Karva Chauth 2021: Sunday, 24 October, 2021 – Monday, 25 October, 2021

By the time August arrives, people are spending their time cleaning up their homes and looking to buy home decoration items because this is when the true festive season starts in India and for Indians, all over the world. While there are several festivals and celebrations that take place all through the country, and while many of them are common to the entire country, there are some that celebrated only in certain parts of the nation. In the month of Kartika, on the fourth day after the full moon, women of mainly northern India and some parts of west and east India celebrate the festival called Karwa Chauth. Since, the day is based on the lunar calendar, the date changes every year.
Why Karwa Chauth Is More Than Just A Fast
This is a day, when women fast from sunrise to sunset, praying for the long life and safety of their husbands and the fast is broken only when the moon becomes visible.

The origin of Karwa Chauth:

Karwa Chauth is a combination of 2 words – karwa, which stands for a small earthen pot generally filled with water and Chauth, which is the fourth. This is why this day is also called Kark Chaturthi. One of the reasonings given as to why this festival is more prominent in the northern part of India is because this was where most of the warrior clans lives – when the men went off to war, the women could pray for their long life and safe return. The time of the year, when this festival is celebrated also coincides with the time when wheat is sown – the prayers are also meant for the farmer husbands, so that the crop is healthy and it leads to a prosperous year. And while these days women might choose to buy decorative brass diyas online, in the olden days, the karwa and the diyas would be made with clay and decorated by hand.

It is also said that this was a time when women were allowed to create a strong bond with other women – traditionally, a woman would get married and move to the home of her husband and live with her in-laws. Being a complete newcomer, it was on Karwa Chauth that she found an opportunity to meet and bond with other women. Many a times, a woman from the village of the bride, who would have been married into the same village where the bride was headed to, would be chosen to be her friend and a sister figure.

The stories of Karwa Chauth:

There are several stories that are associated with Karwa Chauth, and while some believe that all these stories are interlinked, there are those who see them as individual stories. Here are some of the most commonly told stories at Karwa Chauth:
  • The legend of Karwa Chauth: There was once a woman named Karwa and her love and devotion towards her husband was so strong that she actually earned a spiritual power. Once, while her husband was bathing the river, a crocodile attacked him. Karwa was able to bind the crocodile with some yarn and she asked Yamaraj to send the crocodile to hell. When Yamaraj refused, she threatened him with a strong curse and because he knew how powerful a devoted wife could be. Scared of her wrath, Yamaraj sent the crocodile to hell and blessed the couple with a long and happy life together.
  • The story of Queen Veervati: There was once a beautiful queen named Veervati, who was the darling sister of seven brothers, who loved her dearly. After she was married, she returned to her home to celebrate her very first Karwa Chauth fast. She woke up early morning and started her fast at sunrise, but much before the moon arose, she started feeling hungry, thirsty and tired. Saddened by the condition of their sister, the brothers put their heads together and figured out a way to help their sister out – now there are two versions of how the brothers helped.

    In one version, it is said that the brother burnt a really large fire and convinced their sister that this was the glow of the moonlight. In the other version, it is said that the brothers created a mirror inside a tree to create the illusion of a rising moon. However, in both stories, once Veervati was convinced that the moon had risen, she sat down to eat. While she sneezed before her first morsel, she found a hair in the second morsel she tried to eat. Before she could try to eat the third morsel, she got the news that her husband had died.

    Now yet again, there are two versions – in one version, she cries through the night and her sorrow forces a goddess to appear in front of her, who explains what had happened. she instructs her to do the fast all over again and because she does it with complete dedication and devotion, Lord Yama is forced to return her husband to her. In the other version, Veervati is running distraught to her husband’s home and she meets Goddess Parvati on the way, who tells her of the deception. Parvati cuts her little finger and gives a bit of her blood to the queen and asks her to be careful of completing the fast properly in the future. The blood Parvati gives, is able to bring Veervati’s husband back to life.
  • The story from Mahabharata: It is said that even Draupadi used to keep the Karwa Chauth fast – once when Arjuna was away in the Nilgiris doing penance, the other Pandavas were facing a lot of problems. In an endeavour to help her husbands, Draupadi went to Krishna, asking him for help. He suggested that she observe the Karwa Chauth fast and by doing so, she was able to take care of her husbands.

The rituals of Karwa Chauth:

Karwa Chauth is not a festival that is celebrated only on that particular day – the preparations often begin well in advance. Women will purchase new clothes, accessories, lamps and decorated pooja thali to name a few things. Many women will wear their wedding day outfit on this day to relive the love they have for their husbands. On the day of the fast, women will wake up before sunrise and eat a big meal that will include fruits, milk, dry fruits and other sweet dishes. In most cultures, the mother in law will prepare something called the sargi – this will include food and things the daughter in law can use on Karwa Chauth day. In case the mother in law stays far away, she will send dry fruits, sweets and clothes to the daughter in law, well in advance.

Once the morning meals are over, women are allowed to take the day for themselves; in most cases, women will not do any housework as that could make them tired and hungry. Many women will also take the day to pamper themselves, spending some time at the salon or getting mehendi on their hands. Women will not eat or drink anything for the entire day; in the evening, they will take the time to get dressed in finery that is kept aside for only for special occasions such as these and get ready for the pooja and other rituals.

The evening generally begins with all the fasting women sitting in a circle, and generally the oldest member of the circle, will narrate some version of the Karwa Chauth story. The story version will be dependent on which part of the country they are in – the story will have several pauses, during which songs related to the festival are sung and during this time, the pooja thalis are circulated. In most places, there are a total of 7 such circulations.

In places like Uttar Pradesh, there is also a pooja for Gaur mata or Mother Earth – a little bit of earth or soil will be taken, sprinkled with water and some Kumkum is placed on it, symbolising the fertility of earth. In more modern societies, women will exchange Karwa Chauth gifts with each other. Finally, when the moon becomes visible, the women will view it through a sieve, offer it water and salutations and then the husband will give water and something sweet to break the fast that lasted between sunrise and sunset.

Karwa Chauth is more than just a fast – it is a promise that a woman makes to her husband to love him with all her heart and stay true and devoted to him.