In India, the fast of Karwa Chauth is observed as a very pious festival. It is said that it empowers a married women to even challenge the decision of the almighty. As it is kept in order to bring fortune as well as well being along with long life for one's husband, almost every women in the country observes this fast. Though there may be regional variations in the name and rituals, the festival is celebrated with immense zeal and gusto throughout the country. The festival is celebrated just nine days before Diwali i.e. on the fourth day of the Kartik month by the Hindu calendar (fourth day of the waning moon or the dark fortnight). The festival is celebrated under the name of Karwa Chauth and the rituals given below are observed in states of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, U.P., and Gujarat.
Karwa Chauth Vrat Vidhi
The day of Karwa Chauth begins very early morning when the women of the family have a sargi i.e. the pre-dawn meal. The sargi consists of several scrumptious dishes. Once the married woman has eaten her share of sargi, her phase of fast begins. Now on wards she is not supposed to eat or even drink water for the entire day. The entire day is celebrated like a festive occasion with community gathering, songs, henna rituals and other such things.
The preparation for the Pooja begins days before the actual celebrations. All kinds of shopping for clothes and pooja material are brought much before Pooja. On the day of Puja, the married women arrange all the items like the shringar or the traditional adornments and the other pooja items like the karwa, matthi, heena etc. The pooja begins early morning when the Sargi is prepared and consumed before prior to the dawn. The festivities then proceed with other activities like decorating hand and feet with heena, decorating the pooja thali and meeting friends and relatives.
At the afternoon, when the mprning rituals are done and preparation for the festivities at the evening is complete, all the women of a community gather at a common place like temple or a garden or someones' place who has arranged the pooja. If there is someone's first Karwa Chauth in the locality, all the celebrations take place at her place. All the woman are dresses in the auspicious colors of red, pink, maroon, and adorn themselves with all other symbols of a married women like, nose pin, tika, bindi, chonp, bangles, earrings etc. In the gathering, an elderly lady or a lady belonging to the priest community narrates the legend of Karwa Chouth.
All the woman of the community reach to the pooja spot with a special mud pot, that is considered a symbol of lord Ganesha, a metal urn filled with water, flowers, idols of Ambika Gaur Mata, Goddess Parwati and some fruits, mathi and food grains. At some places in the rural India, people make the idol of Gaur Mata using earth and cowdung instead of the idol of Goddess Parwati. Infront of this idol, the women who have observed fast light an earthen lamp in their thalis and listen to the Karwa story. Sindoor, incense sticks and rice are also placed along with it. Once the pooja is completed, a part of all this is offered to the deities and the narrator of the vrat katha (story).
At the dusk, all the women return to their home from the Pooja venue and wait for the moon to rise. They simultaneously also arrange the Pooja Thali with a sieve and water pot. Once the moon rises, the women see its reflection in a thali full of water, or through a dupatta or a sieve. It is said that a women should never see the moon directly on the day when she has observed the Karva chauth fast. She then offers water to the moon and seek its blessings. She now wishes for the safety, prosperity and long life of their husbands. At some places, this is how the festival ends but in some places it is a ritual to observe the fast till a woman sees her husband's face. Though this culture has been popularized by the Bollywood tales, it has now become a ritual at the festival. This marks the end of the day long fast and the woman can now eat the special food prepared for her.