What is Karwa Chauth festival, how to do puja, what to eat and other tips
The name of the festival is made of two basic elements - "Karwa" means "clay pot" and "Chauth" means "fourth day" . The clay pot is used in most of the Hindu rituals to offer water to the God, in this case to the moon. The festival is observed on fourth day of full moon in the month of late October or early November (Kartik month in Hindu calendar).
Preparation starts few days before festival. Women buy traditional cloths and various essential, items for rituals like Karwa (Clay pot), Bangles, Sweets, decorated plates etc. Henna (Mehndi) plays an important role in this festival. Women apply henna on previous evening. The red/maroon color of henna signifies the bond between husband and wife.
On the day of festival women wake up early before dawn, take bath and do basic prayers to the god. In some part of country women eat selective food (Sargi) and drink tea before sun rises. Shiva, Parvati and their son Ganesh, Kartikeya are worshiped on this day along with the 10 'karwas' (earthen pots) filled with sweets. The Karwas are given to daughters and sisters along with gifts.
For the remainder of the day, women do not eat anything. It is the most important and difficult fast observed by married Hindu women. (Unmarried women, widows, and spinsters are barred from observing this festival.)
As the evening approaches, women gather together in circle singing traditional songs and a version of Karva Chauth story is narrated with regular pauses by an older woman. The Karva Chauth Katha is usually associated with various celebrated tales of female characters who sacrificed herself to save her husband's life. In spite of being one of the toughest fasts, karva chauth is respected and strictly followed festival of the year. It is welcomed by married woman with great fervor. Because of its immense cultural and social significance, and emotional attachment between the spouses, Karva Chauth festival has become well known extensively.
In the contemporary times, Karva Chauth is interpreted as a romantic festival that symbolizes the love and affection between wife and husband. The essence of this festival has also been portrayed with excellence in the Indian movies.
For a newly-wed woman, Karva Chauth is particularly special, as they get decked up in their bridal lehnga-choli. The things that symbolize and reflect the marital status of a woman, such as jewelry, bangles, henna, bindi, lehnga choli and many other traditional gifts are in high demand on this special occasion. Usually, women receive beautiful gifts from their husbands and relatives on this day, as a gesture of their love and care.
According to the ancient Hindu texts, the will power of a married lady to change her husband's bad fortune into good is so strong that it can even change God's ultimate decision. So, the relationship of man and his lady are eternal and blessed.
Brides get beautifully wrapped baskets with the sargi (the food to be eaten before sunrise) from their mother-in-law. Sargi mainly consists of thirst-quenching foods, like fruits, along with a main course of potatoes eaten with hot Puris (a deep-fried Indian bread). Traditionally, a newly wed woman spends the day before the fast in her mother's house and comes to her mother-in-law's house only on the day of karwa chauth.
Traditionally, it is the mother who usually sends Bayna, which includes sweets, money, clothes and a karva (small earthen pitcher), to their married daughters' houses. In the evening, the mother-in-law or any elderly women of the house accepts the bayna, given to them by the younger married women of the family.
The women of the neighborhood usually gather in someone's house and perform the puja together, in the evening. A small area is prepared for the ceremony, which can be performed in any part of the house as well as in the open. A small square platform is placed against the wall and kharia matti (powdery mud) is used to cleanse and to decorate the puja area.
An idol of Gaur Mata, or Goddess Parvati (the consort of Lord Shiva), is placed on the consecrated spot. Traditionally, the tiny image of Gaur Mata was made from cow dung, though nowadays pictures or idols of Parvati are the norm.
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