Karwa Chauth

In India, a marriage is considered to be a bond of a lifetime.  This marital bond is considered very sacred.  Karwa Chauth festival falls about nine days before Diwali on the Kartik Ki Chauth sometime in October or November.  It is the most important fast observed by the women of North India.
A women keeps such a fast for the wellbeing of her husband, who becomes her protector after she leaves her parents home.  Her husband provides her with food, shelter, clothing, respectability, comfort and happiness.

Folklore

As per a legend in the Mahabharata, once Arjun had gone for worship to the Nilgiri Hills.  Draupadi was struck with fear believing that she was alone in the forest with no one to protect her. She invoked Lord Krishna who appeared before her. On hearing her predicament Lord Krishna cited an example of Goddess Parvati.  Parvati in a similar situation had asked Lord Shiva’s help. Lord Shiva had explained to her that toward off such apprehensions, a woman could observe a fast on kartik Krishna Chaturthi as a remedy.
There is also the story of the Satyavan and Savitri.  Savitri with her unparalleled love for her husband averted his untimely death.  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 Yamaraj finally relented.  He granted her, her husband’s life.

Celebration

It is a day of celebration and decoration.   On the eve of karwa chauth, the markets are full of women preparing for it.  Mehndi stalls are set up in every corner of the market, Bindi’s, Red bangles and different types of cosmetics are sold everywhere.  Mother-in-laws buy ‘sargi’ for their daughter-in-laws.  This ‘sargi’ consists of various types of sweetmeats, dry fruits and sometime clothes.  All these items are supposed ot bring good luck to the women.  There is great festivity on this day.

Process

Before sunrise, the women take bath and gather to eat the sweetmeats.  They pray to Shiva and Parvati, hoping that their married life would be as successful as theirs.  In every neighbourhood, women get together to perform a puja and to recite the story of ‘Karwa Chauth’.  Most women are dressed in beautiful red or pink clothes and in traditional jewellery.
A small puja to Gaura Maa or Goddess Parvati is performed.  Married women sit around Gaura Maa and pray to her for the wellbeing and long life of their husbands.  A small pitcher or Karwa with some water is placed in the centre.  While the story is being narrated, ladies circulate their Baya thalis. After the puja this thali is given to the eldest member of the family who blesses the women with all the happiness in life.
Moonrise is eagerly awaited and everyone in the family keeps a lookout for it.  Once the moon is sighted, women gather on the terrace and offer prayers to the moon seen times.  They pray for their husbands’ and family’s welfare.  Then they have a sip of water and in this way the fast comes to an end.