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Karva Chauth. A 'nirjal' (without any food or water) fast to be kept by women for the long life of the husband, which women have been observing for ages, and will probably continue to follow. How fair is it?
Karva Chauth. A ‘nirjal’ (without any food or water) fast to be kept by women for the long life of the husband, which women have been observing for ages, and will probably continue to follow. How fair is it?
Translated from the original in Hindi.
Karva Chauth… is a festival that falls on Teej Bhedi Chauth every year after Sharad Purnima under Hindu religion. Newly married brides and married women ‘celebrate’ this day as a festival. A ‘nirjal’ (without food and water) fast to be kept for the long life of husband.
Amazing isn’t it! Husband, son, father, or brother,.. men in every form require the sacrifice and penance of women to remain healthy and secure! There are many such fasts in the year when the woman remains hungry throughout the day giving up food for these men in her life.
First father, then brother, then husband and then son, in the life of every woman, she is expected to be in the ‘charge’ of four men who decide her fate. And as soon as she is born, she is immediately burdened by the expectations, and ‘honour’ of her family, and expected to fall in with all the diktats.
From childhood, daughters are taught that they are gentle in body and mind, and inferior to men. Their scope is limited to home and family care. All traditions have to be adhered to by them for the ‘good’ of their family, like this fasting, and have to be done according to the rules. While doing this, of course, all household responsibilities have to be taken care of.
There are many stories related to Karva Chauth, and the essence of each story is the wish for the husband’s long life. New brides and married women stay hungry and thirsty till moonrise at night, and break their fast only after offering prayers to the moon, and then take water and food from the hands of the husband.
However, even after being hungry and thirsty all day, there is no difference in the workload of the woman. She has to do all the work as usual. Cooking has to be done for the husband and family members, and the rest of the work has to be done. Things become more stressful if the woman is a working woman and cannot take time off. After all this, the festive spread of dishes have to be prepared in the evening, and preparations have to be made for worship.
After completing the whole day’s work and extra responsibilities, the hungry and thirsty woman for the whole day has to dress up in finery and wait for the moon to rise. All this for that husband, in whose life there is no change of any kind on that day, nor does it make any difference to him. He just continues with his regular routine as usual.
I never understood how anyone’s age can increase if a woman is hungry and thirsty. If this ‘miracle’ really happens, then why should only men need this prop for their health and life? What about woman’s health and life? Doesn’t everyone need good health and longevity?
What is this issue with the physical and mental health of men, which is cured only by their wives staying hungry and thirsty, and has to be repeated every year?
Karva Chauth is not a festival, but a sign of female suppression. This idea that a woman being hungry and thirsty will bring happiness and prosperity in her house, has been hammered into her mind, conditioned to accept this as necessary and empowering. This is the reason why women are happy doing this fast ‘by choice’. Where something is linked with religion and spirituality, there remains no room for questioning or reasoning. That is why often women also do not understand that Karva Chauth is not a festival, but only a sign of their oppression.
It is not wrong to believe in a god or to worship. We all need hope in life. One needs faith in an invisible force that controls the world and nature. But in whatever form that power is worshipped, how can it be appeased when a woman is hungry and thirsty?
However, with the passage of time some changes have come. High profile couples gather in big hotels to party or go out to eat on the day of Karwa Chauth, and treat the day as a festival. But this is possible only for those with the privilege, and the social and monetary capital to do so. Not every couple or family can afford this kind of financial independence.
I have often seen men puffing up their chest, saying that their wife will be hungry and thirsty for the whole day during the Karwa Chauth fast for them. Isn’t this a form of harassment? Why does a woman happily bear this pain?
Whenever I talk or write on this subject somewhere, I have to face a lot of criticism which comes mostly from women. The brainwashing is such that it is considered par for the course, and a must do. When the matter is associated with religion and superstition, then there is no place for any argument.
But I will continue to speak on this subject, using my voice as much as I can, whenever and wherever I can. Women are just as human as anyone else, and no one has the right to expect them to starve themselves for any man’s ‘good health’.
If women wish, they can reclaim the day of Karva Chauth for themselves and spend it comfortably and happily, with or without the family, but without being hungry. You like to dress up and get henna on your hands and want to feel pampered? Go for it. But let’s not make this a day when you’re expected to starve.
I eagerly await this positive change.
Image source: Sachin Awasthi from Getty Images via Canva Pro
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