New Delhi, Oct 22 (IANS) Tuesday was an important day for the married Hindu women in north India as they observed "Karwa Chauth", a day-long fast for the love and longevity of their husbands.
The women who begin the fast before sunrise spent the day without drinking water. The festival, symbolising love and dedication, is observed on the fourth day after the full moon of the Kartik month of the Hindu calendar, nine days before Diwali, in October or November.
Karwa means earthen pot, while chauth means fourth in Hindi. Lord Shiva, his wife Parvati and their son Kartikeya are worshiped on this day along with the 10 'karwas' filled with sweets.
For 25-year-old Rashi Srivastava, it is her first Karwa Chauth. "I am very excited as we stay away from our family and my mother-in-law has explained to me all the rituals," she said.
The women dress themselves in the most beautiful manner by wearing bright, colourful saris or lehengas. Donning the best jewellery, colourful bangles, bindis and mehendi (henna decoration), they prepare for the day in advance.
During the weekends, the markets were filled with women buying ornaments, decorated plates. They stand in long queues to get their palms and hands hannaed.
"It is very important to apply mehendi on this occasion, so took out time during the weekend and applied it," said Namrata Kapoor, a homemaker in Delhi.
The festival is popular among women and it augurs good time for shop-owners and the artists who apply mehendi as they earn extra money.
"Everytime we try to find something new, so that the women get attracted to it. This year we have beautiful pots with intricate designs," said Ravi Singh, a shopkeeper at the Lajpat Nagar Central Market.
In this festival, along with the husband, the mother-in-law also has an important role to play. She gives or sends 'sargi' - a food packet - to her daughter-in-law who in return also gifts her.
The function begins in the evening when women gather from all over the neighbourhood, narrate mythological stories and sing songs.
After looking at the moon through a sieve, the women break their fast and drink water from their husband's hand. The husbands also give gifts to their wives, and in some cases, when they keep fast, they break the fast together.
"I have been fasting with my wife for the last four years. If women can pray for their husband's long life, why should not the men do the same. We will break our fast together in the evening," said Rajesh Sood, an IT consultant based in Gurgaon.
Though a practice for the married women, even the unmarried girls keep fast, praying to get good husbands.
"My boyfriend's mother has sent me a gift. He is far away, so I am going to break fast looking at him through the sieve via Skype," smiles Swati Gupta, a 25-year-old from Delhi.