Karva Chauth is just around the corner and you’d know it even if you don’t observe this traditional fast. Your Facebook and Instagram Feed is going to be loaded with images of ladies wearing the choicest of Indian attires, fanciest bindis and hoards of bangles. (I could be one of those women too ?) Now another thing you are going to read and hear is how the entire concept of Karva Chauth is patriarchal and male chauvinist in nature. How a true feminist would refrain from encouraging this tradition!
I consider myself to be a
feminist humanist I’d say, because it’s equality that we seek, right? And I fast on Karva Chauth and abibe every tradition that I know of. Here’s why!
My husband and I are pretty much rooted in the real world. We are not typically the kind of people you’d call religious or superstitious. We don’t believe that acts like puja, fasting, or any act of self harm pleases God. We trim our toddler’s nails at night after he sleeps, otherwise he’d break a world record of the ‘human with the longest nails’. I have had awesome days that have begun with a black cat crossing my path.
We bow our heads, fold our hands and express gratitude to that Lord, who we believe does exist and creates magic everyday. We believe in the power of good deeds and karma. So to sum it all up, we aren’t atheists but are far from being religious fanatics.
About Karva Chauth
Karva Chauth is a day when the wife observes fast the entire day and prays for her husband’s long life. She eats food only after she sees the moon and the handsome face of her husband.
Now I have also read a story about the origin of Karva Chauth which goes like this –
A beautiful queen called Veervati was the only sister of seven loving brothers. 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. Her seven brothers couldn’t bear to see their sister in such distress and created a mirror in a pipal tree that made it look as though the moon had risen. The sister mistook it for the moon and broke her fast. The moment she ate, word arrived that her husband, the king, was dead. Heartbroken, she wept through the night until her shakti compelled a Goddess to appear and ask why she cried. When the queen explained her distress, the Goddess revealed how she had been tricked by her brothers and instructed her to repeat the Karva Chauth fast with complete devotion. When Veervati repeated the fast, Yama was forced to restore her husband to life. (Information Source – Wikipedia)
Okay, so I don’t know how much of this makes any sense to me. I doubt any Goddess would ever ask her devotee to observe a strict fast.
Anyhow coming to the real question – Why do we observe fast? For the husband to live longer. Do I want my husband to live longer? Well, definitely longer than I do. No matter how dependent that makes me sound, I CANNOT survive without him. And I care about his health, safety and well being the most. But do I believe that not eating food for a day is going to please God to do the needful ? Definitely Not! Does my husband think so? Most Definitely Not! A key question – do we think this festival is misogynistic, yes in some way.
Infact I did a quick google search and found out that the average life expectancy of an Indian man is 65 years and that of men around the world is 71 years. Looks like the fasting technique isn’t quite working.
Am I still going to fast? YES.
Firstly, blame it on Bollywood for romanticising the entire tradition and making it our very own desi Valentine’s Day. But that could excite me only for a couple of years. I still continue to fast for my husband every year is because I value the ancestral emotions attached with the festival. I love to watch my mother in law’s face lit up because I am going to be fasting for her son. I consider the feelings of the people who matter to me above the need to rebel against a festival. And nobody has forced me into doing it. I also find the whole preparations, mehendi, sargi, puja and the over the top dressing on this day a lot of fun.
So I am guilty of keeping this tradition going. I am definitely not forcing my future kids to keep up with it if they find it inconvenient or inappropriate in any way.
Karva Chauth reminds me of one of my favourite punjabi song – Khair manga sohniya main Teri, dua na koi hor mangdi (every day I ask for your well-being, there is no other wish I make) Praying for my husband’s health and well being is something I do everyday, so if I go without food and let the world know I prayed too, wouldn’t hurt right?
I am all geared up to celebrate this festival with fanfare. And incase you decide not to, the least we could do is not judge one another for our choices.