Karva chauth, indian tradition, indian festival, ketchupmoms

Is Karva Chauth a symbol of cultural repression or the celebration of courageous devoted wives?

I like to believe that Karva Chauth was a brilliant strategy by overworked women of yesteryears, to get the menfolk to work and pamper them. Only, I wish they would have celebrated it once every month or even week. On a more serious note this festival has divided the feminists and the liberals in India and how. While the former harp about how this was meant to leave the woman as subservient to the husband, the latter swear by it as their symbol of love for their spouses.

Honestly, who doesn't know what wearing a white saree in ancient India meant for women. If you were not burnt alive on the pyre of your husband in the name of 'Sati', you were sentenced to widow ashrams. So can you really blame the womenfolk to start a tradition where they fasted for their husband's long life? Another way to look at it is the overworked life of a home maker and Karva chauth as her day of freedom. When officially she was not allowed to work. The fasting and feasting and the Karva Puja brought all the women together like a fun kitty party. And the tradition where the mother- in-law cooks the pre- Karva Chauth meal for the daughter-in-law reeks of sweet revenge. 

But then critics might say that the world has changed and so who needs traditions that celebrate such obsolete thinking. Digging into the legends of Karva Chauth is essential here. And trust me each is as interesting as the next and not one offended the woman in me. In fact all of them show strong, courageous and determined woman fighting against all odds. 

The legend of Satyavan and Savitri : This story is about a princess Savitri who chooses her groom Satyam. But he is seen as a doomed choice as he is destined to die within one year from that date. But Savitri refuses to change her mind and settles in the woods with her husband and in-laws after the marriage rituals. Three days before the predicted day of doom, she takes a vow of fasting, which some believe is the root of celebrating Karva chauth. On the day of his predicted death, Yama, the lord of death, himself comes to take away Satyavan's soul. A determined and wise Savitri follows him and engages him with her intelligent words. Impressed, Yama grants her a boon. She asks for three things - The return of eyesight for her blinded in-laws, a hundred sons for her father and a hundred sons for herself with Satyavan. Yama is then forced to alter the course of life and grants her wish by returning Satyavan's soul. Does any part of this story smell of repression?ketchupmoms

The legend of Karva: A woman named Karva was so dedicated towards her husband that in time of his death, Lord Yama had to alter the course of fate. One day Karva's husband is snatched away by a crocodile in the river. When Yama, the lord of death appeared to take away his soul, Karva threatened to curse him. She insisted that her husband be revived and the culprit crocodile be exiled to hell. The fear of being cursed by such a devout wife makes Yama revive her husband and follow her instructions. Women oppression anyone? Not for me.

The legend of Queen Veervati: A pampered sister of seven brothers, Veervati is tricked by her brothers, into believing that the moon has shown up. She worships the moon and breaks her Karva Chauth fast. Immediately the news of her husband's demise reaches her and the brother confess to their crime. A distraught Veervati then seeks penance and her devotion forces goddess Parvati to bring her husband back to life with her own blood drops. Again all I see is love. 

The ritual of dharam-behan: More interestingly it is believed that Karva Chauth was really a tradition and symbol of female friendship. In ancient times, in absence of Facebooks and instagrams and even post offices and telephones, newly wed bride could find herself amongst absolute strangers. So there was a tradition of dharam-behan (sister-in-law) . Another girl of the same age who was married in the same village as the new bride to be, would be made the bride's friend through some rituals. And on Karva Chauth all these women would come together and thank god for a blessed married life. 

Karva Chauth is a symbol of repression and so is that morning cup of tea that either spouse makes for the other. So is the birth of a baby that leaves only the mom in physical pain, not counting postpartum depression. So is sharing a common bank account. And any other act that marriage gives birth to. Honestly Karva Chauth is just another festivity today that celebrates the love of a wife for her husband. Should the husbands keep the fast with there wives too? Well why not, detoxification is good for everyone, I say. And if its side-effect is a portrayal of love, why not. In the end, these are harmless traditions that our just meant to bring us together over feasts. You can choose to celebrate it unapologetically or you can choose to stop celebrating it. Till then Happy Karva chauth. 

Comments (3)

Sabeen Posted on Oct 10, 2017

Agree with u totally... it is abt a reason to celebrate!

  Reply

Nihal Shetty Posted on Oct 07, 2017

A post worth reading

  Reply

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Charu Chhitwal, Founder KetchupMoms has daring tastebuds, a love for travel and an owl for her soul. It’s little wonder then that she loves to write and share her tips and tricks on traveling, food,

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