Nov 10, 2021

4 min read

Karvaa Chauth

Again starting with an advertisement hoarding going round WhatsApp group — this time I do not think there is any controversy about it as religion is not involved. I marvel why religious sentiments get hurt; irrespectively I wonder why people get hurt collectively about any issue. I too am part of this collective phenomena and I too get aggravated about issues and question the process of getting hurt. I am definitely better equipped to deal with situations when not bogged down by hurt — I am sure it is same with all human beings. Well, I am amused with the hoarding — the photograph shows policemen putting up the hoarding which says –

Tie your seat belts while driving a car;

Put helmet without fail while driving a scooter…

Do not keep your faith on karvaa chauth.

Chauth is the fourth day after new moon. Lot of South Asian systems work on lunar calendar, there are specific names for ascending and descending moon. Karvaa Chauth is the day when many Indian women fast through the day for their husbands’ long life and break the fast after offering water to the moon which invariably at this time of the year plays pricey and decides to play hide and seek with clouds. Human landing on the moon has done little to change this custom. I do hope someone will take the trouble to find the origin of this custom and share in response.

Beenaji, a home maker, whose home I live as a Paying Guest since 2015, does this fast in the traditional way, along with three Chauth fasts during the year in Rajasthan. This year 2021, Ramesh, her husband, not only convinced her to have saboo daanaa (tapioca) khichdi in the afternoon (on health grounds), he also soaked saboo daanaa the previous night and made it for her in the afternoon and sat with her so she partakes it. I have been telling her each year that human beings also an Indian woman have landed on moon but then I also am on the lookout for the moon to come out so she can take food. My democratic values come in the way for thrusting my notions on her. Ramesh said that this is not a ritual of Rajasthan but has come from Punjab. Haryali Teej and Ghangaur are local women centric festivities of Rajasthan. Ghangaur is a sixteen day celebration of marriage which denounces dowry.

Gut (Bheela), my sister, an engineer by education and a professional since leaving college, married in Punjabis (there is rarely marrying a man, a woman gets married into families and societies) and followed the traditional Karvaa Chauth each year with fanfare for thirty seven years. She does it as Biji, her mother-in-law asked her to do just this one. This is a good enough reason even for me, to do something out of sheer love and respect for another woman. Poorvi Vijan, her daughter, an architect, a business woman also does it for similar reasoning, married into Punjabi family. Tanvi, her elder daughter married into Marwari family does not fast but Rohini, another sister (my aunt’s daughter) married into a Marwari family follows the traditional Karvaa Chauth. But this ‘good enough reason’ does not dilute the devaluing of women. In Bengal there is a ritual which is ‘Jamaai shoshthi’ — a day when son-in-law is treated royally, basically valuing men. It surprises me no end that this valuing and devaluing is not visible to people. That this subtle promotion of valuing and devaluing is carried forward through generations in the patriarchal systems is completely invisible to most, is still more surprising.

A girl working for bringing in change towards shared with me another advertisement about Karvaa Chauth by Dabur Fem. Ritu Bannerjee has brought out the drawbacks of the (https://feminisminindia.com/2021/11/02/living-in-dystopia-a-commentary-on-controversies-from-fabindia-to-dabur-fem/ ) advertisement in the article in Feminism in India and she ends with — ‘I am unable to have faith in my constitution any more, in any system of justice, or any assurance my country provides. I see that intolerance and violence are rampant and silencing dissent is slowly becoming the norm. I am worried about the state of affairs, and I hope you are too’. I am too optimistic but that is just one part of my faith in humanity to struggle against injustice and capacity to dissent. The other part is knowing the strength of collective struggle which is generally not made available in education system. What I see in the Dabur Fem article is the creativity of the person who thought of the idea which would have been not easy in this patriarchal society even with Pride rallies in the past few years and the Article 377 revoked in 2018 (https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/two-years-since-article-377-annulment-lgbtq-community-still-battling-prejudice/article32534479.ece 10.11.2021/12.26 p.m.). To imagine, that women can look at each other and open fast is straight forward challenge to the patriarchal norms of marriage and male dominance, is height of creativity. I am against colour hierarchy of course!

Another aspect about this fast which cannot be thought of as norm or exception to the rule but it is realities of the social structure that women (read wives) can demand gifts in the name of the fast as per their economic status and gives a free hand to the market centric capitalist world. But then so is Dhanteras, where vessel to gold is considered auspicious to be bought.

I listen to radio, only Vividh Bharati and all programmes land up talking about Karvaa Chauth in awe, specially the one which is done without even taking water. I do not think it was forced down the throat in this manner in my childhood. I just do not get it — why this need? Even on Television I believe all soaps promote to make it pan-Indian. In the same manner the British had made Sati (widow burning) a pan-India issue, to state that people of this place were not fit to govern themselves, and eventually it was the struggle of people which broke the empire where the Sun never set.