Last year, unofficially, we celebrated Karva Chauth, but this year was marks a special occasion. The first Karva Chauth after marriage is the most significant and important for the new bride.
Karva Chauth is a Hindu holiday (mostly celebrated in North India) in which a wife fasts (goes without food and water) and prays for the long life of her husband. The wife dresses in her wedding saree, or a similar saree, and adorns herself with her best jewelry and make up.
Karva Chauth sparks a lot of controversy as being sexist. Some women believe it to be a romantic holiday, while others find it sexist, dangerous, and downright pointless. Why should a woman go without food and water just to prove her love for her husband? Some women forego the fasting all together, and some women fast with their husbands. Some women fast without question or concern for their own well being.
As much as I searched for the actual origin of the fast, I could not find it. I found Wikipedia’s military explanation, but is there an actual origin in Hinduism?
This year, on Karva Chauth, I was a bit nervous to be celebrating with my husband’s elder sister. I thought that being with family may rob the holiday of its sense of romance. In a very big way, it did.
Aside from the initial pain of starving, I was forced to drink a special chai – despite considering it as breaking the fast, I had to deal with a very hangry sister-in-law, and at the end of the night I became very weak and sick and could not eat any food. My sister-in-law was convinced it was because I drank too much water (but I only had one small glass), my husband thought it was because of the sweet he offered me during the puja, and Jija Ji (meaning elder sister’s husband, here referring to SIL’s husband) thought it would be a good idea if I drank some Limca (a lemon soda) to cure my stomach woes. In short, no one understood that I was sick because I was dehydrated – and on top of that, no one wanted me to drink more water. It was extremely frustrating.
The good news is, the puja on the rooftop, the ritual of seeing the moon and then my husband through the sieve, was romantic… But those butterflies did not stand a chance against the pain of hunger and dehydration.
To be fair, my husband tried to talk me out of it, in the early morning, day of. He even offered me food claiming “no one will find out”. Even then, I stuck to the fast. But I am realizing now, that this very old tradition serves neither husband or wife. It does not prove devotion. Can you imagine what would have happened if I fainted or became seriously ill? Or any wife? Counter productive.
It’s likely that I will find a better way to observe this holiday, from now on.
Featured image by wldraven via Deviantart.com