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Karwa Chauth is a Hindu festival that is primarily celebrated by married Hindu women. On this day, married Hindu women keep Nirjala fast, which means fasting even without consumption of water, from sunrise to sunset. The reason behind this fast is to pray for their husband's life, health, and safety.
According to the Hindu calendar, Karwa Chauth is celebrated on the fourth day after Purnima in the month of Kartik.
On this day, married Hindu women dress in new clothes (preferably red because signifies a happy married life) and apply henna to their hands. At the same time, women observing this fast get together to celebrate it by narrating the Karwa Chauth Vrat Katha and singing folk songs, which make this a lot more lively. Some women also worship Goddess Parvati in the Karwa Chauth puja followed by Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesh, and Lord Kartikeya. And, the fast is later broken after having a glimpse of the moon.
Married Hindu women have gathered to perform the Karwa Chauth puja.Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Interestingly, there are many stories related to Karwa Chauth. Some of them are:
Story of Queen Veervati
This is the most interesting story. There was a queen named Veervati, who was the only sister amongst seven brothers. She spent her first Karva Chauth as a married woman at her parents' house. She began to fast after sunrise but by evening, she was desperately waiting for the moon to rise because she couldn't control her thirst and hunger any longer. Seeing this, her brothers became worried because their beloved sister was suffering from thirst and hunger. So, they begged her to break the fast but she refused. Seeing her in distress, the brothers tricked her by placing a round mirror in a Pipal tree, which made it look like the moon had risen. So, Veervati fell for her brothers' tricks and broke her fast, and the moment she sat down to eat, news came that her husband is dead. This is the reason why married Hindu women observe such a tough fast for their husband's life.
Story of Karwa Chauth in Mahabharata
Interestingly, it is believed that Draupadi also observed the fast of Karwa Chauth for the safety and long life of her five husbands. Once, when Arjun had gone for penance in the Nilgris, the rest of the Pandavas faced many issues in his absence. That was when Draupadi remembered Lord Krishna for his help, and he reminded her that in a similar situation, Goddess Parvati had kept the fast for Lord Shiva. Inspired by this, Draupadi too kept the fast of Karva Chauth for her five husbands. Since then it was believed that the Pandavas were able to face every problem.
Therefore, Karwa Chauth is celebrated by married Hindu women all across the world with full enthusiasm. Though, there is a sect now that has started calling this age-old ritual “patriarchal".
Keywords: Hinduism, Women, Karwa Chauth, Festivals, Patriarchy.
As the festive season begins with the coronavirus pandemic still lingering, doctors have advised people to avoid fasting during Navratri or Karwa Chauth and make necessary changes to safeguard their health, especially if they are recovering from a Covid infection or belong to the high-risk group.
Doctors believe that fasting could reduce the innate defence mechanism, as well as adaptive immune responses of the body.
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“People who are Covid positive or are recovering from Covid infection should avoid fasting during Navratri or Karwa Chauth. Those who are considered highly susceptible to the virus — elderly, people with diabetes, hypertension or other comorbidities, and pregnant and lactating women — should in no way fast during the pandemic,” said Col Vijay Dutta, senior consultant, internal and respiratory medicine at Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, New Delhi.
“Intermittent fasting shifts the primary energy source of the body from glucose to free fatty acid (FFA) which helps burn fat. However, fasting may reduce the body’s innate defence mechanisms as well as adaptive immune responses as immune cells which rely on glucose to sustain their function and proliferation. Reduced glucose availability and hypoinsulinemia during fasting may have negative effects on immune mechanisms,” he explained.
Hypoinsulinemia is a condition in which the body doesn’t respond well to the effects of insulin. The pancreas tries to compensate by making more insulin. Insulin resistance may eventually lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Want to read more in Hindi? Checkout: अल कायदा तालिबान का करीबी बना रहेगा: संयुक्त राष्ट्र अधिकारी
The festivity of Navratri has already started and will continue till October 25. The Karwa Chauth will follow on November 4. While the doctors advised against the fasting, they also said that those opting for fasts should ditch traditional diets which are heavy on fried cuisines.
“Those who are fasting should opt for healthy food as they break their fast instead of the usual fried and oily food. Take fruits to stay hydrated and fill with natural glucose whereas packaged juices add sugar in the blood. Fruits like banana, pomegranate, papaya, apples, and berries add fibre while nuts such as walnuts, almonds and pistachios can be a good source of protein and healthy fat. Opt for light meals comprising multigrain chapati with vegetables or paneer instead of oily and deep-fried pakoras or parathas,” said Rakesh Pandit, senior consultant, internal medicine, Aakash Healthcare, New Delhi.
The doctors also advised pregnant and lactating women not to fast in such conditions. They cautioned that the whole day fasting could interfere with natural metabolism causing hormonal imbalance which may lead to acidity, bloating, nausea and discomfort.
Gauri Agarwal, senior gynaecologist & fertility expert at Seeds of Innocence, New Delhi, said that the whole day of fasting can affect the blood sugar levels in pregnant women.
“Pregnant women or lactating mothers should avoid fasting on both Navratri and Karwa Chauth. Day-long fasting can create stress on the body and adversely impact the blood sugar level, pushing it higher than normal.
“Long-term fasting in pregnancy and breastfeeding can cause hormonal imbalance and interfere with natural metabolism – both have adverse impacts on the women’s body. If one is insistent, make sure she is taking fluids such as fresh juice, coconut water, milk or fresh fruit smoothies,” she advised. (IANS)