There is something incredibly romantic about the festival of Karva Chauth and for me, this romance was created long before Shahrukh and Kajol made the festival popular with DDLJ. Every year I would see my parents showing love and affection publicly, something that was typically not a common thing in our household.
Dad would buy mum gifts and then in the evening they would have a nice cozy dinner. Sometimes we part of it and other times my sisters and I would watch a movie while they enjoyed their peace. It was really heartwarming to see this and we would wait every year for Karva Chauth. As we grew up the festival became more and more commercial like everything else, but I got more and more curious about the festival.
Karva Chauth is known to be a festival where women observe a day’s fast for the long life of their husbands. They spend the day without eating or drinking and partake of food only on seeing the moon after sundown. This is the popular truth behind the festival, however the more I dug deeper, there was another facet of Karva Chauth that came to light. Traditionally when a woman got married she was assigned a Sakhi, someone in the family who would hand-hold her and ease her into the adjustment of a new family. Someone she could turn to when there was no one she knew. Since her Maika or parents house would be sometimes many villages away this came to be the most important relationship in her life after her husband.
Karva Chauth as a festival was meant to celebrate this relation. The newly married girl and the sakhis would spend the day together, chatting and bonding. Wear new clothes, mehndi and then fast so that they be excused from the work of the house. Later in the night, the husbands would all sit together as couples and break the fast. Come to think of it, that is how I have seen my mum spending the day, with her ill the night when dad comes into the picture. Puts the whole thing in a new perspective isn’t it?
The day of Karva Chauth starts early on for a woman who is fasting, with a custom called Sargi. The woman essentially wakes up before sunrise to fuel herself for the day of fasting ahead. Sargi typically comes from woman’s mother in law and in a way is supposed to be the blessings to her. A most typical Sargi contains Pheni which is a milk based kheer, paranthas, curds, nuts and a fruit. It is supposed to keep the woman going through the day and provide the nutrition that the body needs.
Through the day the woman spends with her friends, watching movies, putting henna on her hands and pampering herself. At sandhya time before the sun actually sets, the women get together to do a small pooja. A thali which has the Baya, essentially a gift to the mother in law, is taken along. An elder of the family or a pujari tells the story of Veera, a lady with whom Karva Chauth seems to have originated. The Baya typically contains an auspicious number of Pheki Mathri (5 or 11 nos.), an equal number of Meethi Mathri and Gur Pare along with a gift and flowers for the mother in law. A lot of people partake lemon juice or tea after this pooja.
I have always heard mum saying that the toughest time to pass on Karva Chauth day is the time after the pooja and before the moon rises and this is the time I would always see her making dinner. Traditionally the woman fasting is not supposed to use a knife, scissor or a needle.
My grandmother used to say that this is because one's focus is very low during fasting and this rule was formed to avoid accidents. As a result of not using knives, the dinner would be a simple, slow cooked Maa Ki Dal served with steamed rice and some Pheni from earlier in the day, as dessert. This would be served after the moon had risen and the woman has done the basic jal samarpan and aarti of the moon as well as the husband.
If you celebrate the festival, may the happiness and bond between you and yours strengthen and even if you don’t, go visit a friend who does observe the day and indulge in Karva Chauth food with them, I assure you will not be disappointed. Here's what you can expect to typically find at a home that celebrates Karva Chauth: