwa refused.
Looking at her dedication, Yama gave her the blessing and increased her husband’s life. Another important legend associated with this festival recounts the tale of Princess Savitri. She wedded Prince Satyavan, who had been banished and was foretold to pass away within a year. Despite the prediction, Princess Savitri married him and performed deep penance to save her husband from the god of death, Yama by persuading the deity to restore his life.
Legend From The ‘Mahabharata’
Another famous tale from ancient India’s ‘Mahabharata’ era is the story of Karwa Chauth. Based on the legend, Arjuna went to meditate in the Nilgiris mountains of the Western Ghats in Southern India, his wife Draupadi became worried and sought the help of Lord Krishna to protect him.
Lord Krishna, in response, advised Draupadi to observe a fast for Arjuna, similar to how Goddess Parvati had fasted for her husband, Lord Shiva. It is believed that Draupadi fasted for Arjuna’s well-being during the Mahabharata war. Legend has it that it was Draupadi’s unwavering devotion towards her husband that ensured his safety during the war and also contributed to the victory of the Pandavas over the Kauravas.