Karva Chauth is not sexist…

Pictures taken from Fever18.in

Last year, when I arrived at my Hindi lesson, I saw my teacher dressed to kill, with a mysterious and proud frown on her forehead. She was observing Karva Chauth!

Karva Chauth is a strange festival which would make British suffragettes choke on their ballot paper! Northern Hindu wives have to fast from sunrise to moonrise to honour their husband. They have to pray and ask for good future and  long life for him. Once the women have spotted the moon at the end of the day, they can break the fast!

 My Western instinct would make me utter: And men? When do they fast for their wives?

But actually, the situation is not so bad. I’m going to tell you why!

1) A few days before the fast, you go shopping! You buy makeup, clothes, jewels! You even look after your home decoration by buying little candles called Karva and all what you’ll need for the puja. Do you know a religious festival in Europe for which you have to go shopping? Ok, there is Christmas, but it’s often a real chore!

2) On Karva Chauth day , you wake up at 4 o’clock:

Children and Hubby-Ji are still asleep. It’s quiet in the house. You have a great breakfast. You eat whatever you like to prepare for the fast. Most of the time, you eat matthi and dry fruit. Can you hear the silence while you’re drinking your chai on the mellow cushions of the deserted living-room?

In other cases, Hubby-Ji prepares the breakfast for you and in ideal worlds, it is your mother-in-law!

3)Then, you spend hours getting ready; bathing, making up, dressing up. You put on bangles and a red sari like on your wedding day..

4) On that day, you will also give up any form of housework! Goodbye dusters, diapers, frying-pans and smelly-weepy-onion-chopping!

5) For the puja, you gather with other women from the family and female friends. You give presents to each other, clothes, jewels, money and they draw on your hands with henna.

6) Finally, at night, when the moon appears in the sky, you look at it through a sieve and Hubby-Ji must give you some water and a piece of sweet food to break the fast.

7) If your husband is a nice guy, he will fast with you. It is what my Hindi teacher’s husband did. Even if he’s French, I found it was cute and it shows the evolution of this festival. The husband honors his wife too! A bit like in this extract in which Shahrukh Khan plays the perfect guy, as usual:

Now, I invite you to read what (Indian) women think about Karva Chauth.

Read Fortyoneandcounting.

Read The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

Read My First Karva Chauth

I like this one by Suzanna Wickes. She is scottish and her love story with India is moving.


Categories: Religion, Society | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Karva Chauth is not sexist…

  1. Interesting post.

    I personally think that every one should chose the traditions they want to follow (as long as they are not harmful to others). And historically Karva Chauth makes sense: the man being the provider should live long so that the woman will not suffer (economically & socially) after his death.

    As a Western woman, born into a family full of strong women and faible men, only a nutcase would want to fast for, I certainly don´t understand (want to understand?) this tradition.

    Intellectually I comprehend that it´s creating a sense of belonging and I see the connotation of sisterhood. But for me not only the part of “fasting for your husband” but also the celebration itself is cementing gender roles and identities: shopping, clothing, make-up, female friends? But then, I am more a Tom Boy for whom many “girly stuff” is alien.

    Last year I was able to observe my MIL celebrating Karva Chauth. She is a widow, therefore she neither went shopping nor did she decorate the house or saw her friends. She only fasted. Not a very wise decision her being diabetic. And at the end of the day she complained about dizzyness and was upset that her son (my fiancée) didn´t show up until ten or eleven in the night. I think it´s all a question of balance.

    However, I really liked the thought of couples fasting together. It gives it a more progressive touch.

    On another note: Je suis desolée que tu ne bloque plus en francaise. Lire ton blog c´etait bien pour ma savoir de la langue.

    • Hello!
      Thank for your post!
      I think that Karva Chauth is more and more like Vantine’s Day, at least in big cities. And although it is a tradition poeple don’t always celebrate it the same way. Some women only stay with their husband for example. If I were hindu and if I were married (so, if I were somebody else! lol), I think I would observe Karva Chauth because it is a romantic proof of love, especially if your husband is a good man! But I can say that because I live in a country where men and women are equal.
      Unfortunately, blogging both in French and English takes too much time because I’ve got my job and my “Indian activities” during the week. It’s funny because many non-French people regret it because like you, they say it made them improve their French!

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