New England Shirdi Sai Pariwar (NESSP) hosted the annual Karwa Chauth prayer on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. Over a 100 women attended the prayer that I was honored to lead.
Karwa Chauth is a day of fasting for married woman in North India. Women fast during the day, hold a community prayer in the evening and then break their fast after moonrise.
Bollywood has picked up the tradition and that has helped spread its popularity. On the other hand some have attacked this tradition as one that is oppressive to women. I come from a Tamil family and hence this tradition is not native to me. Being married into a Punjabi family, I decided to learn about this tradition and understand the basis for it. I love traditions but I like to do it with understanding. My research showed what a beautiful tradition this is and thus, not only do I practice it but also lead the prayer at the NESSP temple.
The month of Kartik is a very spiritual month. It is when you move from "Sadhana Pada" to "Kaivalya Pada" . The scriptures recommend eating just once a day in the month of Kartik. Lord Krishna refers to this month as His favorite month. The day of Chathurthi or Chauth is particularly valued for spiritual practices and thus Kartik Chauth, the day of Karwa Chauth becomes a greatly valued spiritual day. While fasting by eating just once a day is recommended for everyone during the month of Kartik, it seems to be now been ignored by men and followed mostly by women at least on the day of Chauth.
The day places a lot of emphasis on relationships and celebrating women and their contribution in the home. In the morning, mothers-in-law give special gifts and food for their daughters-in-law. During the day, the woman gets completely break from all house work. It also is a day for romance where the woman gets her chance to really dress up like on the day of her wedding and feel truly special. In India it is the day that the husband often does things to make her feel special.
Doing the prayer to Mother Gauri in the evening along with other women brings enormous positive energy and fills the heart with great joy. There is a great feeling of sisterhood as women come together and pray together. There is a dramatic tale associated with the ritual. If you look beyond the surface, the moral messages encoded in the tale are powerful and timeless.
The breaking of the fast together with the husband is a special moment for a couple that helps them bond. A little romance surely goes a long way in cementing a relationship. The moon has a special significance for it is believed to be on the head of Lord Shiva. Thus where the moon is Lord Shiva and Mother Parvathy are right there.
Like all Indian traditions, the Karwa Chauth is a beautiful one for those who can do it with faith and understanding. I look forward to the celebration each year.