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Karva Chauth

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Karva Chauth

Karva Chauth
A woman looking through a sieve after completing the fast, first looking at the rising moon and then at her spouse.
Observed by Hindu women of North India and Northwestern India
Type Hindu
Celebrations 1 day
Observances Fasting by married women
Begins Fourth day of the waning moon fortnight (Krishna paksha) in the month of Kartik
Date October/November
2015 date October 30
2016 date October 19 [1]
Related to Dussehra and Diwali

Karva Chauth (Hindi: करवा चौथ) is a one-day festival celebrated by Hindu women in North India in which married women fast from sunrise to moonrise for the safety and longevity of their husbands.[2][3][4] The fast is traditionally observed in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, parts of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Punjab.[2][5][6][7] The festival falls on the fourth day after the full moon, in the Hindu lunisolar calendar month of Kartik. Sometimes, unmarried women observe the fast for their fiancés or desired husbands.[8]

A similar festival known as Chhath is observed in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and western Bihar. In Sindh, Teej is celebrated in the same style.


  • Etymology and origins 1
  • Rituals 2
  • Popular cultural aspects and critiques 3
  • Traditional tales 4
    • The Story of Queen Veervati 4.1
    • The Legend of Mahabharata 4.2
    • The Legend of Karva 4.3
    • The Story of Satyavan and Savitri 4.4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Etymology and origins

Karva is another word for 'pot' (a small earthen pot of water) and chauth means 'fourth' in Hindi (a reference to the fact that the festival falls on the fourth day of the dark-fortnight, or krishna paksh, of the month of Kartik).[9]

The festival originated and came to be celebrated only in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. The hypothesis is that military campaigns were often conducted by Hindus who were defending India against Mughal invaders, they would often leave their wives and children to go off to war. Their wives would often pray and observe a day of socialising, with other women, by preparing special meals, and dressing up in their finest regalia, and having what would today be deemed as a romantic evening with their husband before he went off to war.

Women whose husbands had already gone off to war, observed the fast to pray for the safety of their husbands at this time as they ventured away from home to defend India.The festival coincides with the wheat-sowing time (i.e., the beginning of the Rabi crop cycle). Big earthen pots in which wheat is stored are sometimes called Karvas, so the fast may have begun as a prayer for a good harvest in this predominantly wheat-eating region.[10]

There is another story about the origin of this festival. Earlier, girls sometimes barely teenagers used to get married, go and live with their in-laws in very remote villages. Everyone would be a stranger there for the new bride. In case she had any problems with her husband or in-laws, she would have no one to talk to or seek support from. Her own parents and relatives would be quite far and unreachable. Telephones, buses and trains were not heard of in those days. People had to walk almost a whole day to go from one place to other. Once the girl left her parent's home for in-laws, she might not be back before long. Thus the custom started that, at the time of marriage, when bride would reach her in-laws, she would befriend another woman there who would be her friend (kangan-saheli) or sister (dharam-behn) for life. It would be similar to god-friends or god-sisters.

Their friendship would be sanctified through a small Hindu ceremony right during the marriage. The bride's friend would usually be of the same age (or slightly older), married into the same village (so that she would not go away) and not directly related to her in-laws (so there was no conflict of interest later).

Emotionally and psychologically, it would be very healthy and comforting for the bride to have her own 'relative' near her.Once the bride and this woman had become god-friends or god-sisters, they would recognize their relation as such. They would treat each other like real sisters. During any issues later in life, involving even the husband or in-laws, these women would be able to confidently talk or seek help from each other. Moreover, the bride's parents would treat her friend just like their own daughter. Thus Karva Chauth started as a festival to celebrate this special bond of friendship between the brides and their god-friends. A few days before Karva Chauth, married women would buy new karvas (spherical clay pots) -- 7"-9" in diameter and 2-3 litres capacity—and paint them on the outside with beautiful designs. Inside they would put bangles and ribbons, home-made candy and sweets, make-up items, and small clothes. The women would then visit each other on the day of Karva Chauth and exchange these karvas.


The fasting women collectively sitting in a circle, while doing Karva Chauth puja, singing song while performing the feris (passing their thalis around in the circle)
The fasting women after performing the Karva Chauth puja, while offering water towards sun (arka)

Women begin preparing for Karva Chauth a few days in advance, by buying cosmetics (shringar), traditional adornments or jewelry, and puja items, such as the Karva lamps, matthi, henna and the decorated puja thali (plate).[11] Local bazaars take on a festive look as shopkeepers put their Karva Chauth related products on display.[11] On the day of the fast, women from Punjab awake to eat and drink just before sunrise. In Uttar Pradesh, celebrants 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 (ਸਰਗੀ) 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. In traditional observances of the fast, the fasting woman does no housework.[12] Women apply henna and other cosmetics to themselves and each other. The day passes in meeting friends and relatives. In some regions, it is customary to give and exchange painted clay pots filled with put bangles, ribbons, home-made candy, cosmetics and small cloth items (e.g., handkerchiefs). Since Karva Chauth follows soon after the Kharif crop harvest in the rural areas, it is a good time for community festivities and gift exchanges. Parents often send gifts to their married daughters and their children.

In the evening, a community women-only ceremony is held. Participants dress in fine clothing and wear jewellery and henna, and (in some regions) dress in the complete finery of their wedding dresses.[13] The dresses (saris or shalwars) are frequently red, gold or orange, which are considered auspicious colors.[14] In Uttar Pradesh, women wear saris or lehangas. The fasters 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.[15] In the pauses, the Karva Chauth puja song is sung collectively the singers perform the feris (passing their thalis around in the circle).

The first six 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

For the seventh feri, they sing

In Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, participants exchange Karvas seven times between themselves. In Rajasthan, before offering water seven times the fasting woman is asked "Dhapi ki Ni Dhapi?" (are you satiated?), to which she responds, "Jal se Dhapi, Suhaag se na Dhapi" (I am satiated by water, but not from [love of] my husband). An alternative ritual conducted by Uttar Pradeshis is prayer of "gaur mata" the earth. Specifically, celebrants will take a bit of soil, sprinkle water, and then place kumkum on it, treating it as an idol/manifestation of the fertile Mother Earth. In Rajasthan, stories are told by older women in the family, including narratives of Karva Chauth, Shiv, Parvati and Ganesh. In earlier times, an idol of Gaur Mata was made using earth and cow dung, which has now been replaced with an idol of Parvati. Each fasting woman lights an earthen lamp in her thali while listening to the Karva story. Sindoor, incense sticks and rice are also kept in the thali.

In Uttar Pradesh, a priest or an elderly woman of the family narrates the story of beejabeti or Veervati. Celebrants make Gauri, Ganesh and Shankar idols with mud and decorate them with colourful and bright clothes and jewellery. While exchanging Karvas seven times, they sing

Thereafter, the fasters offer baayna (a melange of goodies like halwa, puri, namkeen mathri, meethi mathri, etc.) to the idols (mansana) and hand over to their mother-in-law or sister-in-law.

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 (som or chandra, the lunar deity) 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. It is believed that at this stage, spiritually strengthened by her fast, the woman can successfully confront and defeat death (personified by Yama). In Rajasthan the women say "Like the gold necklace and the pearl bracelet, just like the moon may my suhaag always shine brightly."

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.[12][15][16]

Popular cultural aspects and critiques

In modern North India and Northwestern India society, Karva Chauth is considered to be a romantic festival, symbolizing the love between a husband and wife.[17] It has been celebrated in Bollywood movies such as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, where an unmarried woman signals her love for a man by keeping the fast for him and he reciprocates by secretly fasting as a gesture of empathy, as well as demonstrating his concern for her during the day and breaking her fast by feeding her at moonrise, and Baghban, in which a man persuades his elderly fasting wife to break her fast over the telephone because they have been separated by their uncaring children.[18][19][20] News coverage of celebrities sometimes highlights the keeping of the fast by an unmarried public figure because it indicates a strong and likely permanent romantic attachment.[21] Similar to Valentine's Day, the lack of a romantic partner can acutely be felt by unattached women.[22] The festival is used extensively in advertising campaigns in the region, for instance in a Chevrolet TV spot in which a man demonstrates his caring for his wife by buying a car with a sunroof so he can drive her around on Karva Chauth night until she spots the moon through it.[23]

Since Karva Chauth is celebrated primarily by women (men are entirely excluded from the festival's observances until moonrise, though they are expected to demonstrate attention and concern for their fasting wives) and because beauty rituals and dressing-up are a significant part of the day, the festival is seen as an event that bonds women together.[24] In the present day, groups of unmarried women sometimes keep the fast out of a sense of friendship, though this practice is far from universal.[25] This is especially true in the urban areas of North India and Northwestern India is interpreted as a prayer for a loving husband in the future.[25] Another trend in the northern urban areas is the spreading of the festival's observance to women originating in communities and regions (such as Bengal and Maharashtra) that have not traditionally celebrated Karva Chauth or even been aware of the festival's existence.[16] The same is true for Gujarat.[26]

The festival has been criticized as being inherently sexist by some because there is no reciprocal fasting by males and called uplifting for women by others.[27] There have been calls to modify or eliminate the festival by commentators who hold it to be "anti-women" and to "perpetuate the notion of women's dependence on men."[28] Karva chauth has been cited as a symbol of cultural repression of women by some Indian feminists, such as Madhu Kishwar who has put it in the same class as "Khomeinivad" (i.e., pushing women into position of subservience to their husbands, similar to the family structure allegedly favored by Ayatollah Khomeini).[29] Other feminists, however, have called the festival empowering for women because Karva Chauth enables them to quit housework completely for the day and expect gifts from their husbands.[12] Some writers have asserted that such "rituals work insidiously" to create "an instrument of social control" that oppresses women and that the even greater popularity of Karva Chauth among urban, educated participants raises the question of "which is the greater barrier to women's liberation: religion or the market."[16]

Traditional tales

There are legends associated with the Karva Chauth festival. In some tellings, the tales are interlinked, with one acting as a frame story for another. Let us start with a brief history about the occasion. However, there is not a single story which tells us about the origin of the festival. Here is the most popular belief’s associated with it. Queen Veeravati who had seven brothers was observing a fast for her husband but was feeling quite unwell because of deprivation of food and water, her brothers couldn’t see like that and they made her break the fast by showing her a fake moon. As soon as she did that her husband fell very sick. When she prayed to Lord Shiva and Parvati, they told her the reality and gave her another chance to restore her husband’s health she then observed the fast under strict rituals and refurbish her husband’s health, which marked the beginning of a new ritual.On this special day women wake up before sunrise, and eat sargi (which is special Karva Chauth food comprising of Mathhis, Seviyan, Pua and a lot more) and then fast throughout the day, they break their fast only after the moon rises. During the day these folks deck up in their prettiest clothes, put on their sparkly jewellery, apply mehndi(henna) on their hands, get together to listen to the kaurwa chauth stories, celebrate and enjoy.[30]

The Story of Queen Veervati

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.[31][32]

In a variant of this story, the brothers build a massive fire behind a mountain instead and trick their sister by convincing her that the glow is the moon. She breaks her fast and word arrives that her beloved husband has died. She immediately begins running to her husband's house, which is somewhat distant, and is intercepted by Shiva-Parvati. Parvati reveals the trickery to her, cuts her own little finger to give the wife a few drops of her holy blood, and instructs her to be careful in keeping the complete fast in the future. The wife sprinkles Parvati's blood on her dead husband and, coming back to life, they are reunited.[15]

The Legend of Mahabharata

The belief in this fast and its associated rituals goes back to the pre-Mahabharata times. Draupadi, too, is said to have observed this fast. Once Arjun went to the Nilgiris for penance and the rest of the Pandavas faced many problems in his absence. Draupadi, out of desperation, remembered Lord Krishna and asked for help. Lord Krishna reminded her that on an earlier occasion, when Goddess Parvati had sought Lord Shiva's guidance under similar circumstances, she had been advised to observe the fast of Karva Chauth. In some tellings of this legend, Shiva tells Parvati the story of Veervati to describe the Karva Chauth fast. Draupadi followed the instructions and observed the fast with all its rituals. Consequently, the Pandavas were able to overcome their problems.[32]

The Legend of Karva

A woman named Karva was deeply devoted to her husband. Her intense love and dedication towards him gave her shakti (spiritual power). While bathing at a river, her husband was caught by a crocodile. Karva bound the crocodile with a cotton yarn and asked Yama (the god of death) to send the crocodile to hell. Yama refused. Karva threatened to curse Yama and destroy him. Yama, afraid of being cursed by Pati-vrat (devoted) wife, sent the crocodile to hell and blessed Karva's husband with long life. Karva and her husband enjoyed many years of wedded bliss. To this day, Karva Chauth is celebrated with great faith and belief.[33]

The Story of Satyavan and Savitri

When Lord Yama came to procure Satyavan's soul, Savitri begged him to grant him life. When he refused, she stopped eating and drinking and followed Yama who carried away her dead husband. Yama said that she could ask for any other boon except for the life of her husband. Savitri asked that she be blessed with children. Yama agreed. Being a "'Pati-Vrat'" (devoted) wife, Savitri would never let any other man be the father of her children. Yama was left with no other choice but to restore Savitri's husband to life.[31]


  1. ^ 2016 Indian Festivals Holidays Calendar
  2. ^ a b Kartar Singh Bhalla, Let's Know Festivals of India, Star Publications, 2005,  
  3. ^ S. K. Rait, Sikh women in England: their religious and cultural beliefs and social practices, Trentham Books, 2005,  
  4. ^ "Hindus mark Karva Chauth in Pakistan". Pakistan Daily. 2008-10-17. ... Hindu women Friday celebrated Karva Chauth in the city. The minority arranges different functions in the city to mark the day where women collectively sighted the moon and broke their fast ... 
  5. ^ Kumar, Anu (2007-10-21). "A Hungry Heart". The Washington Post. 
  6. ^ Subhashini Aryan, Crafts of Himachal PradeshLiving traditions of India, Mapin, 1993,  
  7. ^ Anne Mackenzie Pearson, Because it gives me peace of mind: ritual fasts in the religious lives of Hindu women (McGill studies in the history of religions), SUNY Press, 1996,  
  8. ^ Sohindar Singh Waṇajara Bedi, Folklore of the Punjab, National Book Trust, 1971, ... Sometimes even unmarried girls observe this fast and pray for their husbands-to-be ... 
  9. ^ Rajendra Kumar Sharma, Rural Sociology, Atlantic Publishers, 2004,  
  10. ^ J.P. Mittal, History of Ancient India: From 7300 BC to 4250 BC, Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, 2006,  
  11. ^ a b "ਕਰਵਾ ਚੌਥ - ਫਿਲਮੀ ਨਾਮਾਂ ਵਾਲੀਆਂ ਚੂੜੀਆਂ ਦਾ ਕ੍ਰੇਜ (Karva Chauth - The craze for bangles named after movies)", Webdunia Punjabi, Oct 6, 2009, ... ਕਰਵਾ ਚੌਥ ਦੇ ਆਉਂਦੇ ਹੀ ਬਜ਼ਾਰ ਵਿੱਚ ਵੀ ਚਹਿਲ-ਪਹਿਲ ਸ਼ੁਰੂ ਹੋ ਜਾਂਦੀ ਹੈ। ਇਸੇ ਦੇ ਨਾਲ ਸਿਲਸਿਲਾ ਸ਼ੁਰੂ ਹੁੰਦਾ ਹੈ ਸਾਜ-ਸ਼ਿੰਗਾਰ ਦਾ ਸਮਾਨ ਖਰੀਦਣ ਦਾ। ਜਿਸ ਵਿੱਚ ਚੂੜੀਆਂ ਇਸਤਰੀਆਂ ਦੀਆਂ ਸਭ ਤੋਂ ਪਸੰਦੀਦਾ ਹੁੰਦੀਆਂ ਹਨ। ਆਪਣੇ ਸੂਟ ਜਾਂ ਸਾੜੀ ਨਾਲ ਮੈਚ ਕਰਦੀਆਂ ਚੂੜੀਆਂ ਲਈ ਬਜ਼ਾਰ 'ਚ ਪਤਾ ਨਹੀਂ ਕਿੰਨੇ ਗੇੜੇ ਮਾਰਦੀਆਂ ਹਨ। (The coming of Karva Chauth gets the bazaars humming with activity. And so begins the process of buying cosmetics and ornaments. Of all things, bangles are the perennial favorites with women. They do endless circuits of the bazaar looking for the perfect color match with their saris and shalwar suits) ... 
  12. ^ a b c Naomi Jackson, Toni Shapiro-Phim, Dance, Human Rights, and Social Justice: Dignity in Motion, Rowman & Littlefield, 2008,  
  13. ^ Publications Division, Indian and foreign review, Volume 23, Publications Division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1985, ... the typically North Indian festival of Karva Chauth when wives fast for the longevity of their husbands. On this day a woman relives her wedding day. Dressed in her wedding clothes, with hands and feet ritually decorated with Mehndi ... 
  14. ^ Robert Jackson, Eleanor M. Nesbitt, Hindu children in Britain, Trentham, 1993,  
  15. ^ a b c A.H.W. Sameer, Hindu Vrat Kathayen, Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd., 2003,  
  16. ^ a b c Madhusree Dutta, Neera Adarkar, Majlis Organization (Bombay), The nation, the state, and Indian identity, Popular Prakashan, 1996,  
  17. ^ Rama Bijapurkar, Winning in the Indian Market: Understanding the Transformation of Consumer India, John Wiley and Sons, 2007,  
  18. ^ Veena Das, Dipankar Gupta, Patricia Uberoi, Tradition, pluralism and identity, Sage Publications, 1999,  
  19. ^ India today, Volume 30, Thomson Living Media India Ltd., 2005, ... rattling of empty steel thalis to ensure the famished wife at the other end eats her Karva chauth meal as in Baghban ... 
  20. ^ India today international, Living Media International Ltd., 2006, ... courtship, misunderstanding, reconciliation, wedding, Karva chauth, pregnancy ... 
  21. ^ Rehana Bastiwala (Oct 27, 2008), "کروا چوتھ (Bollywood Diary: Karva Chauth)", BBC, ... امیشا نے بھی اپنے قریبی دوست کانو پوری کے لیے برت رکھا۔ دلچسپ بات تو یہ ہے کہ امیشا کا یہ برت کانو نے پانی پلا کر نہیں بلکہ شیمپئین پلا کر کھلوایا۔ انہوں نے امیشا کو ہیرے جڑی ایک گھڑی بھی تحفے میں دی (Amisha Patel also kept a fast for her close friend, Kanav Puri. In an interesting twist, Kanav helped Amisha break her fast not with water, but with a sip of champagne. He also gifted Amisha a diamond-studded watch) ... 
  22. ^ Advaita Kala, Almost Single, Random House, 2009,  
  23. ^ Rajan Saxena, Marketing Management, Tata McGraw-Hill, 2005,  
  24. ^ Naynika Mehra (Oct 7, 2009), "करवा चौथ का श्रृंगार (Beauty treatments for Karva Chauth)", Webdunia Hindi, ... सुंदर और आकर्षक कपड़ों-गहनों के साथ ही श्रृंगार का भी उत्सवों पर एक अलग ही आनंद आ जाता है। उस पर भी यदि बात करवा चौथ जैसे त्योहार की हो तो बनने-सँवरने का उत्साह चरम पर पहुँच जाता है। हर महिला इस दिन कुछ अलग दिखना चाहती है। आइए हम देते हैं कुछ टिप्स इस करवा चौथ पर ताकि आप दिखें सबसे खास। (Beautiful and attractive jewelry and clothes, along with make-up, are so enjoyable on festivals. On top of that if it's a festival like Karva Chauth, the zest to beautify oneself reaches its zenith. Any woman wants to look striking on this day. Come, let us share some tips, so you can look the most special of them all ... 
  25. ^ a b "कुंआरी लड़कियां भी रख रही हैं करवाचौथ व्रत (Unmarried women are also keeping the Karva Chauth fast)", IBN Live, Oct 6, 2009, ... 'मुझे करवाचौथ का व्रत रखना बहुत पसंद है। मेरी सहेलियां भी व्रत रखती हैं इसलिए मैं भी व्रत रखती हूं ताकि मुझे ऐसा वर मिले जो मेरे साथ कदम से कदम मिलाकर चले।' ... धीरे-धीरे ये चलन बड़े शहरों में भी देखने को मिल रहा है। आखिर कौन नहीं चाहेगा कि उसे बेहद प्यार करने वाला जीवनसाथी मिले। ('I really like keeping the Karva Chauth fast. My friends fast, so I do as well, so I get a partner who walks side by side with me through life' ... gradually this practice is becoming prevalent in larger cities. After all, who wouldn't want a life-partner who loves them intensely ... 
  26. ^ Times of India Ankur Jain 27 10 2008
  27. ^ Margaret Khalakdina, Human development in the Indian context: a socio-cultural focus, SAGE Publications, 2008,  
  28. ^ Community Projects Administration, Kurukshetra, Volume 38, Ministry of Community Development and Cooperation, Government of India, ... weed out anti-women and sexist contents from all those media ... We should modify old festivals like Karva Chauth, Raksha Bandhan, which perpetuate the notion of women's dependence on men ... 
  29. ^ Madhu Kishwar, Off the beaten track: rethinking gender justice for Indian women, Oxford University Press, 1999,  
  30. ^ Karwa-chauth-a-celebration-of-love
  31. ^ a b S.P. Sharma, Seema Gupta, Fairs and Festivals of India, Pustak Mahal, 2007,  
  32. ^ a b Selva J. Raj, William P. Harman, Dealing With Deities: The Ritual Vow in South Asia, SUNY Press, 2007,  
  33. ^ Colleen Yim, Veiled gurus: a Hindu mother's experiential involvement in religious knowledge transmission, University Press of America, 2008,  

External links

  • Karwa chauth Quotes & Greetings Wishes
  • Karva ChauthBBC pictorial feature on women getting henna applied and shopping for
  • Karwa-chauth-a-celebration-of-love
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