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Unity in diversity reflects the culture of India where the people of various communities, sects and castes with divergent traditions mingle to create a socially healthy ambience.
To understand the culture of a country it is imperative to understand its festivals which are based on religious beliefs, mythological beliefs, dogmas, seasonal change etc. Festivals teach us to live as one family and one community. Karwa Chauth is also one of the celebrated festivals of India. It is one of the pious festivals solemnized by Hindu women in every part of the country in one form or the other in which married women keep fast from sunrise to the moonrise for the welfare of their husbands and propitiating for their long life. It is a late autumn festival between October and November on the fourth day of weaning moon fortnight (Krishna Paksha) in the month of Kartik.
The festival came to the light when during Mughal invasion husbands of Hindu wives were on mission to defend their country against external threats. In order to secure their safe return the wives at home kept a strict fast which fructified considerably. The women would dress themselves up like in royal privileges.
The festival coincides with the wheat sowing time (Rabi crop cycle). The occasion is marked by storing wheat in big earthen pots called ‘Karvas’ for procuring bumper crop and prosperity. The origin of this festival was based on a noble idea. Though this idea has lost its relevance in the contemporary era with the emergence of new thoughts and changing trends. Long time back girls used to get married at a very early stage and had to part with their families to live with their in-laws. She had to be alone like in isolation. Thus the custom cropped up that at the time of marriage, when bride would reach her in-laws, she would befriend another women who would be her life time friend or sister. Thus Karva Chouth started as a festival to celebrate this friendship between once brides and god sisters. This relation had a tremendous social and cultural significance during that time when means of communication was to its low ebb. Karwa Chauth has a host of legends behind it:
Story of Queen Veeravati
A long time ago there lived a beautiful damsel named Veeravati. She was married to a king being the only sister of seven loving brothers. On the occasion of her first Karva Chauth she went to her parental house. As usual, after sunrise, she observed a strict fast. However, the queen could not withstand the rigorous of fasting and was awaiting desperately for moon to rise. The brothers found her in a discomforting position and decided to end her fast by some artifice. They reflected a mirror through a pepal tree leaves, sensing the moon had risen Veeravati broke the fast. Instantly, she received a news that her husband was seriously ill. On her way to palace she met Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Parvati apprised her that the King had died because they queen had broken the fast by watching a false moon. The queen wept bitterly and the goddess granted her a boon that the king would be revived only if she undertakes the Karwa Chauth fast under prescribed rituals. The queen kept strict fast and her husband revived and got a new life.
Legend of Mahabarata
The legend of this belief is associated back to the Pre-Mahabharata times. It is said that Drupadi wife of Pandvas also observed this fast. It so happened once that in order to undergo penance Arjuna went to the Nilgiris and in his absence his brothers were desperate. Sensing their deplorable condition Drupadi remembered Lord Krishna and asked for help. Lord Krishna advised her to observe the fast of Karwa Chauth. She followed the instructions and kept the fast as per rituals which led to Pandavas to overcome the exasperation they were in.
Legend of Satyavan and Savitri
There was a prediction by some astrologers that Savitri would lose her husband soon she gets married. The nuptial bonds were tied and time of her husbands departure was impending nearer.Yama, the God of Death came to procure Satyavan’s soul which Savitri manifested. She wept bitterly and begged Yama to grant him life but the Death God could not concede to her request initially. Savitri observed the fast vigorously and propitiating gods got the life of her husband revived.
The Legend of Karva
The story is associated with a devout wife Karva who loved her husband fondly and sincerely. One day while bathing, her husband was caught by a ferocious crocodile in shallow waters. Karva came running and had the crocodile bound with a cotton yarn and went to Yama, the Lord of the Death and requested him to send the offending crocodile to hell. When the god of death refused to do so she threatened to accurse him with dire consequences. He was afraid of the power of devout wife, yielded and blessed Karvas husband with long life.
Festivities and Rituals
Karva Chauth in an Indian festival celebrated by Hindu married women globally in which they observe a nirjala vrat(fast without water and food ) from dawn to dusk in celebration of womanhood to pray for safety , health and longevity of their husband.
This is a special day for all married women. It signifies beauty, as all married women, regardless of age, like dressing up. Mehndi, sindur, glass bangles, bindi are all part and parcel of the Karva Chauth festival. Every married Hindu woman celebrates this day with complete sincerity and dedication despite having stringent rituals associated with the festival in which women observe fast from early morning to moon rise.
According to the rituals and traditions, the mother-in-law presents traditional pre dawn meal called Sargi prepared by her to daughter in law as mark of blessings on this special day to complete her fast . A Sargi ideally consists of sweets, namkins , dry fruits, coconut etc . The fasting women eat plateful of savouries and sweets around 4 am–5 am so as to keep going throughout the day without water and food.
A few days before the festival markets abuzz with soul revishing activities. Henna is applied to the hands with intricate designs. The new dresses are purchased to excel other fasters in a market of cut throat competition beautified with shimmer of gold, diamonds and rubies. The married women would also buy new Karwas (earthen pots) with special painting on them. Inside the Karwa they would put bangles, new ribbons, sugar, sweets, make up items and some clothes which are being gifted to other fasting women.
In the evening, a community- women ceremony is held. The participating fasters dress in fine clothing, wear jewellery, wedding dresses and beautify themselves to the entire perfection. The dress comprises mainly of red, gold orange considered to the auspicious on the occasion. The fasting women sit in circles with their puja thalis which is accompanied by a version of story pertaining to the essence of the fast told intermittently. The story is being recited by an old woman. The Karwa Chauth song is being sung in a choric form and the puja thalis are being waved around in the circle by the fasting women. After the culmination of fera ceremony, the fasting women await the rising moon. The women with their husbands nearby view the reflection of moon in the water contained in a vessel through sieve. Whereupon the water is offered to the moon to secure blessings. She then turns to her husband and view his face indirectly. It is believed that at this point of time a woman can surmount death because she stands blessed with boon of longevity of her husband. So Indian woman is the epitome of sincerity and devout worshipper of her husband. Such a unique feature is found beyond any measure of doubt only in Indian women.
Dressing up for the day
Clean your face thoroughly before applying foundation and apply perfect foundation which suits your skin tone
If you have a clear skin, leave out foundation. After cleansing, apply a sunscreen with a built-in moisturizer. For oily skin, apply astringent lotion. Then apply powder. Or, use powder compact. Avoid applying too much powder and pay more attention to the oily areas of the face. Press the powder all over the face and neck, with a slightly damp sponge. This helps it to set and last longer.
If you wish to use foundation, apply a water based one. Add one or two drops of water for a lighter coverage. The foundation should be as close to your skin colour as possible. Then apply powder, as mentioned.
Highlight the cheeks with a blusher, blending well, so that it gives the face a natural glow.
For eye make-up line your lids with eye pencil or kajal. Over this apply a line of brown or gray eye shadow for a softer effect. Then, apply mascara. This helps the eyes to look brighter, but prevents the “heavily made-up” look. Mascara should be applied in two light coats, rather than one heavy one. Apply one coat. Allow it to dry. Comb out the lashes with an eyelash comb or brush. Then apply the second coat and repeat the procedure.
For lipstick, avoid very dark colours, like dark maroon. Colours look even darker in fluorescent lights of offices. Go for pinks, copper or bronze. Orange and shades of orange are the new trend. Or, you can also use light pastel colours like mauve or pink. The colours should not be too bright.
A Bindi is an integral part of make-up for karva chauth. Look for a decorative bindi, to match the colour of your bridal dress. A bindi, studded with small sparkling stones, combined with colour would be most attractive. Lastly, apply perfume.
Following a healthy lifestyle will help to reflect radiance and vitality during the festival. The right diet, exercise, adequate sleep and relaxation are absolutely essential to good looks. In fact, a healthy lifestyle helps to restore beauty and put a glow on the face. A few weeks before the festival, start taking a little exercise, like going for a walk. Of course, take your doctor’s advice first. Walking is good for both body and mind. Deep breathing exercises are also helpful in terms of calming the mind and making it more tranquil.