St Valentine’s Day is a global festival to celebrate romantic friendship, love, and admiration. Couples send Valentine’s Day flowers and cards and spend intimate time together. There’s peer pressure on everyone. There’s immense pressure to spend tons of money on gifts, cards, chocolates, and flowers. It’s a wildly expensive ride with desperate youngsters trying to get laid.
However, today I want to explore another day of love, continuously celebrated from the prehistoric era, with purity, innocence, history, and more.
The world’s oldest surviving religion, Hinduism, celebrates the day of love on the fourth day after Purnima (a full moon) in the Hindu month of Kartika. Karva is another word for ‘pot’ (an earthen pot of water), and Chauth means ‘fourth. In Sanskrit scriptures, the festival is addressed as Kark Chaturthi, Kark meaning an earthen water pitcher, and Chaturthi denotes the fourth day of the Hindu lunar month.
It is a celebration of marriage, love, and the everlasting bond shared between a man and his wife.
How did it all start?
A lovely queen called Veervati was the only sister of seven brothers. She spent her first Karwa Chauth as a married woman at her parents’ house. She started a strict fast after sunrise but, by evening, was frantically waiting for the moonrise as she suffered severe hunger and thirst. Her seven brothers couldn’t bear seeing their sister in such distress and created a mirror in a pipal tree that made it look like the moon had risen. The sister confused it for the moon and broke her fast. The moment she took the first morsel of food, she sneezed. In her second morsel, she found hair. After the third, she learned the news that her husband, the king, was dead. Sad, she wept through the night until her shakti compelled a Maa Parvati to appear and ask why she was crying. When the queen explained her distress, Maa Parvati revealed how her brothers had tricked and instructed her to repeat the Karwa Chauth fast with complete devotion. When Veervati repeated the fast, Yama was forced to restore her husband to life.
Since that day, women have kept fast on Karwa Chauth for their husband’s long life.
Also, in ancient times, when many male members of the family would stay out of their houses for months at a stretch, whether due to travel, trade, or wars, the ladies who stayed back conducted special pooja (prayers) for their men that included day-long fasting for their welfare and health.
On the day of Karwa Chauth, women wake up before sunrise to eat and drink. If she lives with her mother-in-law, the pre-dawn meal is prepared by the mother-in-law. Fasting women wear Karwa Chauth special dresses like a traditional sari or lehenga to look their best. In some regions, women wear traditional dresses of their states.
The fast begins at dawn. Fasting women do not eat during the day. Hindu wives perform various kinds of rituals along with Vrat (fast) on Karwa Chauth for their husband’s long life.
In traditional observances of the fast, the fasting woman usually does no housework. Women apply natural henna to themselves and each other. The day passes in meeting friends and relatives.
In the evening, a community women-only ceremony is held. Fasting women dress in fine clothing, wear jewelry and henna, and (in some regions) dress in the whole finery of their wedding dresses. The dresses (saris or shalwars) are frequently red, gold, or orange, which are considered auspicious colors.
In the night, the women await the rising of the moon. Once the moon is visible, depending on the region and community, it is customary for a fasting woman to view the moon or its reflection in a vessel filled with water, through a sieve, or the cloth of a dupatta. Water is offered (arka) to the moon (som or Chandra, the lunar deity) to secure its blessings. In some regions, the woman says a brief prayer is asking for her husband’s life. It is believed that at this stage, spiritually strengthened by her fast, the woman can successfully confront and defeat death (personified by Yama).
This is NOT a regressive festival. Some idiots want to cancel “karva Chauth’ to fit their political interests. However, the girl has the power to defeat death, and if that isn’t empowering enough, I don’t know what is.
Move on from 14th Feb. Celebrate love on Karva Chauth. It is pure, innocent, empowering, and a gift from the oldest surviving religion, Hinduism.