As the soft breeze ushers in the festive season in India, the streets come alive with vibrant colours, bustling markets, and the unmistakable fervour that is Karva Chauth. This celebrated day has, for generations, epitomised the quintessence of love and devotion, a tradition that has withstood the tests of time and change. To many, this day is a testament to unwavering love, an enduring connection between spouses.
As I ponder its continued significance, my mind gravitates toward the heart of the matter: the fasting tradition. For centuries, Karva Chauth's fasting ritual has been a symbol of devotion, as wives abstain from food and water from sunrise until the moon graces the evening sky, praying for their husbands' well-being.
The question lingers: does this tradition still symbolise love and devotion in today’s context?
As the editor of a platform that reveres storytelling, I find myself drawn to this festival for two reasons. One, the obvious: the stories that are submitted by our contributors who keenly explore and question this festival. And the second is a bit more personal.
In 2019, a new chapter of my life began as I embarked on the journey of marriage. The year unfolded with a tapestry of dreams, excitement, and inevitable adjustments. As the day drew near, I found myself enveloped in anticipation.
I come from a Gujarati home where Karva Chauth isn't celebrated in the way I’ve watched countless actresses donning vibrant sarees, their mehendi-adorned hands clutching intricately designed sieves, my excitement knew no bounds. Here, too, we find a divide, for the reel and the real seldom mirror each other perfectly.
As the date of the festival approached, something rather peculiar occurred. Neither my mother-in-law nor my husband initiated a conversation about Karva Chauth. I found myself reluctant to be the first to broach the subject.
Nearly three years later, one evening, my in-laws, husband and I were sipping coffee together on one of their visits when the conversation and her intentions finally surfaced.
In that long-overdue conversation, I discovered that my mother-in-law had been waiting for me to speak about Karva Chauth just as much as I had been waiting for her. She understood that as a working, modern woman, I might not be inclined to fast, especially since I was catching two flights for work that very day.
She believed that tradition could be flexible and that the spirit of love and devotion could find its expression in myriad ways. She knew how challenging it would be if the situation were reversed for her son to fast, manage flight changes, attend meetings, and so on.
This got me thinking. As society evolves, shouldn’t its traditions?
“Do I want to change society?" one of our authors asks. “Yes. Can I change it? How I wish! Do I know how to change it? Not a clue! All I know is - I don’t want to be the woman who is constantly causing so many troubles.” The challenge arises as to how we may weave age-old traditions into today's contemporary world because, "I care about my family and want to be someone who is there for her family and keep it together.” - Confessions Of A Feminist Married Woman In India.
Karva Chauth finds itself at a crossroads, and the onus is on us to adapt, should we choose to do so. This process of evolution is not without its challenges.
For some, empowerment may come from upholding the tradition as it is, a reflection of their freedom to choose. For others, it may manifest as a modification of aligning the ritual with the values of equality and mutual respect.
“I know the fact that even if I don’t keep a fast for my husband, I will still pray for his well-being, for my children and for myself too,” one of our authors writes, “I am sure that it doesn’t make a difference to my prayers if they are offered on an empty stomach or a full one.” The depth of love and prayers cannot be evaluated in terms of keeping an empty stomach.” - Just Because I Don't Oppose Karva Chauth, Doesn't Mean I Think It's Fair.
Can a festival like Karva Chauth evolve to accommodate diverse viewpoints and choices? The answer, it seems, is as intricate as the festival itself.
Yet, it's important to remember that these questions are not intended to be criticisms but rather invitations to reflection. Karva Chauth, like any living tradition, is allowed to have layers and complexities. It's a generation with one foot firmly planted in the past and another in the future. Their reasons for celebrating this festival are as diverse as the array of stories we hear.
Today, five years have passed since my wedding, and the conversation around Karva Chauth is long-forgotten in my home. Nevertheless, as the day approaches, I often reminisce about my first, missed opportunity to celebrate.