Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Moment For Life ... "

I fly with the stars in the skies,
I can no longer try to survive,
I believe that life is a prize,
But to live doesn't mean you're alive ...

This very moment I bring
Put it on everything, that I will retire with the ring ...
We done did everything they can think of
Greatness is what we on the brink of ...

I wish that I could have this moment for life, for life, for life
Cuz in this moment I just feel so alive, alive, alive

~ Nicki Minaj ~ Moment For Life ~

On the eve of an annual one-day festival celebrated by South Asian women, I felt the urge to blog about why.  Why we do it.  Why we take this moment in our lives to fast from sunrise to moonrise.  And if you are not aware of what this festival is ..... it is called Karva Chauth.

Karva is another word for “diya” or a small earthen oil lamp.  Chauth means “fourth” in Hindi, referring to the festival falling on the fourth day of the dark night.  So the festival, Karva Chauth, is a time when married women from North India and parts of Pakistan fast for the safety and longevity of their husbands ... and sometimes even unmarried women observe the fast for their finances or desired husbands.

As I researched about the festival, it was difficult to find how it originated except that the festival coincides with the “wheat-sowing time”.  It seems that big earthen pots in which wheat is stored are also sometimes called “karvas”, so the fast may have been initiated as a prayer for good harvest in some regions.

So besides the fast, what else is involved?  Well many women prepare for Karva Chauth in advance by buying cosmetics, henna, jewelry and a decorated plate, also known as “puja thali”.  

My experience ... we usually prepare our plates, which is used on the day of the festival.  And just before sunrise on the day of Karva Chauth, my mom, sister and I awake to feast.  A side note is that traditionally, this feast or “sargi” is given by your mother-in-law.

And so the fast then begins with dawn ... with no food or water during during the day.  Usually we pass the day, by spending time together the ceremony, which is usually held at our local Hindu temple.  And believe me, this is the time when you will find some of the best dressed women ... in marital clothing, expensive jewellery and beautiful henna designs.

The ceremony itself requires us to sit in a circle with our puja thali while the story of Karva Chauth is narrated, usually by an older woman or a priest.  There are regular pauses and that is when the puja song is sung collectively by the women and we pass our puja thalis around in the circle.  Upon conclusion, we await the rising of the moon.  And once the moon is visible, with our husbands nearby, we view the its reflection, offer water and secure its blessings ... a brief prayer in asking for your husband’s longevity.  The husband then gives his wife her first sip and feeds her with the first morsel of the day ... the fast is now broken and a complete meal can be had.

So ... you may still be pondering why?  And believe me I have had lengthy conversations from both sides.  Critics wonder what role the men play in all this?  Supporters say it symbolizes true love, like Valentines Day!

Interestingly, there have been calls to modify or eliminate the festival as some feel it to be anti-women, perpetuating the dependency of women on men.  Some even feel Karva Chauth is a symbol of cultural repression of women.  

But isn’t up to the individual to decide what gesture of love is right for them?  Just take the following top three gestures I found, where some may think is “over the top” ...
  • Richard Burton bought Elizabeth Taylor a 69.42 carat diamond
  • Shah Jahan, Indian emperor, built the Taj Mahal for his wife Mumtaz Mahal
  • After Marilyn Monroe’s death, Joe DiMaggio placed a 20 year standing order with a local flower shop to have long-stemmed roses placed on her grave three times a week

So my parting thoughts?  You decide what is right for you because as long as your intentions are pure, it doesn’t matter how people judge your actions.

To my lovelies 
  may the moon light fill your life with peace, love and harmony  
Happy Karva Chauth 

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