In the Indian culture fasting and women are often synonymous, especially during festivals. Do women hold so much power that their fasts save lives?
India is a land of diverse cultures and religions. We believe in different Gods, celebrate several festivals and have faith in varied rituals and traditions accompanying different religions.
Over the years, I observed that in the Hindu culture most of the festivals require fasting. Not to generalise, but there still exist some cultures where only the women have to observe a fast.
As I dug further, I realised that women, (who are generally considered weak and incapable of making decisions) have the potential to increase the lifespan of their husbands when they fast. Thus, to increase the age and for a better quality of life for the men, it is necessary for a female to fast.
How come, even then a female is not given equal rights, opportunities & respect is beyond my understanding! If I knew that my life depended on someone else’s actions, I would go to any lengths to make that person feel comfortable and privileged.
What is even more appalling is that it’s only the woman who is asked to observe the fasts. Why can’t either party do it for each other? Or is it that women are given the gift of immortality by God?
Being highly inquisitive, I started researching on this a bit and found out about the supposed history of this. Earlier, when men used to go to wars in far away places, the women would be scared and anxious about their lives. And there was no means of instant communication, since the wars lasted for months or even years. At such times, women would stop eating and spend their time praying as a community for the war to end and the men to come home healthy.
Soon, this practice was manipulated and people started believing that if the woman fasts for her son/husband, there is a chance that their life span increases. I am still unsure about the fast that a sister/daughter is supposed to observe for the long life of her brother or father, respectively.
A lot of Indian societies and cultures have traditions where only the women are supposed to fast for long healthy lives of their sons or husbands. Most of these fasts don’t just require the women to not eat but not even have a sip of water for an entire day!
While some of the fasts last only for a day, there are several fasts that may last for a number of days. And to add to this, in several households, the women who fast are supposed to cook and feed the family, because if not her, then who will!
I am not against women who still follow this belief and observe fasts at the risk of their health since it’s their belief that lets them endure the torturous ritual. However, what I absolutely fail to understand is why these women impose their beliefs on other women who do not approve of these beliefs!
I have often seen women who believe and follow these rituals to go to lengths to criticise women don’t follow the same beliefs. They openly demean the womanhood of the other type. God forbid something happen to the men whose wives don’t fast! They are cursed and made to feel responsible for the illness or even the death of their husbands.
The fact is that we’re all humans and we don’t have the power to increase or decrease anyone else’s lifespan! Women who practice these beliefs need to be patient and be accepting of women don’t want to do so.
Meanwhile, the fact still remains that husbands, or men, in general, still die! And a lot of them do die at a young age and some, after battling an illness. So this concept itself doesn’t hold an religious or scientific validity.
The bottom line here is – just let people be! We are all mature enough to decide what is good for us and for our families. Respect the others’ choices, no matter how they contrast your own.
To the fellow women, please start supporting each other. If we supposedly ‘have the power’ to increase someone else’s life, extending support to other human beings shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Everything begins at home. If you start adapting this culture, the society and in turn, the world, will turn out to be a better place to live in.
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham
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