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Karwa Chauth

Karwa Chauth

Karwa Chauth is celebrated by most married women in the northern parts of India when they fast for the well being and long life of their husbands. It is kept on the fourth (chauth) day of Kartik month by the lunar calendar. This year it falls on October 15th. With bollywood creating awareness and glorifying the fun associated with the festival it is now popular in other parts of India as well.

Karwa chauth is a festival all about women and there are different theories on why we celebrate it. I will share the version that I personally experienced to be true.
Back in the day girls were married at a very young age and there were no phones and emails to connect to their moms, sisters and friends. The festivities around karwa chauth would give them a feeling of sisterhood and life long friends in their new surroundings. Although I was married in the age of internet, I still appreciate that first chance of connecting to my peers and making those everlasting friends. We shopped together for clothes, jewelry and bangles and the night before decorate each others palms with mehndi (henna).

On that day, just before sunrise we eat Sargi, a meal prepared by mom-in-law mostly sweets and milk to energize ourselves for the long day. At day break the Nirjal( no water ) fast begins. Along with puri, cholle and dahi vada I like to cook my husband’s favorite moong daal halwa. Sweet mathri is the traditional sweet that is cooked on Karwa Chauth.

In the evening we gather together all dressed up and recite the story of ‘Veeravati’, the girl who fought with the gods and compelled them to put life back in her husband’s body. Then I gift the bayna to my mom-in-law. I usually do cash because it’s easy to take back to India but traditionally it is supposed to be a gift basket of food that is cooked and things that she might like.

After the puja it’s time for chitchat and the wait for moon begins. At moon rise, after a peek at the moon it’s time for husbands to give their wives first sip of water for the day and dinner. 

Navaratri - Story of Maa Durga

October is also the month of Navaratri. The literal translation is nine nights. It is a period of ten days and nine nights and the tenth night culminating in Vijayadashami. There are five Navaratris, three of which are still celebrated in India. The Sharad Navaratri, the literal translation being fall nine nights is the most popular one. It occurs around the september-october time frame. The other two are the Vasanta Navaratri or the spring nine nights and the Ashadha Navaratri or the nine nights in the lunar month of Ashadh The Vasant Navaratri are celebrated at Vaishno Devi in Jammu and the Ashadh Navaratri are celebrated in Himachal Pradesh. Nine forms of Shakti are worshiped during Navaratri. The nine forms are Durga, Bhadrakali, Amba or Jagadamba, Annapoorna, Sarvamangala, Bhairavi,Chandi or Chandika, Bhavani and Mookambika.

Here's a story about the compassionate Mother Durga.

Once in a small village in India, there lived a poor farmer. He was very religious and devoted to Devi. The small village had a temple for the Devi and held the navaratri festival every year. One year, the poor farmer decided to go to the temple during Navaratri. People from far and near offered valuables like money, fine clothes and jewelery made of gold and diamonds to the Devi. The poor farmer wanted to offer some thing nice to the Devi. He decided to offer her his scythe and sieve. He went to the temple and made his offering. After the pooja was over, he continued to sit in the temple. He had just offered his tools to the Devi and had no other way of earning even his food. After every one had gone, Devi came and asked him why he was still sitting in the temple. “I offered you my scythe and sieve. I have no way of earning a livelihood and cannot even earn food for my family.” The Devi was touched by plight and his selfless offering. She gave him a basket and said, “You or your family will never go hungry. Take this basket and it will provide you with the choicest of foods.”

The overjoyed farmer took the basket and thanked the Devi for her kindness and went home. He asked the basket to provide him with some rice and daal. The basket gave him the most tasty daal and rice. He ate the rice and daal and next asked for some fish curry. The basket obliged giving him the most delicious fish curry. He then asked the basket for some sweets rosogulla and sandesh and lo and behold the basket gave him the sweets that were the most delectable.

The poor farmer had never been able to entertain any body. He was so happy and he wanted to share his happiness with everyone. He invited the whole village for a feast. The head of the village told him that the King was visiting the village, so he invited the king and his entourage too. Every one knew how poor the farmer was and were astonished at the invitation, nevertheless they went to his house for the feast at the appointed day and hour.

The basket worked its magic and every one had the most sumptuous lunch. The King was curious as to how the farmer was able to feed the large crowd. His courtiers soon found out about the magical basket. “this basket should belong to the king and not a peasant. Snatch the basket and take it to my palace.” said the King. He was not a very good King and was mean.

The basket gone and the scythe and sieve gone, the poor farmer was now again concerned about feeding his family. He went to the Devi temple and prayed to her the whole day and night. At last, the Devi came and asked what had happened. “Mother, the king took away the basket you had given. I have no means to feed my family.” The Devi knew what had happened and gave the farmer another basket. She then asked him to invite the king again for a feast.

The farmer did as he was told and invited the king for a feast. The King was anxious to go to the feast. The earlier basket that he had taken from the farmer was not producing the same results. It was coughing up a few very bitter grains. The king and his entouage arrived at the farmers house and seated them selves. The farmer then came out with thie second basket and said to the king, “You know how this basket works. Just aske the basket whatever food you want and it will provide.” The hungry king began asking a long list of items. The basket suddenly rose up in tha air and began giving the King all his courtiers a very sound thrashing. The King grew frightened at this strange behavior of the basket. He ordered the farmer to stop the basket but he farmer could not. The basket just would not stop. After everyone was throughly beaten up, the voice of Devi said, “O King, I am very angry with you. You are supposed to provide for your subjects and take care of them. Instead you have been greedy and you snatched this poor farmers basket. I know that the basket does not work for you any more. This thrashing is for your greediness. Learn your lesson and return the basket to the farmer. Rule your kingdom wisely.” The King begged for Devi's forgiveness and returned the basket to the farmer.