I’m a south Indian raised in Mumbai, married to a north Indian. I don’t believe in Karwa Chauth .
To give some context about this fast: It is done in North India by married women to extend their husband’s life. The women eat something really oily, sugary at very early hours..4 am or so and rest of the day, they are not supposed to eat or drink anything else. At night, they end the fast after viewing the moon through a mesh strainer. Traditionally, to conclude the fast they eat something really oily and heavy, again. At the end of the fast, the husband is supposed to give a gift to the wife. My MIL never told my husband about the gift part. I knew about it through some of my Punjabi friends and did the needful.
I don’t believe that my going hungry will extend my husband’s life. In my opinion, a fast is no way to express love and ‘if’ in some weird universe, it is a way of showing love then the fast must be mutual (but that’s not what the question here asks). I wouldn’t have believed in this even if I had been a north Indian. My husband doesn’t believe in this fast too. I have very limited interests in life: eating food, reading, writing, sleeping, yoga and swimming and going without food and water is torture for me. This is my third year of marriage. I have absolute disregard and a sense of mockery for this fast which will be apparent by the description below. People who want to take offence, feel free to, I couldn’t care less.
- The first year, I was asked by my MIL (who doesn’t live in this city) to visit some relatives and do the pooja with them. She was kind enough to ‘allow’ me to eat fruits and have tea coffee. It therefore didn’t feel like a rigorous fast. In the evening, I had to get home early from work and make jaggery puris and take them to the relative’s place. I did that. I had to dress up in bridal finery and send a pic of me to my MIL so that she could assess if my attire and jewelry had the adequate amount of dazzle to it. Did that. Then started the rituals. They narrate a dumb story about how a woman broke a fast mistaking a lamp for the Moon and how her husband had an untimely death and how he came back to life after an year when she observed the fast properly. <eye roll here>. Then all the women participating in rituals, exchange their tumblers containing water, 7 times, more like passing- the- parcel game. They mumble some sort of mantra while doing so. Something on the lines of ‘Suhagan karwa le/de’. (translation: married lady, give me your tumbler and take my tumbler ) then there’s a drawing of Gaur mata (Parvati) and Shiva drawn on a white surface with kum kum.
It is worshipped and feet of elders touched and then waiting for the Moon to show up. Meanwhile women compare their clothing, jewelry and mehendi designs. After the Moon shows up, the women view it through a steel sieve with a lamp kept inside the sieve ( I was worried that the lamp may fall and burn my saree and me). Then they view the husband’s face through the sieve, pour water from their tumbler on the ground, touch the feet of husband and husband feeds his wife a bite of prasad and some water. As per my demand, Husband gifted me a copy of 1984 by George Orwell. He was mocked by the older ladies of the family that shringar items (cosmetics) are to be given as gifts. We didn’t know this. Got back home. Mesh sieve got rusted in a few days. I threw it away well aware I don’t have to do all this ever again.
Year two, I fell ill on Karwachauth. Bouts of diarrhea. Now, the setup at my house is, if truth is told to MIL, she misunderstands it to be an excuse, so one has to tell her what she wants to listen. So I lied to MIL that I’m fasting and did pooja with ladies in the building. In reality,Husband made khichri for me that day. MIL asked step-by-step description of all that was done during the Pooja to ascertain if I really did the pooja. I told her whatever I could remember from the previous year. She had her misgivings. I could tell from her voice 😛 I told my husband that I don’t want any gifts for this festival even if I observe the fast.
Year three, I wasn’t expecting in laws to be at my home but they were visiting us two weeks before this festival and an accident caused them to stay back at my home. Worse, Karwachauth was on Sunday this year. I couldn’t even go to office. Purchased some sweets and deep fried stuff, the day before. Purchased the steel sieve again. Applied mehendi on my palms. Had to get up at 3:30 AM and consume the extra sweet and oily stuff. Observed the fast. By evening, I was cursing my husband as to how because of him I’m suffering and have gas and headache because of gas. Talk about life extension! Did the pooja with MIL, gave her a gift hamper. Broke the fast with deep fried stuff. Cursed myself for marrying in a conservative north Indian family.
I think this fast was observed by women for their men when they went to fight battles. How is it relevant in today’s times, i have no idea. Yes, if you derive pleasure in dressing up and receiving gifts, this festival is for you, otherwise, love for husband..i don’t know. I didn’t feel it. I think I love better with a full stomach.
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