Karva Chauth - How it All Began and Why the Number 4 is So Significant
Celebrated annually either in the month of October or November, Karva Chauth is a Hindu festival celebrated in Northern India. During the year 2020, the number four is very significant for Karva Chauth customs. There are four days of Karva Chauth, and there are four tales of the origin of Karva Chauth.
Karva Chauth takes place on the fourth of November, and it is important to know how this day has come to be. The lunisolar calendar, which is based on the Moon phases and times of the Solar year, sets positions of astronomical objects straight and allows us to know the day many Hindu festivals (like Karva Chauth) falls on. As for this specific festival, Karva Chauth is on the fourth day after a full moon, which is based on the Hindu month Kartik.1
“That all sounds great,” you may say, “but what happens during Karva Chauth?” you might continue to ask. It is simple. On Karva, married women, typically from Northern India, fast from the moment the sun rises until the moon rises. The reason they do this is for their husbands, specifically for their longevity.
One story about the origin of Karva Chauth is that women prayed for the safety of their husbands leaving home and going off to war.1 They prayed for the safe return of their husbands. Another story comes from the friendships of two females.1 Arranged marriages used to be very common for Hindus. During this time, a woman would make a female friend to keep as her “sister”, so she does not feel homesick.
There are four traditional tales of Karva Chauth, one being the narrative of Queen Veervati, the second being Mahabharata, thirdly the narrative of Karva and fourth and finally the story of Satyavan and Savitri.1
The Narrative of Queen Veervati1
As for the Queen Veervati, she was a beautiful woman who had only seven brothers. Queen Veervati did a fast where she ate absolutely nothing starting from sunrise and prepared to fast until she saw the moon. Queen Veervati’s brothers could not bear to see their sister fasting for so long, as she appeared weak and hungry, so they created a mirror with a fake moon being shown in the middle. After three morsels of food, she came to know that her husband was dead, and she cried through the night. A Goddess then told her that her brothers tricked her into believing the moon had risen and said to repeat the fast with full devotion this time around. Veervati repeated the fast and her husband came back to life.
It is believed that Draupadi has observed the Karva Chauth fast. Arjun, the protagonist of Mahabharata and the husband of Draupadi, went to the Nilgiris for penance and the Pandavases went through a hard time through his absence. Because of this, Lord Krishna was asked for help by Draupadi, and Lord Krishna told her that Goddess Parvati asked for the guidance of Lord Shiva when she was in a similar situation and Lord Shiva told her to observe a fast called Karva Chauth.
The Narrative of Karva1
There was once a woman named Karva who loved and devoted to her husband quite deeply and thus it gave her spiritual power. While her husband was taking a bath in a river, a crocodile caught him, and Karva kept the crocodile with cotton yarn and asked the God of death to send the crocodile to h*ll, to which Yama refused. Karva then said she would curse the God of death, so the God of death being afraid sent the crocodile to h*ll and gave Karva’s husband a long life.
Satyavan and Savitri1
When the God of Death came to take Satyavan’s soul, Savitri begged for his longevity, but the God of Death refused. This led Savitri to stop eating and drinking and she followed the God of Death, who then said she may have a wish that was not the life of her husband back. Savitri asked to have children and the God of death agreed, but Savitri said she did not want any other man to be the father of her children. Because of this, the God of death was forced to bring her husband back to life.
For more information about Karva Chauth and the tales behind the origin, it is recommended that you read the Wikipedia page for Karva Chauth, where the information from this blog post was borrowed from.
- “Karva Chauth.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Oct. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karva_Chauth.