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Karva Chauth - Why???

This was my first Karva Chauth as a married woman.

Oh my Waheguru. Where do I even begin? History. That's where I will begin. An explanation and then the history of this very interesting Hindu holiday. . . .

So first of all, what is it and why do Hindu women celebrate it? From what I understand, back in the day in Northern India, men were often going off to fight in countless numbers of wars and battles. Their wives were left alone at home and they were understandably worried about the lives of their husbands and whether they would return or not. There were no cell phones. No overnight delivery mail. No proper means of communication whatsoever. So, these women would pray for the safety of their husbands. In addition to this, they would fast for the entire day. This tradition has carried on to today and to this very day Hindu women around the world fast so that their husbands may live a long life.

For the war issue, I get the praying. But the fasting? Why did they fast? Was it like they were trying to strike a deal or a bargain or a sacrifice with God? Like, "Hey God, if I stop eating for a day, will you return my husband to me!?" Who decided that? Who decided that one should abstain from eating food? Who made the length of the sacrifice one day? And did it work? What about those who fasted and still lost their husbands in the war?

I don't know much, but I don't think God works like that. God is not a human in where you have to do something to get something. God is not head of human resources at your job. You don't have to skip all of your breaks and work overtime to get a promotion. God is not the bouncer at a club you want to get into. You don't have to pay him extra money on the side just to get into the elite club (Although some people try!). God is not on the deciding committee at the University. You don't have to suck up to God, you don't have to bribe God, you don't have to bargain with God!

God is God. All knowing. All pervading. And all giving. If I were to guess, I would say that God wants one thing and one thing only from us humans. Remembrance. Remembrance of him/her in every moment of our lives. Remembrance to stay connected. Remembrance so that we can go back to where we came from. 

But maybe back in the day thats what women thought they had to do. Okay. But now lets fast forward to today. Are our men still going off to war? Some of them yes. But the women that I've seen who are practicing Karva Chauth don't have husbands going off to war. Their husbands are going to their 9 to 5 office jobs. The traffic is really bad and I guess that's similar to going into battle but still. . . . . !

Here's the crazy thing. Women nowadays are going to work too. Women are driving in traffic too. Yet it's still only the women who do the fasting. There are a few exceptions. I've seen some men fasting for their women too. And hat's off to you men because I'm all about the equality. After all, why does only one gender get the prayers and sacrifices for a long life?

Look, it's a Hindu holiday/festival. I may not get it. But I will respect the Hindus who want to do it. It is a part of their faith and their tradition and their culture.

My biggest question here is: Why are Sikh women participating in this? Is it part of our culture? Is it part of our tradition? Is it part of our religion? Is it what our Gurus wanted?

Given the historical context, this is what baffles me the most: Okay, Hindu women fasted and prayed for their men who went off to war. But in Sikh history, OUR WOMEN WENT TO WAR TOO!!! Our women were armed with the same kirpans that our men were armed with. Our women rode horses along side the men. Our women fought side by side with the men. Look at Mai Bhago who led 40 Sikh soldiers back into battle against the Mughals in 1705. Did she stay at home and fast?! No! She helped!!! She was trained in martial arts, archery, combat, and gatka. And you know what? She, yes SHE was a bodyguard for Guru Gobind Singh!

Whenever you go to a Sikh Camp, or a Gatka class, is it only guys who are learning Gatka? (If so, there is a problem.) No! Gatka is taught to both men and women, so why on Earth would a Sikh woman fast for her husband's safety and livelihood when she too has a role to play in the safety and security of her home, her family, and herself?

The Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji has mentioned fasting over and over and over again. Here are just a few examples:

Page 75, Line 17
ਤੀਰਥ ਵਰਤ ਸੁਚਿ ਸੰਜਮੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਕਰਮੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਨਹੀ ਪੂਜਾ ॥
Pilgrimages, fasts, purification and self-discipline are of no use, nor are rituals, religious ceremonies or empty worship.
Guru Nanak Dev   -  view Shabad/Paurhi/Salok

Page 905, Line 4
ਵਰਤੁ ਤਪਨੁ ਕਰਿ ਮਨੁ ਨਹੀ ਭੀਜੈ ॥
The mind is not softened by fasting or austerities.
Guru Nanak Dev   -  view Shabad/Paurhi/Salok

Page 1301, Line 14
ਜਾਪ ਤਾਪ ਨੇਮ ਸੁਚਿ ਸੰਜਮ ਨਾਹੀ ਇਨ ਬਿਧੇ ਛੁਟਕਾਰ ॥
Chanting and deep meditation, penance and austere self-discipline, fasting and purification - salvation does not come by any of these means.
Guru Arjan Dev   -  view Shabad/Paurhi/Salok

I just don't think it can get anymore clear than that. I don't understand why our community participates in this so much. Well. . . . .

I've mentioned this before.  I understand this feeling of belonging from a certain place and wanting to celebrate all of the cultural aspects of that place. No matter where I am in the world, I will always remember American Independence Day, American Thanksgiving, and Christmas. But on Thanksgiving,  I am not going to eat a turkey because I am a vegetarian. And I firstly remember all of the Native Americans that were wiped out by the Europeans. And I don't think Christmas is the actual birthdate of Jesus Christ but it is fun to give and receive gifts with your loved ones.

This was my first Karva Chauth as a married woman. And yup, you guessed it. My mother in law believes in it and practices it because it's just a part of her culture. The night before Karva Chauth she gave me a beautiful brand new suit and some jewelry and she said that even though I don't practice it or follow it she still wanted to gift it to me. It was just something she wanted to do because she grew up with it. I was incredibly humbled by this action of hers. I almost wanted to fast not for the holiday itself but just to make her happy. But I didn't. Instead, I chose that day to eat super healthy and 100% vegan. I ate breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks!  In my mind, a healthy sustainable diet contributes to a longer life way better than a fast. And at the end of the day I did an Ardas for myself, my husband, and my family.

And look, I'm all about that intermittent fasting. And if you need to fast for health reasons, go right ahead. But if you and your husband really want to live a long life then BOTH of you need eat healthy, exercise, don't stress, and remember Waheguru.

Bhull Chuk Maaf
Christine Kaur

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