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While some women celebrate Karwa Chauth of their own volition, others are forced into it. In either case, is the basis of the Karwa Chauth tradition regressive?
Karwa Chauth is a festival in which married women fast from sunrise to moonrise for the safety and longevity of their husbands. They starve for the whole day so that their husbands will live a long life. I believe that it is absolutely sexist, misogynistic and regressive. I had decided since forever that I would never succumb to the so-called Indian version of Valentine’s Day which is nothing but the mirroring of a dystopian mindset and totally gender biased.
India is a country where many of us follow what our parents have been doing, unaware of the reasons why are they doing what they are doing. To me, fasting of any kind, whether it is starving for God, for oneself or for anyone else proves nothing and doesn’t make any logical sense. I don’t have the tiniest clue as to how we can relate women starving to the life expectancy of their husbands. Is there some super secret science that I’m unaware of?
These vrats seem to have been created to remind women from time to time that they are born to serve, create and serve. There are many stories created to eternalize the myth with scary tales of women who did not follow the tradition and the dreadful consequences that ensured. This myth became so entrenched that nobody challenged it. Many women are scared into it by their mothers-in-law and even their own mothers and they truly believe in the superstition that if they don’t fast, their husbands will lead a short life.
Why is it difficult to understand that the husband was living his life before marriage and would have lived a long life even if he was not married? Keeping a fast will not amend his time on this earth. If it did, then Indian men would have had the longest lifespan in the whole world. It is nothing but a reinforcement of patriarchy and the funniest thing is that it is a reinforcement of patriarchy by women themselves.
According to statistics, life expectancy is much more in Scandinavian countries than in India – approximately 15 years more. And these countries aren’t religious anymore, just more educated and advanced. The same goes for many other countries, where life expectancy is more.
Many women practice it as it has become a commodified celebration where women gather with all the decking up, thalis, mehendi, on the verge of fainting, with stories of how hard the day had been without food and water. Nobody wants to left out of the rat race and nobody wants the world to think that they don’t love their husband. I fail to understand how on earth can someone prove her love for her husband by staying hungry.
Love is best expressed when hearts are full of love…not when tummies are grumbling!
I have seen many women fasting even when they were sick. How can any religion justify the importance of religious ritual above health and life?
All cultural practices are consolidated on caging women. It’s another one of the patriarchal manoeuvres to bind women in the ‘golden cage’ of tyaag (sacrifice). Patriarchy has kept a check on women’s independence by conditioning her to a culture of obedience which is irrelevant and illogical for today’s age.
Nowadays, some Indian couples keep a conjoined fast to reduce the guilt of their Western inclinations. Here, men’s involvement tries to cover the misty inequality. However, lets keep in mind that it is still an option for him and compulsion for her.
Karwa Chauth is just another way of telling women how important a man’s life is and how her existence is totally dependent on her husband. Indian society starts to instil the feeling of inferiority in girls from a very young age through discrimination, intimidation, superstitions, traditions and so on. They are conditioned to believe that their self-restraint will ensure longevity for their spouse.
Marriage is a beautiful bond of love, parity, togetherness and mutual respect. It should have no space for patriarchal rituals that create an apparatus to oppress women. Expression of love has nothing to do with apparent rituals and customs. If you look at this ritual, women actually worship their husbands like gods with a thali, diya, etc. They touch the feet of their husbands. Traditions that force women to worship men are as harsh as definitive violence.
In our society, women who do not succumb to societal pressure and don’t observe these traditions are also forced to practice it. Unfortunately, our patriarchal society is full of people who degrade us. As women, at least we should not pull another one down and respect the individuality of another woman.
Top image is from a movie promo still
First published here
I love to sing, cook, travel and read. I worked as a music teacher for
Another of those weapons of self-destruction for women!
I am an American who is interested in a progressive Shaktist tradition. I looked up this holiday on Google and found that a secondary meaning is associated with it in some parts of India. It is a tradition, though steeped in patriarchy, is about honoring your close female friends. Wouldn’t it be great if Indian women reclaimed this holiday as a way to honor their friends and other women in their lives, including themselves? Just an idea for you to ponder and maybe write about.
Thank you for that out-of-the-box look at Karva Chauth. Some educated Indian women are indeed using this as a means to female bonding, but the overwhelming majority still look at it as praying for the long life of husbands. But that is an idea I’ll keep in mind as the editor at Women’s Web.
Also, if you’re interested in the tradition of Shakti, here’s a recent movement you’ll find interesting. https://www.facebook.com/sainee25/videos/10156785082218205/
Thank you for reading and commenting.
As A Married Indian Woman, Are You Also Expected To ‘Look Married’, And A Compulsary Karwa Chauth?
Karwa Chauth – An Individual Choice I Won’t Diss, Even Though I Don’t Practise It
From Karva Chauth To Toe Rings, Are We Empowered In The Real Sense To Make Up Our Own Minds?
I Was Asked, “How Do You Feel Married If You Do Not Observe Any Traditions For Married Hindu Women?”
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