What is Karwa Chauth (Karva Chauth)?
Karwa Chauth (or Karva Chauth) is actually a festival that is celebrated for one day by married Hindu and Sikh women. It is a well known and widely practiced ritual in the Northern and Western regions of India. The ritual consists of the woman fasting for an entire day – with no food or water – while they offer prayers for their husbands.
This day is much anticipated as it comes just 9 days before the Diwali celebrations, which are the festival of lights.
The date that coincides with Karwa Chauth is not pulled out of a hat. It falls after the new moon, on the 4th day, which is “kartik ki chauth” translated. The time frame for this is usually sometime between October and November.
Learn the Lingo
A head ornament that hangs from the center part of the forehead
A red dot, usually with adhesive that is placed in the center of a woman's forehead to symbolize that she is married
A sieve that is used to view the moon through during Karwa Chauth
Typically a plate that is used for rituals and special occasions
A jewelled hair ornament worn on the side of the head
The festival name, Karwa Chauth(or Karva Chauth) literally means:
Karwa (Karva) = Clay Pot with spout
Chauth = on the 4th day
The Karwa (Karva) is a necessary part of the festival and symbolizes prosperity, longevity and peace for the marriage.
What Happens (Ritual)
Women who are married participate by fasting, starting before the sun comes up and lasting all day into the night when they catch sight of the moon. (Some regions in India celebrate with a 24-hour fast – starting the night before when they see the moon and lasting into the next night when they see the moon again.)
The fast is very strict, not even water is allowed. While they fast, they offer prayers to Shiva and Parvati. The ritual prayers consist of asking for long life and good health for their husbands, as well as prosperity in the marriage.
For the women, it is a joyous time. They dress up in “wedding attire” similar to when they were married. These are usually elaborate saris, but they may also wear bridal lehengas. Since red is the color synonymous with marriage in the Hindu culture, it is most often worn. However, women may choose any color or style they wish with more modern women wearing orange, blue, purple and gold. It’s really up to the participant.
Next, they adorn themselves with bridal jewelry, mehendi (henna designs), beautiful makeup and of course, their bindi.
A Decorated Thali
This is an example of a thali, beautifully decorated for Karwa Chauth. There are various foods and sweets that can be put on the decorated thali, but usually it consists of fruits, Sargi, parantha and sweets.
There also needs to be 10 salty snacks, which are called matthis and 10 sweets called puas, and halwa, which is an unleavened flatbread. The eating of these different foods have a special meaning in the traditional ritual.
Although red is considered the traditional color for weddings, many Indian women are embracing more modern looks and colors such as this beautiful lavender lehenga.
On this festive day, women traditionally participate together in neighborhoods. Usually an older woman will tell the stories that highlight the significance of Karwa Chauth. It is a time of happiness and many women look forward to participating in it.
In the early evening, the puja is conducted by married women. Songs are sung and stories are told until the most anticipated part of the day arrives - the moon rise ritual. It involved waiting for the moon to rise and the woman will take a sieve and view the moon through it. They also may look at the moons' reflection in their thali or a pitcher of water.
Immediately after seeing the moon, they are to look upon their husbands. Then their husbands give the women a sip of water, thus breaking the fast. following that are feasts and husbands giving their wives gifts.