Hindu wives observe this ritual fast seeking the prosperity, good health and long life of their spouses. It is most popular in the western and northern regions of India. Married women in states such as Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana celebrate this day with fervor and dedication. The festival occurs nine days before the important day of Diwali.
‘Karwa’ means an earthen pot, which symbolises prosperity and peace. ‘Chauth’ means fourth day, signifying the fourth day after the new moon.
The Ritual Fast
On this day, married women observe a strenuous fast. They do not even drink water. The women rise early, finish their bath and wear festive garments through the day. Parvati, Shiva and Kartikeya, their offspring, are worshipped on this auspicious day. ‘Karwas’ filled with sweetmeats, and gifts are distributed to sisters and daughters.
The difficult fast starts before sunrise and lasts till the end of prayers at night. Spinsters, widows and single women do not observe this ritual fast. The women break the fast only after sighting the moon and performing the festival rituals at night.
The Festival Custom
Fasting women wear special clothes in the evening. They are decked up in jewels and wear decorative henna patterns on their hands and feet. All the women wear colorful ‘bindis’ on their foreheads. Fasting women in the neighborhood exchange legends and mythological tales, that reveal the importance of this festive fast. As expected, the husbands lavish gifts on their faithful wives. Thus, this festival sets the tone for the frolic and fun of Diwali.