After being a classified cynic during all my years of singledom, I admit that I am now a staunch follower of customs that have arisen from the villages in Punjab. Like Karva Chauth. I think that much of the credit must go to my mother who sat me down right prior to my first Karva Chauth holiday as a married woman….oh so many years ago….and told me in no uncertain terms that she had had enough of my rebellious ways and that as a married lady in the community, I had better toe the line. I am still amazed by the impact of Mom’s threats especially when they are laced with words like community!

Karva Chauth is a Northern Indian festival during which married women fast for the well-being of the husband. Observed during the month of Kartik on the fourth day of Krishna Paksha (the waning moon) the festival was originally based on the idea of camaraderie between married women in the community during a time when most of Northern Indian society lived in villages. It is important to remember this: increasingly new cynics (like my old self) will tend to pass it off as an example of traditions that cater to a male dominated society.

Karva Chauth Festival

Living in San Francisco, I find that I must observe the fast on what is typically a working day. It can be challenging to remain hungry yet make sure that you are not grumpy and irritable when it comes to dealing with your colleagues in the office. Ahh…the trials we must face to become better human beings!

But many women, especially those who live outside of India, continue to be at a loss for what exactly to do on Karva Chauth. If you need some tips or just plain moral support on how to get through the day, I thought I would share some words of wisdom on the subject.

Karva Chauth For Dummies

Eat Before Dawn

  • While people increasingly skip this step, I would advise against this; your body is likely to go into ‘starvation mode.’ Ayurvedically speaking, this is a no-no.
  • Aim for an early morning snack that will hydrate your system. Oranges are ideal.

No Food After Sunrise

  • Sleep in if you can; if not, don’t worry too much about it.
  • Think good thoughts; cliched as it might sound, you will be amazed at the difference you can make with positive energy.

Before Sunset

  • Get together with other women who are fasting, an hour or two before sunset for puja (prayer ritual) and storytelling. This is probably the most enjoyable aspect of the festival and rings back to its tradition of camaraderie among women.
  • IF you do not have a group of women to get together with, do a simple puja on your own and read the Karva Chauth story.

Breaking The Fast

  • Once the moon rises, go to a open area like a terrace or a garden to look at it through a sieve before looking at your husband.
  • If you have kids, it can be fun to involve the whole family by having Dad and kids search for the moon too.
  • Break the fast by having your husband give you a glass of water to drink.
  • Follow with a scrumptious dinner but resist the temptation to over-indulge. Your metabolism has been slowed down during the course of the day, your digestive system cannot deal with too much food.

Best wishes to those of you who are celebrating the holiday this year. And please do send me your personal Karva Chauth wisdom. The more that goes around, the more we can ring back to the symbolism of this Northern Indian tradition.

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