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Fasting for longevity

Between blind devotion to a husband and its complete denial lies the true spirit of Karva Chauth.

india Updated: Oct 10, 2006 18:38 IST

Long ago there was a Princess called Veerawati, who had gone to her parents' place for her first Karva Chauth after marriage. She was very frail and weak and her brothers could not see her endure the physical pains of being without food and water. So they reflected a mirror behind the trees and told their sister that the moon had surfaced in the sky. The ignorant sister saw the artificial moon through a sieve and broke her fast. Soon she got a message that her husband had passed away. She was emotionally broken and prayed to God to return her husband to life. Her bhakti was rewarded and her husband did get his breath eventually.

Such stories of Karva Chauth are ritually repeated when married women perform the evening rituals on the fourth day of Kartik for their husbands' longevity. Today the fast seems more a platform to showcase glitter and glamour in cities.

On the one hand, girls, especially in rural areas, are still educated to "worship" their husbands. He may beat you, discard you for another woman but you must love and serve him faithfully: these are the values taught by mothers to their daughters. Such lessons don't really harvest a good relationship. They merely teach you to be submissive and accept any brutality.

On the other end, is a class of women who have drowned themselves in the wave of "modernity". They don't shy away from severing the sacred thread for the flimsiest of reasons. Somewhere between these two extremes, is perhaps the true spirit of Karva Chauth.

Marital love is a form of bhakti. But bhakti does not signify that you blindfold yourself to your husband's wrongdoing or blindly follow what he says. Bhakti means learning to share decent values, goals and methods of living.

No emancipation can wash away the sacrosanct place of marriage in Indian society. But squabbling the whole year long and then fasting for a day has no spiritual pertinence. Why not celebrate the giving, loving thought behind Karva Chauth every day instead?