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Karva Chauth is one festival/ritual among the many celebrated in the North and North Eastern parts of India that contributes to strengthen marital bonding.
There are many legends associated with Karva Chauth fast. Queen Veervati who was observing the Karva Chauth fast, was tricked by her seven affectionate brothers who were pained by the arduous efforts taken by the sister for her husband's longevity. The brothers made a mirror on a pipal tree which gave an impression that that the moon had risen. Veervati broke the fast mistaking it for moon light, as the fast is intended to end with the rising of the moon. The moment she sipped a little water, news arrived that her husband was dead. However a Goddess who took pity on her, revealed her brothers' intentions and directed her to observe the fast again which revived her husband.
A variant of the story also has it that her brothers made a huge fire behind a mountain whose light, Veervati mistook for the moonlight and broke her fast. Soon the news arrived that her husband was dead and while she hurried in grief to her husband's house, Lord Shiva and Parvati intercepted, and Goddess Parvati cut her little finger and instructed Veervati to sprinkle it over her dead husband, also warning her to observe the fast strictly henceforth.
The legend and significance of Karva Chauth fast also has a mention in the Mahabharata. The Pandavas once faced a lot of ordeals with the absence of Arjuna while engaged in penance in the the Nilgris. The despaired Draupati prayed to Lord Krishna who reminded her of the significance of the fast of which Shiva had described to Parvati before. It is said that Draupati observed the fast and things fell into place.
The story of Karva, a devout wife whose husband was about to encounter death in the jaws of crocodile is also an important legend associated with Karva Chauth fast. The impeccable love and devotion that she had for her husband empowered her to bind the crocodile with a cotton yard and demanded Yama, the Lord of death to banish it to hell or narak. The frightened Yama complied to her demand fearing her prowess owing to being a devout wife.
Observance of Karva Chauth
The term Karva means a lamp and also an earthen pot with a spout. Chauth means the fourth day of Krishna Paksh in the month of Karthik, the fourth day of the new moon immediately after Dasara and nine days before Diwali.
Married women wake up to eat and drink in the wee hours of the morning of Karva Chauth fast. Women then keep a fast for the entire day which is spent making preparations for the rituals observed in the evening. At dusk women from neighbourhood, dressed in their best of their attires, gather together for the rituals, a part of which is listening to the legend and significance of the fast. The fast is then broken in the night after the moon is sighted. It is usually the husband who gives the first sip of water and the first morsel of food.
Women also exchange painted clay pots with bangles, ribbons, a small piece of cloth, sweets etc.
Significance of Karva chauth
As all rituals portray an underlying essence, Karva Chauth also boasts of a lofty truth.
A devout wife is the strength of the family. Her attitude serves as a harmonious cord that binds her husband and family as an integrated whole.
Further more it aids in the purity of one's mind required for spiritual pursuits in her after years. A pure mind is integrated and potent. The one pointed attitude of the mind, here devoutness for the husband, holds the relationship in a firm binding.
The legend and significance of the fast are still observed even today, holding on to the cultural aspect of the country.Hence it can be concluded that Karva Chauth originated in ancient India, as an attempt to enhance marital bonding and keep one's family intact which contributes in its own way for societal harmony as well.