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A married woman celebrates Karva Chauth ( Karak Chaturthi ) by observing a fast for the long life of her husband. And above all is the 'Shringar' that includes applying henna and adorning the bridal makeup. Karak Chaturthi is observed on the fourth day after the full moon in the month of Kartik (October - November) as per traditional Hindu calendar followed in North India. The corresponding period in Gujarat and Maharashtra is the Bhadrapad month.Karak Chaturthi is popularly known as Karwa Chouth and married Hindu women fast on the day for the wellbeing of their husbands.
The festival of Karva Chauth is symbolic of the unflagging loyalty of a wife towards her husband, fast that ensures the well-being, prosperity and longevity of their husbands, the festival of Karwa Chauth provides an opportunity for all married women to get close to their in-laws. Possessing a tremendous social and cultural significance, this festival is celebrated by keeping fast, applying henna and exchange of gifts.
Celebrated mostly by North Indians, the event of Karwa Chauth is growing bigger with each passing day. Along with traditional items such as henna, beauty products and fashionable clothes, the demand of special eateries are also gearing up. Nowadays, Karwa Chauth is more of fun than a serious festival.
The festivities surrounding Karwa Chauth encourage people to gather and socialize with friends and family, exchange gifts and share home-cooked meals. The gifts exchanged on this occasion reflects joy, splendor, brightness and happiness of a married life.
Sargi and Baya are the two most important gifting items, as without them the festival of Karva chauth is incomplete. These gift items are very traditional and are supposed to bring good luck in the lives of the married couple. It is Mother-in-laws who gift 'sargi' for their daughter-in-laws. This 'sargi' is a collection of sumptuous food consists of various types of sweetmeats and sometime clothes. 'Sargi' is given to the married woman so that she can eat them before sunrise, as the fast starts before sunrise and ends only after worshiping the moon at night. It is a tough fast, as the women do not take any food or water.
In the afternoon, mothers of newly wed girls gift 'Baya' to the parents of their son-in-law. This Baya contains few Mathris, Almonds and some gifts. This gift pack should reach the girl's house before evening. A small pooja to Gaura Ma or goddess Parvati is performed. Married women sit around Gaura ma and pray to her for the well being and long life of their husbands. A small pitcher or Karva with some water is placed in the center. While the story is being narrated, ladies circulate their Baya thalis. Apart from traditional gifts, nowadays there is a norm of showering various designers clothes, bindies and jeweleries, specially to a newly wed woman .
The women of the neighborhood usually gather in someone's house and perform the puja together, in the evening. A small area is prepared for the ceremony, which can be performed in any part of the house as well as in the open. A small square platform is placed against the wall and kharia matti (powdery mud) is used to cleanse and to decorate the puja area. An idol of Gaur Mata, or Goddess Parvati (the consort of Lord Shiva), is placed on the consecrated spot. Traditionally, the tiny image of Gaur Mata was made from cow dung, though nowadays pictures or idols of Parvati are the norm.
About an hour before moonrise, the women place their bayas and their karvas in a plate and sit around the puja area to pray, while an elderly lady narrates a tale about a young woman who, by an unfortunate twist of fate, was tricked into breaking her fast before moonrise. Her husband dropped dead the very instant his wife broke her fast. Enraged at the deception that led to her husband's death, the girl implored Gaur Mata to resurrect her husband.
The husband finally came back to life after a period of seven karva chauths. The wife, with her unflinching love for her husband and belief in Goddess Parvati, achieved the ‘impossible'. While the story is read out to everyone, the women exchange their respective karvas, till each one gets her own karva back. During this time, they also chant the following prayer ,which is for the well being of the husband and for marital bliss:
Addey-addey Krishna pakshe var
Tith Karva Chauth
Manse hain apne suhag ke liye
Yeh karva, mattri, halwa, sari, nagdi
Apne suhag ka liye rani ka sa raj dena
Gaur ka sa suhag dena Shri Krishna nimant."
The puja ends with the women showering rice and vermilion on Parvati and seeking her blessings. The younger women touch the feet of the elders, seek their blessings and offer their baya to them.
Breaking The Fast
In the evening, the women see the moon, while carrying a plate decorated with lit earthen lamps and a container of water. The moon is seen through a fine mesh or sieve. Water is offered to the moon, followed by some food women. Though the women are allowed to break their fast after they see the moon, it is preferred if they can also see the faces of their husbands before they eat or drink. So, the married men scurry back home from work as soon as possible, on this day. Thereafter, the family sits down for a grand meal and the celebration comes to end.
Story Of Queen Veeravati
A beautiful girl Veeravati, the only sister of her seven loving brothers, got married to a king. On her first karva chauth, she went to her parents' house and a strict fast, waiting for the moon rise to break it. The seven brothers could not see their loving sister go hungry throughout the day. They decided to end her fast, by reflecting a mirror through peepal tree leaves and making her believe that it is moon. The sister fell for it and broke the fast. The moment she ate food, she got news of her husband's serious illness.
After coming to know that her husband is not well, she rushed to her palace and on her way, met Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It was them that she came to know that her brothers had shown her false moon and made her break her fast before moonrise. The queen asked for forgiveness and was granted the boon that the king would be revived only if she undertakes seven karva chauth fast strictly, following all the rituals. The queen agreed and strictly followed all the rituals of karva chauth the next seven times and got her husband back.