Friday, November 2, 2012

Karwa/Karva Chauth

Karva or Karwa - the pronunciation and spelling varies from person to person. Both are the same word and intended to mean the same thing. The difference came with the introduction of the "v" into the Punjabi and Hindi languages. It is insignificant and I intentionally switch between the two throughout this blog post.

As with any good Indian holiday, dates of the celebration are varied and subject to change at any moment. Be forewarned that the dates are different in the links I'm providing you. But in Amritsar, Karva Chauth is being celebrated today. Though primarily a North Indian festival, it is spreading through India and known by other names in the various regions across the nation. This further complicates the dates as some of my fellow South Indian pardesi's celebrate this quite a while ago. Other names for Karva Chauth:
  • Teej
  • Vat-Savitri Puja
  • Gangaur
  • Karadaiyan Nombu
 I am not participating this year. I had intended to but I was not able to get everything in order for the November 3 date I had been advised of previously and this morning I was informed the celebration was today. I'm not feeling well and I don't think that it would be good for me to fast today. I was diagnosed with some vitamin deficiencies recently and nutrition is critical at the moment. This makes me a little sad because I look forward to Karva Chauth each year. Regardless of my participation I can certainly share some memories and information with you anyway.

Typically Karva Chauth is a celebration where a wife fasts for her husband's long life. Traditionally the wife gets mehendi done for luck and prosperity. As many of you know, these designs can be quite intricate and beautiful. Often the mehendi is done the day before the celebration. On the morning of the celebration the wife rises from slumber and dresses in a new suit or sari. Customarily silk is preferred though not required.

Special food is prepared in the early morning by the mother-in-law and given to the daughter-in-law. This food is supposed to sustain the woman for the day and is taken around 4 AM.The wife abstains from most chores on this day (at least in our family) to avoid any complications from malnourishment and the lack of food. During the day people socialize and prepare for the evening activities.

In the early evening the wives dress in another new suit (pink or red) and all the outward shows of marriage (bindi, bangles, sindoor, etc.) for the puja. They then prepare their thali's with essentials for the puja. This varies regionally as well. In our home it consisted of herbs, spices, special breads, bananas, money and some items I can't identify. The thali is a large round tray. Once filled it is covered with a special cloth and carried to the home of the elder hosting the puja.

At the home of the elder the neighborhood women gather round in a circle. Last year our neighbors home had more women attend than could fit in the room and they were packed into corners and around the entry way. Only the eldest women of the household participated in the actual puja for this reason. As the women gathered they socialized and asked each other about their home lives and positive sentiments were shared. There were a few children in the room as well, mostly girls but one woman had brought along her son.

The thali's were sat on the floor and verses chanted/recited the story of karwa chauth while the thali's were passed from woman to woman in a circle. There were also candles as part of the ceremony and I remember one thali cloth catching on fire. It was a small fire and was quickly put out. The puja continued and the women continued to chant and pray for their husbands. After this part of the ceremony was done, each woman picked up her own thali and proceeded down the block to a special tree in another neighbors yard.

This tree was circled by the daughter-in-laws while the elders said a prayer. After each completion of one circle the daughter-in-law blessed the tree with water. The tree was circled 5 times and then the ritual was completed and everyone returned home to wait for the moon to come up.

Once the moon came up an offering of rice was given and the wives in the home looked up to the moon through a sieve. While she looks at the moon, she offers the rice to the fire of a diya. A small prayer was said to the moon and then the wife was allowed to eat. The meal is very festive and includes a large amount of food (compared to the normal family meal) and typically the wife chooses whatever she wants to eat. To avoid the crowd we ordered delivery last year but in other families the wives were taken out or a maid was hired to cook. This varies widely from woman to woman and family to family.

I apologize, I don't remember the name of the type of tree and some of the names for various parts of the ceremonies. But, for more information on how Karva Chauth is celebrated in your region of India and throughout the world, see these links.

Karwa Chauth
I Love India: Karwa Chauth
Times of India: Articles on Karva Chauth
How to Do Karva Chauth Vrat (YouTube)

4 comments:

  1. Hola!.Teej is actually a different festival that takes place between July and September depending on the Panchangam and it's mainly celebrated in North India and Nepal.Happy Karva Chauth!.

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  2. hey i like ur post and yeah Karva chauth is really important to Indian woman's . Teej is different it starts with beginning of sawan month in punjab.Teej celebrations in villages most, are full of joy and verve. Young
    girls and women get along to perform Teej rituals. Girls swing on
    decorated swings called peeng and adorn their hands and feet with
    intricate mehndi designs.

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  3. Thank you, I got that list from the first website in my link list at the bottom of the page. The festivals seem similar in many ways, but then again so do a lot of festivals. My mistake! :D

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  4. Thank you for clearing that up. I was misinformed.

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