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KARVA CHAUTH and DIWALI SPECIAL

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WHAT IS KARWA CHAUTH???
HISTORY behind the FAST

The fast of Karva Chauth is an annual one-day festival celebrated by Hindu and some Sikh women in North India and parts of Pakistan in which married women fast from sunrise to moonrise for the safety and longevity of their husbands. The festival falls on the fourth day after the full moon, in the Hindu lunar calendar month of Kartik, following the Autumnal Equinox. Sometimes, unmarried women observe the fast for their fiancés or desired husbands.

RITUALS

Women all around the world celebrate the festival with a lot of emotions, excitement and joy. They begin preparing for Karva Chauth a few days in advance, by buying cosmetics (shringar), traditional adornments or jewelry, and puja items, such as the karwa lamps, matthi, henna and the decorated puja thali (plate). Local bazaars take on a festive look as shopkeepers put their Karva Chauth related products on display.

On the day of the fast, women from Punjab awake to eat and drink just before sunrise. In Uttar Pradesh, women eat soot feni with milk in sugar on the eve of the festival. It is said that this helps them go without water the next day. In Punjab, sargi is an important part of this pre-dawn meal, and always includes fenia. It is traditional for the sargi to be sent or given to the woman by her mother-in-law. If the mother-in-law lives with the woman, the pre-dawn meal is prepared by the mother-in-law. The fast begins with dawn. Fasting women do not eat during the day, and some additionally do not drink any water either. In traditional observances of the fast, the fasting woman does no housework. Women apply henna and other cosmetics to themselves and each other. The day passes in meeting friends and relatives. Parents often send gifts to their married daughters and their children.

In the evening, a community women-only ceremony is held. Women dress in fine clothing and wear jewelry and henna and (in some regions) dress in the complete finery of their wedding dresses. The dresses (saris or shalwars) are frequently red, gold or orange in color, which are considered auspicious colors. In Uttar Pradesh, women wear Saris or lehangas. Women 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 by the women as they perform the feris (passing their thalis around in the circle). In Punjabi communities, the Karva Chauth song is sung seven times, the first six of which describe some of the activities that are taboo during the fast 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, Vesarv suhagan karvara...”

The fera ceremony concluded, 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, with her husband nearby,  to view its reflection in a vessel filled with water, through a sieve, or through the cloth of a  dupatta. Water is offered (arka) to the moon to secure its blessings. She then turns to her husband and views his face indirectly in the same manner. In some regions, the woman says a brief prayer asking for her husband's life.

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 (usually something sweet). The fast is now broken, and the woman has a complete meal. It is customary for the husband to make a gift to his wife, such as jewelry or a new dress.

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