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Why Must Only Women Fast In The Great Indian Tradition, Especially For Their Men?

Posted: May 11, 2020

There are different fasts and rituals for the welfare of our sons or husbands, but there is not even a single fast for the well being of the wife or the daughter. Why?

Fasting is not an obligation, but a moral and spiritual act where the aim is to purify the body and mind and acquire divine grace. Worldly indulgences do not allow us to concentrate on spiritual attainment. Therefore a worshipper must strive to impose restraints on themselves to get their mind focused.

Fasting is a kind of restraint. In a way it nourishes both physical and spiritual demands. Fasting helps us establish a harmonious relationship between the body and the soul.

Fasting during festivals like Navratri, Janmasthami, Shivratri is quite common. Then certain days of the week are also marked for fasting, depending on individual choice and on one’s favourite god or goddess. On Saturday, people fast to appease the god of that day, Shani or Saturn. Some fast on Tuesdays, the auspicious day for Hanuman. Some fast on Mondays, to please Lord Shiva. Then there are Purnima (full moon) and Ekadasi (the 11th day of the fortnight) fasts.

The misogynist fasts

And there comes a whole genre of fasting to please god for the well being of men… These men can fall into several categories – husband, husband to be, son, unborn son…

It calls to mind so many questions.
~ Why is that only women fast in Indian society?
~ Why is it prescribed that women – be it the mother, the wife, the wife to be fasts for the health and life of her son, or husband or husband to be?
~ Why is it that it has been preached by our religion, by our customs, through folklore, that it’s women who have to strive?

One such overhyped (thanks to Bollywood) festival is Karva Chauth, mostly followed by women of Northern part of India where married women fast the entire day for the longevity of his men.

Another fast for husband is the Vat Savitri Puja which is mainly observed in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Orissa and Maharashtra.

Pua Jiuntia is a well known festival in Western Odisha, where mothers fast to invoke the grace of Lord ‘Dutibahana’ for the long life and prosperity of their sons.

The Chathh Pooja where the mother or the elder woman of the family fasts and performs elaborate fasting, pooja etc for the welfare of the family.

Oh wait! how can I forget the Solah Somwar Vrat, fasting for 16 Mondays in a row to appease Lord Shiva so as to get a good husband?

Can’t we make the whole tradition sweeter ?

Why do different regions of our country prescribe different fasts and rituals for the welfare of our sons or husbands, but there is not even a single fast for the well being of the wife or the daughter?!

Why does the woman have to be ‘pious’ for the betterment of the family ?

Love needs to be reciprocated. Have you ever asked or expected your husband to reciprocate your gesture?

To all the men out there reading the post, have you ever fasted for your woman?

My idea of fasting

Fasting provides an opportunity for the privileged to give food-grains to the less privileged and alleviate their distress, at least for the moment.

Let me know what do you think about it?

First published here.

Image source: shutterstock

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