Why no wife should fast for her husband this Karva Chauth

Why no wife should fast for her husband this Karva Chauth

The day fourth day after full moon in the month of Kartik is here. Does this mean anything to you? If you’re reading this post, of course it does. It’s Karva Chauth. The day when all women fast for the long and healthy lives of their husbands, the day when women really do believe that depriving themselves of even water after the sun is up will protect their husbands from premature death.

Should you do it? NO.

Sounds backward? It is. Before the widespread advent of science, it might have been understandable if the women of a certain culture believed that the lives of their husbands was in their own hands. Upper caste India has always attempted to subjugate women in every manner possible. Sociologically, such subjugation works to keep power limited to those who already possess it - a fistful of brahmin and kshatriya men, who comprise the loudest and strongest voice in the system, although they are the smallest in physical numbers. Telling a woman that unless she fasted regularly for the longevity of her master, her husband, he would die was one way of keeping the entire upper caste female population within their grasp. In the event of their men’s early deaths by accident or illness, it was the simple matter of convincing widows that it was the result of their religious nonchalance.

If Karva Chauth was practiced earlier, it definitely would’ve changed today from what it was at the times of our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmothers. Until the nationalist movement gained momentum in 1885, when the Indian National Congress was founded, no one except upper caste women were even asked to follow these traditions. From that point in time, all women became subject to them, in the name of protecting the culture of Mother India from the British. 70 years after the independence of the nation, we’re still following those rules.

Times change. Our customs should too.

Well into the 21st century, when everyone logically knows that what you do or don’t do has no effect on the body of another, however close your bond, the fact that this notion is still being carried on is laughable. Yes, religious practices serve to turn individuals into a community, which is necessary to keep society intact. But these practices need to evolve with time. That time has come and gone, and the onus is now on us to buck up and take a stand, to say we’re not going to let the men dominate us anymore. Think of Karva Chauth not as a vrat to increase the length of your husband’s life, but that of your relationship together. And why should only you put in the effort to make it so? Why should it be one-sided? There are other ways to show your husband that you love him. But make sure that he’s equally involved in the process. Some options for this are:

  1. Soak tulsi leaves in hot water and give each other a ceremonial bath.

  2. Cook a meal together, set it before your altar as offering, then consume it as prasad.

  3. If you’re really intent on depriving your body of solid and liquid food for the day, get your husband to do it with you, like these five men who fasted last year to demonstrate their gratitude to their wives.

In the end, the choice, of course, is yours. But I urge you: if you want to continue to refuse food and water for a few hours every year, don’t ask those of us who don’t want to to toe your line. I’m not even married, and in the last two days, two people have told me that I should ‘practice’ for when I am. That’s not fair, is it?