Three things I would like to see changed in Karvachauth celebrations.

I believe some of our festivals need to evolve or else they preserve  and perpetuate something we cannot honestly believe in.

What is it that you would like to see changed in Karvachauth?

1. Would it be nice to see Karvachauth as a celebration of love? Of Mutual-love, care and well wishes.

This TOI Pledge is a step in the this direction.

“Once upon a time, a woman fasted all day to pray for the safety and longevity of her  husband. Today, we know this festival as Karva Chauth. Here’s your chance to show your wife she means as much to you, as you do to her. The Times of India invites it’s male readers to follow their wives’ example and observe the fast with them this year. Take the pledge.  And watch tradition take a turn. Will you keep the Karva Chauth fast for your wife? SMS KC <space> YES or NO <space> Your Name <space> Your City to 58888.”

2. Like Sharukh Khan in DDLJ  many young couples celebrate it together (some married young couples too).

I think Karvachauth will eventually be seen as the random, hoodlum-Sena-Safe- Valentine’s Day all over India.

3. I would also like it to be inclusive.

Why does love fun (and everything else that goes with karvachauth) need to reserved for some women?

Well, you cant give me Haldi Kumkum, she said.

Arey, why not, I asked her.

Well, because I am a widow. [Please read: Of Haldi Kumkums and Vethala Paks – R’s Mom]

So do you know of any men who are fasting with their wives today?

I have blogged about how I celebrate Raksha Bandhan and Diwali.

More related posts:

When there is so much one can do with one’s money, why buy noise and pollution?

How to kill an animal’s instinct.

Diwali photographs.

Raksha Bandhan

85 thoughts on “Three things I would like to see changed in Karvachauth celebrations.

  1. Better still- do away with discriminatory practices like karwa-chauth and haldi-kumkum. These and many such practices were began with the purpose of social interaction for women in a socially accepted way. If they are no longer relevant, they need to be stripped of their halo.

    Loved R’s Mom’s post.

    Like

  2. Usually festivals can be modernised to suit changing times and that is perfectly fine. But I am not too sure that something whose original purpose was to oppress women ought to be propagated at all. Moreover, I don’t see how fasting all day long, whether by men or women, is going to help cement a relationship or improve it in any way. I think this is just a regressive custom, and we must simply stop observing it.

    Like

    • Moreover, I don’t see how fasting all day long, whether by men or women, is going to help cement a relationship or improve it in any way.

      Well, I wouldn’t be too sure of that. It’s rather like the custom of buying your fiance an engagement ring. The ring itself is secondary, it is the thought behind it that’s important.

      In a relationship, perceptions often matter more than objective, tangible parameters. Because you have a certain set of beliefs and values, you see the fasting as a meaningless gesture (as do I). Replace those beliefs and values with a different set, and the act can rise from mere fasting to a strong expression of love and bonding.

      It all depends not on what you do, but on how you see it.

      Like

        • Good on you. I don’t either.

          The gist of my comment was, what you see is not necessarily what your neighbor sees.

          I personally don’t see the point of organized religion, and of ritually humiliating yourself in front of a deity whose existence is entirely unconfirmed. Yet people do it, and I’m okay with that, as long as no one’s forcing anyone.

          Same story here.

          Like

        • For some reason I cannot comment on your second comment, but I was completely agreeing with you. I am just incapable of putting myself in a different reference frame of values as you suggest. I mean…some things…just go against common sense, don’t they? I actually don’t see much point in religion either, but I am just used to seeing it around me and have stopped wondering why people do it long ago.

          Like

        • “The gist of my comment was, what you see is not necessarily what your neighbor sees.”
          Indeed. For some people, even a period of pain or tragedy can be bonding point. During the 1990s, a British Airways 747 experienced failure of all its engines, while flying in Indonesian airspace, because of the ashes released by a volcano. A crash seemed inevitable and to prepare the souls for the worst, the flight crew told people to console their close ones; and paired up singles so that they can share each other’s fear and support each other, in the face of inevitable. Fortunately, after decending in altitude, two of the engines restarted and the pilot was able to regain control of the plane. The people survived. Of the 300 or so passengers in the plane, at least 4 of the couples ‘paired up’ ended marrying each other, three of them still going strong.

          Like

  3. A good example of how modern humanism civilizes discriminatory religious/cultural practices.
    After one or two generations the fasting may disappear completely and only love will remain.

    Like

  4. My Dad always used to tell Mom that there is no need to fast for him all day. Look at all the Angrez population, do husbands die there because they have no idea what Karwachauth is? – he used to say.🙂 Mom, as usual ignored him.
    I can’t stay hungry all day. So there is no way I can keep Karwachauth for my wife. And I keep telling her to stop doing the same for me. She somehow loves doing it for reasons I can never understand. The most I do each year is to cook a grand meal for her in the evening.🙂
    I will give it another 2-3 generations before it completely vanishes.

    Like

  5. I do know my dad is fasting for my mom. I also think it’s pointless regardless of who does it. I’ve been asking both of them for years to make this the day they force each other to get annual health checkups – if what they really want is their spouse’s longevity – and that hasn’t happened yet.

    Like

    • I like this idea. While I agree that rituals should be done of free will and irrespective of gender and marital status, I do like the idea of fasting (as opposed to feasting on festivals)…and a health check-up is a great idea. Actually, why not a status check-up? If partners love each other so much, they should do a yearly review to see if the other is doing ok in terms of health, career, and many other things. Rather idealistic, I know. But each partner should really value the other for every contribution made to the relationship and family.

      Like

  6. DIL and son are right now planning to go get mehandi done. 🙂 And no, they have opted out of the fast thingy, but they want to celebrate the togetherness this day is meant for. I cant stop smiling – my job is done! No fasting, no regressive patriarchal behavior, this day is meant for celebrating love and togetherness.

    Thanks for the link love IHM

    Like

  7. Oh thanks for linking me up IHM! thats so sweet!

    I have a guy in office, whose wife is doing the Vrath…

    RM: poor girl! arent you doing it with her

    Guy: Arey RM, I cant stay hungry

    RM: well, she is doing it for you na

    Guy: I am telling her for two years now to STOP doing it she doesnt listen..and instead of both of us being in a bad mood due to lack of food, I will just take her favorite dishes for the night isnt that better?

    Well, I cant argue with that🙂

    Like

  8. oh! one more thing, I didnt mean to call the wife poor girl because she was doing the vrath…I just called her poor girl because I felt she had to manage the whole day without food which would make me go crazy…IHM my apologies if it hurt anyone’s sentiments

    Like

  9. For me, there is no good reason for the husband or the wife to starve and remain thirsty all day. It’s a bit like a punishment. We will be celebrating karva chauth by having a nice meal together (and eating/ drinking in the day as usual).

    I know that some women do it even though their husbands/ ILs don’t need them to. Somehow, we think (or are told) that sacrifice or depriving yourself is a way of expressing love. I would rather have women stop following that instead of asking men to follow it to. Love and marriage can be about adding to each other’s life instead of subtracting and sacrifice. There are many better ways of expressing love. One person fasting and not drinking any water cannot extend another person’s life.

    If I have a daughter and a son, raksha bandhan in my house will also be mutual rakhi tying and gift giving. These festivals are all celebrated in good spirit (mostly) and people attach sentimental meaning to them, but they propagate a subtle message about the expected status quo. Haldi kumkum is new to me and I didn’t know widows are excluded. I would personally be happy to do away with such discriminatory customs altogether. I don’t know what am I supposed to do with all those blouse pieces and coconuts anyway. I would certainly not be happy to exclude widows from it (or anything else).

    I also don’t believe in excluding dalits or post-puberty girls from festivals/ customs. I was pretty hurt when suddenly after age 10, no one invited me to the kanjka/ navratra feast.. for a goddess festival nonetheless! I think such exclusion is downright mean.

    Husband and I are not religious at all and happily skip or modify any traditions we’re not comfortable with.

    Like

    • “I also don’t believe in excluding dalits or post-puberty girls from festivals/ customs. I was pretty hurt when suddenly after age 10, no one invited me to the kanjka/ navratra feast.. for a goddess festival nonetheless! I think such exclusion is downright mean.”

      That’s exactly what I thought! I was so sad when I couldn’t get the special food and treatment I got as a little girl on those days.

      Like

      • star, my sister is 19 and recently had to move to a pg. Her landlady cooked up the kanjka feast and invited little girls to it, while her and the other girls/women in the pg didn’t get any. She felt left out and missed home (mum always cooks it for us, no matter how old we are).

        It’s strange that women themselves execute these mean requirements of our festivals of excluding other women. This landlady is herself a woman and must have felt excluded herself when she hit puberty. So why does she carry on doing that to other women? I just don’t get that.

        How does religion convince women to accept dogma that’s clearly against them? When I was younger, my friends tried to convince me that I shouldn’t go to temples/ eat certain foods/ do much of anything when I have my periods. No such exclusion was practised in my home and I thought these customs were totally wrong and unfair. It really bothered these friends that I lived as usual when I had my periods. Why? Why didn’t they instead feel like, ‘hang on, there’s nothing wrong with me just because I have my period, I shouldn’t accept such discrimination’.

        Same thing with karva chauth. Why aren’t more women thinking ‘hang on, me starving all day cannot benefit my husband and he’s not even supposed to reciprocate. This is discriminatory’? A lot of my ‘NRI’ friends here seem to karva chauth is amazing and romantic and ‘I get a gift!’.

        I just don’t understand how religion/ patriarchy manages to make thinking educated women accept customs that are clearly not in their favour.

        Like

  10. While keeping the fast, I was just thinking about these things. My husband does not fasts with me but cooks the dinner for breaking the fast. I prefer that rather than both losing our energies in fast. I have no opinion about this festival. I look at it as a gestur of love may be, I don’t know! I love decking up. The other day, my husband and I were having conversation about why these kind of fasts are only done by women? He said fasts in general had a scientific reason but he didn’t know how it came upon women only, may be because men went to work and women stayed home, etc. Anyways, he never asks me to do any of it. As I said, I just do it; just like I apply sindoor once in a while and it is not sacrosanct for me like it is for my mom. I just like the look of it! So long story cut short, men or women, anyone can do it voluntarily and for whatever reasons!

    Like

  11. I don’t know how many will agree with me, but I think the whole idea of Karwa Chauth is backward and does not belong in this day and age. Why should anybody have to fast for anyone else? Fasting for one’s own health (like in the case of some diabetes sufferers) I can understand. But I think the whole concept of not eating for somebody else’s good health (and the whole dance and song that goes along with it) is not modern at all. Incredibly regressive. Why should my intake of food indicate my love (or lack thereof) for my partner??

    I am personally an atheist, but I’m sure there are lots of people on here who aren’t. In the meantime – Hugh Hefner is now well into his 80s and I doubt he’s ever even heard of Karwa Chauth.

    Same thing with those ‘Lakshmi Yantras’ and other such things. I’m sure Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have absolutely no idea who or what Lakshmi represents, and that didn’t stop them from being incredibly rich did it?

    I just find it incredibly annoying that the husband’s health is the ‘responsibility’ of the wife in Indian culture for some reason. You’ll see it if you watch even 5 minutes’ worth of ads on the TV. The wife is expected to ‘lagao khana’ and bring tea and biscuits’, and ensure that the soap and handwash are anti-germicidal the husband is exercising, and best of all ‘unke dil ko jawan rakhne ke liye Saffola’. The guy is a grown man who should be able to handle his own dman health. Only invalids need 24hour nursemaids.

    Sorry for the rant, it’s just that the whole ‘woman = nursemaid/cook/sexual partner/mother of children/housecleaner/mummy’ thing really pisses me off.

    Like

    • Well said! You just spoke my mind. I was just about to type a similar response, and then, I thought that you put it in a much better manner.

      Like

    • I literally agree with every sentence you have written.🙂

      The bit that the wife/mum/ some woman is expected to ‘lagao khana’.. I have a very vivid memory from when I was 12. A neighbour (same age as me) stayed for lunch as we chatted away. My mum put all the food and plates/ cutlery out on the dining table for us. The girl goes ‘Aunty parosiye na’. I could not believe that she found it so difficult to serve herself some chapati bhaji that were right in front of her.

      TV adverts on Indian channels outside India are the worst. They show the perfect traditional bahu doing all the bits you mentioned. My favourite one has the bahu singing ‘my best friend besan’ because her husband now loves all her fried cooking!

      Like

  12. Like many others here, I do not see the value in starving for someone else’s supposed health. My own plan, so far, is to celebrate the love with a nice Afghan dinner and a bit of wine with my wife at our favorite restaurant, Bukhara over at ITC Maurya (much recommended if you’re in Delhi).

    I do know that there are many people who see this as a romantic gesture. Many of my former colleagues and friends are into fasting together.

    If a couple likes to fast together in the spirit of romance, well… there are worse things to like. Whatever floats your boat, eh?

    What I’m against is coercion and unreasonable disrespect for the personal choices someone makes of their own free will (this disrespect can be explicit and out in the open, but is often quite subtle).

    My mother considers my wife to be a fit-to-be-burnt heathen for not doing it, and nothing I say (or my wife says) will convince her otherwise.

    I’ve also come across women being looked upon in a very condescending manner (by other women) for actually observing the fast, as though they weren’t ‘enlightened’ enough to be talked to like adults.

    Although the latter kind of behavior is much rarer than the first, I’m equally irritated by it.

    Like

  13. Honestly, I think Bollywood and Ekta Kapoor’s factory of horrors have given Karwachauth a romantic patina that it never possessed in its traditional form. A while ago, I came across an article written by an NRI about why she practices Karwachauth:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/16/AR2007101601513.html

    I don’t begrudge her the right to do whatever makes her happy, but I found it rather amusing that the ritual has all these romantic associations for her, while her own mother resented it and felt pressured into doing it.

    As Indian society becomes more egalitarian, I think Karwachauth will become a harmless quirk, just as the sexist practices in Western wedding ceremonies, like the bride wearing white and her father giving her away, no longer have any real meaning attached to them. At the present time though, I don’t feel comfortable about the glorification of “voluntary” fasting, when so many Indian women are discriminated against when it comes to food and nutrition.

    Like

    • I am probably going to sound excessively annoyed at this article, but the extent to which NRIs seem capable of depoliticizing and glorifying all Indian rituals and customs boggles my mind! These people blindly follow rituals simply to reassure themselves of their cultural/ethnic distinctiveness. Half the time, a second generation Indian abroad won’t speak a single Indian language fluently, or read one whole book of Indian origin, but will be very eager to go to the mandir, do mehndi(which is something I love too, but is a very superficial marker to define your culture by), or as in this case, do Karwa Chauth. Strange.

      Like

      • Well, as long as it doesn’t affect anyone else, why are you so upset by this? Sometimes you just gotta stop worrying about what other people do with their lives.

        Like

        • I just care that people are quick to absolve their own culture of all kinds of discriminatory practices simply because it is their own culture. These same people are usually the people lamenting the high divorce and teenage pregnancies in the west(the very west they mysteriously chose to live in over their own country!). As if they have some sort of moral high ground by virtue of being Indian. I am not going to personally invade their lives and enforce my opinions on them of course, what they do is their own business, but I am free to voice it here, aren’t I?

          Like

        • You are free to voice your opinion here, and I was doing the same. I just found it odd that you are so intensely affected by what an NRI woman does with her life. Surely, NRIs are free to hold onto whatever values they want to without having to justify their choices to the whole world!

          And personally speaking, the lower divorce rates in India are indicative of a bigger problem. Married couples are way happier in the west than they are in India. And I mean the average married couple.

          Like

      • Yes you do sound extreme in your reaction. The writer has clearly mentioned why the whole festival is so romantic to her. No one has co erced her into fasting, she is doing it out of her own free will.
        Also, if Indians abroad wish to hold on to some part of their Indian-ness, how should it bother anyone else?
        This -being bothered by things that shouldn’t matter to others, is the very thing that is often looked down upon on this blog.

        Like

        • I sound extreme in my reaction mainly because the author mentions in her article how she knows other women doing it simply out of peer pressure, but doesn’t seem to see that as much of a concern anyway. As long as she romantically fasts!

          And I think just as people have a right to hold on to any part of their culture they wish to hold on to, I have a right to baffled by their choice. And people often use “we’re culturally different” as a stepping stone to “we’re fundamentally better and more moral”, which I personally know a lot of people do, I think it is quite unfair, since I believe regardless of cultures and countries, most people are usually defined by the same core values(or lack thereof) like kindness, empathy, justice, etc.

          Just my two cents, I am not attacking anyone.

          And I think the general atmosphere of this blog is to be accepting of any kind of viewpoint that doesn’t directly encroach on the rights of others. And I don’t see myself doing that by simply saying “wow, I don’t understand how/why they do that!” Which is all I am saying.

          Like

    • I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with glorifying it, under any circumstances, regardless of how food-secure Indian women become.

      Like

  14. I don’t fast, My husband doesn’t either. we go to the temple in the evening with our cook mami and then off to a restaurant for dinner ( she insists on dal makhni?????) . Mami fasts and her husband dumped her as a young bride when she had an accident and coun’t have kids !!!! why she fasts for that loser’s good health i don’t understand why. but she does. she doesn’t even know if he’s dead or alive or in jail… and she doesn’t bother finding out.
    Her dad used to be my In-laws gardner and , MIL took her in when he passed away, and my husband was 5.. she’s been with us ever since. Apparently MIl tried to get her married and even found a accountant fella🙂 mami tells me this beaming apparently she didn’t want to have anythng to do with men. yet she fasts .. i don’t question her, she once told me she likes to get dressed so she doesn’t want to know about her husband. i have told her she can get dressed irrespective of husband or not, but she’s old school.. so whatever makes her happy.
    I do this elaborate rite of taking her shopping for karva chauth, we go get her a sari , bangles ( yep red and green) and plate and most imp MEHENDI… and she is super happy.

    What impresses me is she always says you love him so much and he loves you, what do you need more than this.🙂 so happy karva chauth mami ..

    i read her the entries and she smiled….and nodded and says ‘ girls these days’ looked at me and says so much smarter and better than us old people na. ha ha ha

    Like

  15. Slightly off – topic… I also find it funny how people also say “Oh, I fast on Monday/Tuesday,etc” or they don’t eat non-vegetarian on a particular day of the week…. for the sake of some God. (Thursday is for Sai baba, Saturday for …. OK I don’t really remember which day is for which.. but you get the point!)
    To my knowledge, the days of the week are a man-made invention so how can you assign a day of the week to some God?

    Like

  16. Nice post. I’m surprised to see how many north Indian women of the young generation still fast for their husbands. This is totally a relic of subjugation of women. A Punjabi friend told me during karva chauth she also “prays for a son”!! How shocking is that. This friend’s husband has a Master’s degree in engineering from Stanford University and he (and probably she too) still believe in all this crap.

    Like

  17. I have only heard of this custom among North Indians
    In the south it is not practiced.
    My wife has never observed this fast and neither would I like her to.
    However, I will not like to comment on this custom if families observe it willingly and without any pressure from family elders to do so.

    Instead of Karva Chauth, it was common in the south for housewives wait for the husband to eat first before eating themselves.
    Sometimes, during the early years of my marriage, my wife would wait for me to be home for dinner and stay hungry if I was late.
    I caught her at this a couple of times and reprimanded her severely and told her she must not wait beyond dinner time for me and she must have her dinner in time if she knows I was going to be late.
    Now, after all these years, we try to eat together always, but if for any reason that is not practical, neither of us waits for the other.
    Regards
    GV

    Like

  18. Karva Chauth is hardly a custom celebrated in the South. As a Marathi speaking person growing up in a Marathi locality, I hardly heard or knew of this festivals as a kid. It is only famous now because of those demented Ekta Kapoor serials.

    Such regressive festivals should be done away with, fasting for showing love to each other is regressive and I find it pretty sick minded, weather this fasting is done my men or women it does not matter.

    Like

  19. Though it should entirely be an individual’s choice whether to observe a fast or not, it is not usually the case with women on Karva Chauth. A few of the reasons which often take away the choice from married women in my opinion are :

    Peer pressure/guilt – When one lady hears another married friend say, “of course I’m fasting for my husband. Aren’t you?” it usually brings in the guilt of not caring for one’s own husband by not fasting.

    In-laws – Many young brides are ‘expected’ to religiously follow the tradition since their mother-in-laws ‘had’ to follow it too. (Though it was refreshing to see ladies here who think and act otherwise towards their daughter-in-laws – kudos to ‘phoenixritu’ )

    Attention seeking – It becomes an opportunity for some women to get their husband’s attention who are otherwise too busy to care for them.

    Culture connection – Many females (including NRIs) find it as an opportunity to display their connection to the traditions and culture.

    Duty – Strange but true, some ladies really think that observing a fast would improve the health and life-expectancy of their husband (which they think is their duty as a wife).

    And as IHM pointed out in the third point, I think this tradition mainly flourished due to the attitude towards widows in past times. This tradition must have been used to emphasize on the perils of widowhood and the so-called fortunes of not being a widow.

    On the other hand, observing a fast may actually enhance the feeling of love towards the spouse on a personal and emotional level. Something which is overlooked many times owing to the extravaganza associated with the tradition.

    But I think the rituals associated to the day are rather illogical. Including the breaking of the fast after looking at the moon. What if there is a thick cloud cover ?

    Secondly, fasting is rather a strange way to show love (either to the husband or to the wife). Like many people who commented above, it would be more fun to enjoy each other’s favorite foods together instead of being hungry all day. On the other hand, fasting can be a really bad idea in certain cases. Fasting can be disastrous for someone who is a diabetic ( contrary to what ‘abohemiansrhapsody’ pointed out). Similarly, a pregnant lady would only harm herself and her baby by fasting for the whole day. I have personally seen people fasting during ill-health and further spoiling it just to prevent the guilt associated with not fasting.

    One benefit of fasting which I see is to enhance one’s will power by resisting the temptation to indulge in foods one likes. Though most people on fasts often eat even more than on usual days by consuming special foods allowed during fasts (I appreciate the will power of those who resist eating almost everything during fasts). But according to me, a fast should be the avoidance of certain foods which, though tempting, are harmful for health. No use stuffing yourselves with oily, fried and calorie-rich food after the fast is done.🙂

    Fasting should not be used to bargain (with God/spouse or other people) or to imply guilt or as a means to blackmail/protest or to display one’s feelings to another in the eyes of the society. It should entirely be a personal thing without being judged.

    And I would rather support a wife who makes her husband to quit smoking for at least a day (which may increase his life by a few minutes) rather than spoiling her own health by fasting for his health.🙂

    Like

  20. My best friend, who is a Gujju married to a Delhiite, observed Karvachauth for the first time as it was their first year after marriage. However, she did not abstain from drinking water since she was just recovering from a stomach infection. Her husband also observed the fast with her.

    Like

  21. My Dad fasts with my Mom and now my husband with me.
    Much like most traditions, this too makes little to no sense today. But I cannot not do it. But nobody forces me to do it.
    I got another perspective his KC and it made me feel petty. My cousin who was a widow for 10 years, got married this year and was super excited to observe KC. I felt like poop.

    Like

  22. Pingback: Happy Bhai – Phota « The Chaotic Soul

  23. Pingback: “A Hindu woman derives immense pleasure in sacrifice for her husband. The white man will never ever understand this.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s