Karva Chauth

Karva Chauth is a one-day festival celebrated by Hindu women four days after purnima (a full moon) in the month of Kartika.

Updated: October 7, 2019

Karva Chauth is a one-day festival celebrated by Hindu women four days after purnima (a full moon) in the month of Kartika. Karwa Chauth fasting is done during Krishna Paksha Chaturthi in the Hindu month of Kartik by married women for the long life of their husband. According to Amanta calendar followed in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Southern India it done in Ashwin month. Karwa Chauth coincides with Sankashti Chaturthi which is a fasting day observed for Lord Ganesha.

Karwa Chauth Origin and Significance:

Karwa Chauth day is also known as Karak Chaturthi. Karwa or Karak refers to the earthen pot through which water offering, known as Argha, is made to the moon. Karwa is very significant during Puja and it is also given as charity or Dan to the Brahmin or any eligible woman.
Karwa Chauth day coincides with Sankashti Chaturthi during Kartik month as per the Purnimanta calendar followed in North India. It is also known as Karaka Chaturthi as per Dharamasindhu, Nirnayasindhu and Vratraj books. Both Karaka and Karwa refer to small pitcher which is used during Puja and given as charity or Dan for the wellbeing of the family. The fasting on Karwa Chauth is done not only for well-being and long life of the husband but also for the sons, grandsons, wealth and everlasting prosperity of the family. The fasting and Puja which is performed on Karaka Chaturthi is mainly dedicated to Goddess Parvati as a symbol of Akhand Saubhagyavati.

The story behind Karva Chauth is that long time ago, in the city of Indraprasthapur there was one Brahmin named Vedsharma who was happily married to Leelavati. He had seven great sons and one deft daughter named Veeravati. Due to only sister of seven brothers she was pampered not only by her parents but also by her brothers. She was married to a suitable Brahmin boy once she got matured. She spent her first Karva Chauth as a married woman at her parents' house. She began a strict fast after sunrise but, by evening, was desperately waiting for the moonrise as she suffered severe thirst and hunger. During the fasting of Karwa Chauth Veeravati couldn't bear the hunger and she fainted and fell on the ground due to weakness. Her brothers knew that Veeravati, a Pativrata, would not take any food unless she sights the moon even if it costs her life. As they couldn't bear the miserable condition of their adorable sister all of them together made a plan to trick the sister to break her fast. One of the brothers climbed on the distant tree of Vat with sieve and lamp. When Veeravati gained the conscious, rest of the brothers told her that the moon has risen and brought her on the roof to sight the moon. After seeing the lamp behind the sieve on a distant Vat tree, Veeravati believed that the moon has risen behind the thicket of tree. She immediately made offerings to the lamp and broke the fast. When Veeravati started having the meal she got all sorts of bad omen. In the first bite she found the hair, in the second bite she sneezed and in the third bite she got invitation from her in-laws. For the first time she found the dead body of her husband after reaching her husband's home. Veeravati started crying and blamed herself for committing some mistake during the fasting of Karwa Chauth after seeing the dead body of her husband. She started mourning inconsolably. On listening her mourning Goddess Indrani, the wife of God Indra, arrived to console Veeravati. Veeravati begged to make her husband alive. She asked Indrani the reason for her to got such a fate on the day of Karwa Chauth. Goddess Indrani revealed how she had been tricked by her brothers and broke the fast without giving Argha (offering) to the moon and due to that her husband met untimely death. Indrani advised Veeravati to observe Chauth fasting on each month throughout the year including the fasting of Karwa Chauth and assured that doing so, her husband would come back alive. After that Veeravati observed monthly fasting with complete trust and all rituals. Finally due to accumulating Punya of those fastings Veeravati got her husband back.

Draupadi have also observed this fast in the time of Mahabharata. Once Arjun went to the Nilgiris for penance and the rest of the Pandavas faced many problems in his absence. Draupadi, out of desperation, remembered Lord Krishna and asked for help. Lord Krishna advised her to observe the fast of Karva Chauth. Shiva tells Parvati the story of Veervati to describe the Karva Chauth fast in some stories. Draupadi followed the instructions and observed the fast with all its rituals. As a result, the Pandavas were able to overcome their problems.
 
As per the legend of Karva, a woman named Karva was deeply devoted to her husband. While bathing at a river, her husband was caught by a crocodile. Karva bound the crocodile with a cotton yarn and asked Yama, the god of death to send the crocodile to hell. When Yama refused, Karva threatened to curse Yama and destroy him. Yama, afraid of being cursed by a devoted wife who has spiritual power, sent the crocodile to hell and blessed her husband with long life. Karva and her husband enjoyed many years of wedded bliss. To this day, Karva Chauth is celebrated with great faith and belief.
The Story of Satyavan and Savitri is also related to this ritual. When Lord Yama came to procure Satyavan's soul, Savitri begged him to grant him life. When he refused, she followed Yama who carried away her dead husband. Yama said that she could ask for any other boon except for the life of her husband. Savitri asked that she be blessed with children. When Yama agreed, she told him that being a devoted wife, she would never let any other man be the father of her children. Yama was left with no other choice but to restore Savitri's husband to life.

Celebration of Karwa Chauth:

Goddess Parvati being Akhand Saubhagyavati is worshiped first during the Puja followed by Lord Shiva, Lord Kartikeya and Lord Ganesha. Women also worship Goddess Gaura and Chauth Mata who represent Goddess Parvati herself on the day of Karwa Chauth.
On this day married women worship Lord Shiva and his family including Lord Ganesha and break the fast only after sighting and making the offerings to the moon. The fasting of Karwa Chauth is strict and observed without taking any food or even a drop of water after sunrise till the sighting of the moon in the night.

Karwa Chauth is more popular in North Indian states compare to South Indian states. Ahoi Ashtami Vrat is observed for the well being of sons after four days of Karwa Chauth.

Karwa Chauth is mainly observed in the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. It is also significant day in Delhi and NCR (National Capital Region). The rituals related to Karwa Chauth which have become popular in northern India are either formed or influenced by the local culture in Delhi. Due to the rising popularity of Karwa Chauth in cinema, TV and even commercials, it is also getting popularized in those states where it was not a traditional festival, such as the state of Gujarat, West Bengal and Bihar.

Although Karwa Chauth fasting is done by married women only, many unmarried girls have also started observing it to seek good husband in coming future. Some husbands also started fasting on that day for the well being of their wife as well as to boost their morale during the fasting of Karwa Chauth. New changes and customs which are making their way in the rituals of Karwa Chauth show the popularity of this festival. 

On the day of fasting, after taking morning bath women should take the pledge, which is called Sankalp, to keep the fast for the wellbeing of the husband and the family. Sankalp is done to make the fasting without any food or the water and the fast would be broken after sighting the moon. The best time to perform Karwa Chauth Puja is during Sandhya time which starts after sunset according to Vratraj. Women either draw Goddess Gaura and Chauth Mata on the wall or use Chauth Mata image on the printed Karwa Chauth Puja Calendar to worship Mata Parvati. 

Goddess Gaura and Chauth Mata are representations of Goddess Parvati. Usually women perform Puja in a group and narrate the Story of Karwa Chauth Mahatamya, which is known as magnanimous of Karwa Chauth fasting. Karwa should be given as charity to the Brahmin or some eligible woman after Puja.

The Karwa or Karak should be filled with the water or the milk and precious stones or coins. Women should wait for the moon to risen after puja and then worship God Chandra. After making offering to him they should break the fast. The fasting woman usually does no housework. Women apply henna and other cosmetics to themselves and each other. The day passes in meeting friends and relatives. In some regions, it is customary to give and exchange painted clay pots filled with put bangles, ribbons, home-made candy, cosmetics and small cloth items. Since Karva Chauth follows soon after the Kharif crop harvest in the rural areas, it is a good time for community festivities and gift exchanges. Parents often send gifts to their married daughters and their children. Participants dress in fine clothing and wear jewellery and henna. In some regions women dress in their wedding dresses. The dresses are frequently red, gold or orange, which are considered auspicious colors. In Uttar Pradesh, women wear saris or lehangas. The fasters sit in a circle with their puja thalis. Depending on region and community, a version of the story of Karva Chauth is narrated, with regular pauses. The storyteller is usually an older woman or a priest, if one is present. In the pauses, the Karva Chauth puja song is sung collectively the singers perform the feris that is passing their thalis around in the circle. Some of the activities that are done during the fast are described in the first six  circle and the seventh describes the lifting of those restrictions with the conclusion of the fast. The forbidden activities include weaving cloth (kumbh chrakhra feri naa), pleading with or attempting to please anyone (ruthda maniyen naa), and awakening anyone who is asleep (suthra jagayeen naa). For the first six feris they sing
"     ...Veero kudiye Karvara, Sarv suhagan Karvara, Aye katti naya teri naa, Kumbh chrakhra feri naa, Aar pair payeen naa, Ruthda maniyen naa, Suthra jagayeen naa, Ve veero kuriye Karvara, Ve sarv suhagan Karvara...     "
For the seventh feri, they sing
"     ...Veero kudiye Karvara, Sarv suhagan Karvara, Aye katti naya teri nee, Kumbh chrakhra feri bhee, Aar pair payeen bhee, Ruthda maniyen bhee, Suthra jagayeen bhee, Ve veero kuriye Karvara, Ve sarv suhagan Karvara...     "
Participants exchange Karvas seven times between themselves in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Prayer of gaur mata, the earth is done in Uttar Pradesh. Women will take a bit of soil, sprinkle water, and then place kumkum on it, treating it as an idol of the fertile Mother Earth. An idol of Gaur Mata was made using earth and cow dung in earlier times, which has now been replaced with an idol of Parvati. Fasting woman lights an earthen lamp in her thali while listening to the Karva story that include narratives of Shiv, Parvati and Ganesh usually told by older women in the family. Sindoor, incense sticks and rice are also kept in the thali. Gauri, Ganesh and Shankar idols were made with mud and decorated with colorful and bright clothes and jewellery in Uttar Pradesh. While exchanging Karvas seven times, the celebrants sing
"     ...Sadaa suhagan karve lo, Pati ki pyari karve lo, Saat bhaiyon ke behen karve lo, Vart karni karve lo, Saas ki pyaari karve lo...     "

After that, the fasters offer baayna which is a complete meal including goodies like halwa, puri, namkeen mathri, meethi mathri to the idols (mansana) and hand over to their mother-in-law or sister-in-law. After completing the fera ceremony, the women await the rising of the moon. Once the moon is visible, the fasting woman view the reflection of the moon in a vessel filled with water, through a sieve, or through the cloth of a dupatta depending on the region and community. Water is offered (arka) to the moon, the lunar deity to secure its blessings. She then turns to her husband and views his face indirectly in the same manner.  It is believed that at this stage, spiritually strengthened by her fast and the woman can successfully confront and defeat death. Therefore, woman says a brief prayer asking for the long life of her husband in some regions. The husband now takes the water from the thali and gives his wife her first sip and feeds her with the first morsel of the day which is usually something sweet. The fast is now broken, and the woman can have a complete meal.

Below are the things done by women during karwa chauth:
  • applying Mehndi or henna a day before Karwa Chauth
  • applying Alta which is Mahawar in feet and hands, especially in Rajasthan
  • day long fast without food and water
  • dressing like a bride before Karwa Chauth Puja
  • preparing Puja alter especially with Karwa Chauth Calendar
  • worshipping Goddess Parvati in the evening
  • narrating and listening the legends of Karwa Chauth
  • waiting for the moon rise to break the fast
  • sighting moon through sieve or transparent cloth
  • giving Arghya or offering water to moon God
  • sighting husband after moon sighting
  • breaking the fast by accepting water from the husband
  • taking meal which is prepared for the Puja

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