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Why I keep Karwa Chauth, and why should you keep your opinion about it to yourself.

Karwa Chauth is an annual festival largely observed by women in the Hindi-speaking Northern and Central regions of India. It usually occurs 10 days before Diwali, and on this day women fast without food or water from dawn till they spot the moon, as they pray for the long and healthy life of their husband.

My very first memory of Karwa Chauth is that of returning home from school to see Mom, my aunts and their friends sitting around having Mehendi being applied on their hands and feet, in preparation for Karwa Chauth the next day. It was such a fun atmosphere, with chatter, the fragrance of henna and endless cups of tea and snacks and we kids being asked to help them eat and drink.

screenshot_2016-10-13-10-47-22My Mehendi

We woke up the next day to see a platter of Mithai’s kept aside for us, from the Sargi that mom had eaten before sunrise that morning, and Mum readying her Thaali for the evening Pooja. The rare occasion that it was a holiday on the same day we rejoiced, as the aunts and their friends would troop in from morning and the ladies sat together to watch films on video. What a treat that was for us!

img_20161013_162720

My Pooja Thaali

Come evening and the ladies started dressing up, and how! I remember Mom looked, and still does, like a Goddess, in her saree, jewelery and bangles.

We sat for the evening Katha and Pooja with the ladies. After which the Husbands returning from work joined us. There were stories, teasing, bantering and gossip galore! As a teenager my favourite bits were hearing how the couples had met and when the ladies recounted their experiences of their 1st Karwa Chauth.
As kids it was our duty to run up to the terrace and spot the moon, so that the ladies could break their fast. The Moon always troubles women on this day, by hiding behind the clouds and refusing to make an appearance. When the moon was finally spotted, the women prayed to it and broke their fast, by being made to sip water by their husband’s. After which there was a feast! With everyone sitting down to a sumptuous meal together.

I am married into a South Indian family, where Karwa Chauth has zero significance. My Husband didn’t ask me to observe it, nor did my mother-in-law. For that matter, nor did my Mom.

I chose to keep it.

Logic, education and exposure to life have given me enough sense to realize that one person abstaining from food and water will surely not extend another’s life. Just like taking a dip in a holy river will not ‘wash away your sins’ or fasting for any number of days will not ensure a place in heaven. Or that candle marches will do nothing except bring in business for the candle maker.

Nor do I think I hold the kind of power to grant someone a long life.

I fast because I choose to. Because I love the significance of it, and the romance around the thought. Because like all the festivals we may follow, this too brings with it happiness and creates memories. And because I love my Husband and this is one way of showing it.

Karwa Chauth is a day like any other. I am not treated specially nor do I treat my husband specially, on this day.

Each Karwa Chauth I see women posting anti Karwa Chauth messages on all social media, some going so far as to verbally attacking women observing the fast. Shouldn’t you be respecting another woman’s wish to do as she pleases to with her priorities? Imagine, if a teetotaller like me attacked your choice of enjoying your glass of whatever spirit you choose to sip on or smoking your lungs away with cigarettes? That too just because I choose not to, which is why I don’t think you should either? Weird right? My life, my choices, and all that? Exactly!

If YOU think keeping Karwa Chauth makes me regressive, that is YOUR opinion, not mine.
If YOU think it is ridiculous, that is YOUR opinion, not mine.
If YOU think that I am being subversive by ‘going hungry and thirsty for a man’, that is YOUR opinion, not mine.

And I only respect opinions I ask for.

40 thoughts on “Why I keep Karwa Chauth, and why should you keep your opinion about it to yourself.

  1. You already know what l feel, Mayuri. Have a lovely Karwa Chauth. If you really want to see how women bring down other women, read the update of my post on HuffPost. Women are having a field day namecalling there. Whatever rocks their boat. It just amuses me.

  2. O Mayuri! What a beautiful post you’ve written! I too have memories of Karwa chauth of my mom when I was a child.

    And today, I celebrate this day with pride. My husband is always against the fact of me abstaining food. He knows I can’t starve. I just can’t. But I still fast. Not because I’m doing some favour on him, but because I love him and I somehow cherish the romance behind it. I feel it’s the symbol of love that’s accentuated here and nothing else.

    Exchanging those smiles and laughter at the end of the day, gives me peace and strength to love him even more!!

    Sorry for blurting it all here, dear. I truly admire your thoughts and respect every woman’s choice of fasting or nor fasting, whatever suits them best! Lots of love and strength to you for this day!

    Cheers

    1. ‘Exchanging those smiles and laughter at the end of the day, gives me peace and strength to love him even more!!’
      I couldn’t have put it better myself! Thanks for reading and stopping by, Geetika:)

  3. An absolutely absorbing and beautiful piece. So well written and from the heart. We do what we want for our benefit and our happiness. Name calling is completely unwarranted. Have a wonderful karvachauth, Mayuri

  4. Mayuri, take a bow for writing this.

    “I fast because I choose to. Because I love the significance of it, and the romance around the thought. Because like all the festivals we may follow, this too brings with it happiness and creates memories.”

    I am a South Indian married into a Garhwali family. Karwa Chauth is not celebrated in my family or his family. But I have been keeping it ever since I got married. 14 years now. It was purely my choice. Nobody forced it on me. The husband tries his best to make me agree not to keep the fast. I did not keep it during both the pregnancies because I have had highly complicated pregnancies. Neither do I do the thaali pooja or the dressing up. I just keep the fast and enjoy watching the ladies of the colony doing the thaali pooja in the evening. If that makes me regressive, so be it. I don’t care. Not sharing it on my Timeline because I have had enough of those unsolicited advice and brickbats in the past few years. Also, the past few days have been quite an emotional roller coaster. Don’t have the energy or the will to get into another debate on an otherwise happy day.

    Happy Karwa Chauth! 🙂

  5. Mature! Fasting is a great thing you can do for yourselves and your husband. It brings you both a lot closer and the romance it incites lives longer than ever. I strongly belive every religious act of ours has a lot more significance than what falls to the eye

  6. Very well written Mayuri. “My life my choice”. This is what I believe in although I do not observe any kind of fast….my life my choice But yes… Hats off to each one of you who do believe in this age old tradition and do with with great pride… A pure heart.
    Opinions that mean to condemn are never welcomed!! Great going!!

  7. This is such a heartfelt post Mayuri..loved reading it and can relate to so many things. I love festivals and I love all the celebrations, festivities, excitement around it. I believe these customs and traditions make us different from other countries and Ione should enjoy them instead of just finding a fault in them..good one 🙂

  8. Fabulous post Mayuri! My life, my way is how it should be! I love the significance, the fun and fanfare that revolves around this festival too! Every year I attend Karwa Chauth dos that my friends arrange and have a fantastic time, regaling in the atmosphere and the feeling of love all over. Loved reading your childhood memories of the same! Here’s to a lovely Karwa Chauth celebration today and always!

  9. Happy Karwa Chauth Mayuri! I dont observe it because it is not a custom in our family.But we have enough similar poojas like this.Varalakshmi pooja,Savithri pooja..what not.And yes,I do those poojas with fervour.

  10. Happy Karva Chauth Mayuri! I agree that rituals are personal. Love your soulful post and the memories tied to it. I am glad you continue the tradition. For me, rituals are more about that feel-good place associated with memories and happiness. Hugs!

  11. I could not connect more while reading each and every word in this piece…. it felt as if u have beautifully described my memories of my childhood… and now I love when my four year old daughter asks me questions like y mehandi? Which festival is this? Y you have to be hungry… she loves watching me dress up and m sure today she will have lot of questions about evening and the whole rituals..every year my husband convinces me to not stress myself and observe the fast knowing that I will never give in…. the belief with which I have seen my mom doing it… I just can’t stop this tradition … be it the fun around it, the love around this ritual or the belief….. everything attracts me to continue this tradition.:::

  12. Happy Karva Chauth, Mayuri. Loved your words of love and memories on this post. I wish you to continue this for your lifetime. Festivals and rituals have some meaning and scientific reasons attached to it. If we understand this, then they will bring happiness, laughter and add to our sweet memories. I think it’s our responsibility to educate the meaning and significance of these rituals to our next generation.

  13. It is annoying to see the feminazis rip this apart. I think rituals and traditions are a personal choice and is each to his/her own. I remember an article by Shobhaa De as I read this. She also wrote about why should women fast, when men don’t.

    Somethings exist. Doing it or not is a personal choice. Period.

  14. Bravo! I am from South India and I always wanted to keep Karwa Chauth ever since I got married to my Fauji and moved around the northern parts of our country. I was too late to know that today was Karwa Chauth, else I would definitely have kept it. It’s our choice to do what we want to do. As Vidya Mam said, rituals are always personal. There will always be haters! You enjoy your day, girl. Happy Karwa 🙂

  15. I am a South Indian, and like you said – this festival has zero significance in this part of the country- but since Bollywood has immortalized it, I knew about it, and I always thought it was such a wonderfully romantic tradition.

    I personally have never done it, nor do I think I can (I am eternally hungry!), but more power to the ones who can do it.

    This Feminism thing (like most other things) is open to interpretation, and which is why some women choose to attack the others as being regressive. But honestly they totally miss the point. Feminism is about equal opportunity and is very pro choice at its core. When we look at it like that – attacking and ridiculing a fellow woman’s choice – isn’t that exactly what we are fighting against?

  16. Feminism is a misplaced concept nowadays. Only by trying to break traditions nothing can be achieved.
    I like your feeling behind observing it. I belong to the same kind of background where it was a ritual celebrated and much awaited for. It was beautiful how my mom and other ladies fasted out of love and decked themselves up waiting for the moon to come up. I do it too and love everything about it.

  17. What this posts misses is the non-filmi aspects of it. No harm is whatever anyone is doing but the real festival is far from only being about the couple. It is to establish ties between the daughter and the mother in law as well…giving the message that she is important for his well being – you know how possessive moms can be.
    As far I know moms and mother in laws are involved in this… they send food that you will eat before the fast begins (sargi). The women that fast keep dry fruit or sugar to give to the eldest female in-law. The eldest woman in the family usually tells the tale associated with the festival while all the fasters gather around her.
    Husbands only get so much importance in silly movies. I’ve seen this festival being celebrated by women without all this fuss about who makes you drink water – they just drink once they see the moon through the chalni.

  18. Like religious beliefs, karva chauth too is a personal belief. I know about it only through numerous Kjo movies and instagram. Since it’s not celebrated in Assam as well, I have often failed to grasp its significance. What I dislike is when women are forced to keep it… like an obligation. I respect your views and I can totally understand how it must be so beautiful and romantic at the end of the day when you break your fast 🙂 I have friends just like you who fast just because they want to. Sometimes the husband fasts too. I am enjoying looking at all the mehendi and food pictures on social media. Loved your Mehendi too.

  19. So, yet again, the idea of romance in this country is about women starving themselves to appease yet another patriarchal form of dominance. I for one find nothing romantic in starving myself to prove my love to my husband.

  20. Yes it does create memories. Year after year it is almost become a ritual now, I set up the dining table for her and make sure that the food is served to her in the best possible way. I would be doing this on other days but the religiousness with which I do it on this day and the way she looks forward to it and the memories and bond this creates is beyond description. Deriding our rituals without understanding the science behind them is fashion and surprisingly many of them would go ahead and learn NLP (neuro linguistic programming). Pls understand our rituals are one of the highest forms of NLP its fine if we don’t understand them but let’s not pull them/deride them without knowing about them

  21. While I understand that women tend to enjoy the fanfare around karwa chauth there is no denying that its existence is based on the domination of woman by the supposedly more powerful ‘man’. Thankfully no one forced you to observe the ritual of karwa chauth, but again there is no denying the fact that there are millions of wives who are forced/blackmailed/threatened to keep the fast. You will agree that a lot needs to be done regarding the rights of women. There are enough arguments for and against karwar chauth (most of them are available online and I wont repeat them here).

    My point is a slightly subtle one which I will demonstrate with an example I put to my wife. My wife, K, is from Rajasthan. A state which comes in the top half of the table when it comes to domestic abuse. K is a successful lawyer who is doing brilliantly in life and I am very very proud of her. It is safe to say that K is a role model for most women in her locality. Picture this: there is a girl ‘X’ who looks up to my wife. Her family is forcing her to keep karwa chauth but she obviously does not want to because as a free thinking person she wishes to choose not to opt to keep a fast for a her husband. But someone in her family says “Dekho K ne fast rakha hai tum bhi rakho”.

    Now in light of the above my two cents are this: As educated free thinking women of India I feel it is your responsibility to shun all rituals which promote domination in whichever shape or form. Knowingly or unknowingly, you may give strength to some girl who wants to break free from male domination (which may be domestic abuse). By all means please indulge in the fanfare etc. but I am sure you can choose a better festival and another day?

  22. While totally respecting your views Mayuri, I would just like to say that you are lucky that you are in a position to make a choice of keeping A PARTICULAR FAST without being forced into it. However, majority of the women especially brought up in a patriarchal mindset and married into a household where she is a mere puppet in the hands of the husband and in-laws, do not have the CHOICE. You have happy memories of your mother fasting and the whole family getting together in the evening but have you ever tried to ask your mother as to how she started observing the fast in the first place. I am sure she will say everyone does it, its tradition, culture, a must for a Hindu married woman etc but if you dig deeper you will find how the whole idea of taking care of one’s husband, following customs and rituals diligently are seen to be as a definition of a GOOD WOMAN. Why is it that all the rituals be it karvachauth, teej, nirjala ekadashi etc are observed by women and not men. Why is it that the woman is only concerned about the well being of the family and not the man. Are the children only the mother’s? Why does she have to carry the burden of such things. Sadly, the patriarchy is ingrained so much in our minds that its difficult to come out of its clutches. It may be a CHOICE for privileged girls like us but sadly that isn’t the case for the majority. It becomes our responsibility to think over these issues and raise concerns as we are in a position to do so.
    Yes, i agree that no one has a right to dictate the others. TO EACH HIS OWN.

  23. “Imagine, if a teetotaller like me attacked your choice of enjoying your glass of whatever spirit you choose to sip on or smoking your lungs away with cigarettes? That too just because I choose not to, which is why I don’t think you should either?” – that sounds a little bit like a threat to me. If your point is that one should do what one pleases then why even point fingers at specific examples? I appreciate the sentiment behind your post, but considering that you set out to protest against self-righteous activists, this bit of if self-righteousness on your part really killed it for me. However, this is my opinion and you don’t need to respect it at all! 😉

  24. i love the idea of you loving your husband that gives you the kick to keep the fast and follow the rules, i understand that you do so to portray your love towards him.
    heres few things you contradicting yourself without knowing the actual facts even though you have stated the fact:
    1. no registered cases of death of husband coz wife dint keep the fast(lol its a joke)
    2. do you know the whole of nation is fighting towards woman rights and equality and against patriarchy? please know what is patriarchy and how it dwells inside of us and is been fed into our tiny brains which we often mistaken to understand. Please understand no one is against karwachauth as a festival but as a means or ritual which tries to remind every independent and successful woman that she will never be equal to a man
    There are several other ways of showing your love to your husband and several other ways to bring back the memories you shared as a child.
    i think you are unable to leave your past behind and somewhere it makes me feel that you miss marrying into your same caste coz you unable to celebrate those moments you had seen as a kid.

    please do not take my words rashly as i am just trying to explain the facts. but if one in willing to be donating everyday to the patriarchy it makes me feel really bad for the people bringing change in the society…and for who? its for us its for the daughters and granddaughters of the future

  25. As long as u choose to do whatever u do it’s awesome.. I guess the problem occurs when it is forced, like so many thing are..
    I too do not believe it will extend my husbands life but I have kept it as I chose to.. and now have decided to stop.. totally my choice..!! And that’s what makes it beautiful..
    God bless..!!

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