This year’s Karva Chauth was last week on October 8, 2017. No practice is as loved by North Indian women but so reviled by a type of Indian women, the type that writes in HuffPost India. This year was no exception. Guess what search for “Karva Chauth” on Huffingtonpost.in revealed – 12 articles all venting rage. Or simply look at the partial list below:
- Patriarchy Always Has A Feast On Karva Chauth
- Our Rituals Are Cruel To Women, And Tradition Is No Excuse
- Karva Chauth: Desperately Seeking Romance… And Embracing Misogyny
- Karva Chauth: Anti-Feminism In Designer Wear
- Karva Chauth: A Womanly Celebration Of Cultural Misogyny
- Karva Chauth And A Woman’s Right To Choose
- Why The Wife In Me Doesn’t Care To Question Karva Chauth
Wow! What is this Karva Chauth? Why does it drive the insane rage of these HuffPost India women?
It is quite simple, really:
- “Karva Chauth is a one-day festival celebrated by Hindu women in Northern India, in which married women fast from sunrise to moonrise for the safety and longevity of their husbands“.
Two important corrections right away:
- Karva Chauth is not an integral or indivisible part of Indian Dharma or Hinduism as it is often erroneously called. It is simply a practice, a pratha (प्रथा) or rudhi (रूढि). Pratha is virtually a synonym for practice and Rudhi is an entrenched pratha, often entrenched to a point that it is not to be questioned. Yes, Karva Chauth is actually more of a rudhi than a pratha in North India where married women feel compelled to practice it or risk some social and familial criticism.
- Karva Chauth is NOT a festival. It is an important rudhi in North India. Now a prosperous North India has converted it into a joyous celebration in which women have pre-karva-chauth dinner parties the night before and have post-Karva Chauth parties after breaking the fast. Naturally, expensive gifts to the fasting women are now mandatory as well as expensive sarees & jewelry they adorn while breaking the fast.
So what drives the insane rage of HuffPost women about this practice, we wondered. So we decided to read the first article in our search, an article by Puja Bhakoo that described Karva Chauth as a feast for Patriarchy. Ms. Bhakoo describes herself as a “creative writer”. Let us how creative she is via excerpts from her article. Our own comments are embedded in red in italics:
- The urban Hindu wife draped in servility (is wearing a saree servility? so wear a red dress), a big bindi of enslavement on her forehead (not by the woman in the HuffPost photo above), the mehndi of servitude on her palms (palms of the woman in the HuffPost photo have no mehendi), a mangal sutra (the mother of all married tokenisms) around her neck (not worn by the woman in the photo above), dolls up to fast and pray for her Lord and Master (actually she is supposedly praying for her own economic survival). A pallu on her head (no pallu over the head by the woman in the above photo) completes the look of mental confinement and surrender (not evident in the woman in the above photo).
- This is a slightly aggressive way of introducing the Big Daddy (does Puja Bhakoo have “Daddy” issues? that might explain a lot; feminist women & most men would use “the mother of all” adjective instead of “Big Daddy”;) of all Hindu festivals, you’d say, right? Probably yes.(Is Puja Bhakoo showing her North-India centered racism? probably yes. Because how can a practice that is NOT celebrated in a majority of Indian states be termed as most important of all Hindu festivals? Clearly Diwali is the “mother of all Hindu festivals”; guess Puja doesn’t know that)
- KC is at best, discrimination wrapped in pseudo-love, and at worst, a subtle instrument of social control. So when I say that Karva Chauth (KC), the Hindu Valentine’s Day, is nothing but a grim reflection of a dystopian mindset that smacks of chauvinism and reeks of gender bias (guess insanity is now creativity?gender bias? tomorrow a wife’s collection of shoes could be described as chauvinism reeking of gender bias because wives can be accused of dressing beautifully due to inherent male chauvinism? also read our offer in section 2 below).
- For the urban woman, KC is fast becoming a win-win. She seems to bask in its celebratory aura, the mushy romance, those brownie points with a beaming ma-in-law, the generous gift from an obliged husband (an equivalent of the modern-day push-present for new moms). What are a few hours of fasting in place of all those goodies? It’s good to detox anyway! (wow!! so a practice can be simultaneously a win-win for women and also one reeking of servility, gender bias, chauvinism? what does Puja Bhakoo want? A win for wives and loss for husbands? is that her definition of gender equality? We nominate Puja Bhakoo for the Indian Supreme Court)
- My problem is that I like to envisage a gender-neutral and proportionate playing field for men and women (good! that means wives must buy expensive gifts for husbands & wealthier wives must pay alimony to poorer husbands, right Puja?). A cultural scenario that does not subject one spouse to social discrimination at the hands of the other. (you go Girl! together let us stop the gender-biased practice of male bridegrooms buying expensive rings for their female brides; are you with me, Puja?)
2. My personal offer for a gender-neutral Karva Chauth
No woman in my extended family, either in my generation or in previous generations, has ever practiced Karva Chauth. Despite that and entirely in the interests of reparations for the current female-centered practice of Karva Chauth, I hereby offer to practice Karva Chauth in 2018. What would be my cons & pros?
- Cons – I would have to fast on the Karva Chauth day in 2018 from sunrise to moonrise. That should be a fast of say 16 hours. Not so bad. After all, I fast for 16 hours once a year for my cholesterol blood test anyway. And the only gift I get for that fast is a prick of a syringe.
- Pros – For suffering through a one-day fast, I would enjoy a sumptuous pre-Karva-Chauth dinner the night before and a celebratory feast on breaking my fast after viewing the moon through a glass. Yes, drinks would flow with abandon in the post-fast party. And I would get a new suit, preferably a Canali because a Brioni is too dressy; and I would also get other gifts from my loving & grateful female spouse like say the latest Driver (my swing needs all the help it can get).
Man, this would be a sweet deal. So sweet that I would be happy to rent myself out as a one-day husband (platonic, of course) to any beautiful, rich wife whose husband is not committed to a gender-reversal Karva Chauth. Could you help me find such a one-day wife, Ms. Bhakoo?
3. Isn’t Karva Chauth a Survivalocracy?
The last pure-Indian period in India is called the Imperial Kanya-Kubja (today’s Kanauj) period.When you read about the social practices or Dharma-Shaastra of that period, you do not find any mention of either the Karva Chauth term or of any rudhi that resembles Karva-Chauth. So this practice must have originated in a later or middle-age period or later.
If you scan the economico-social practices of the middle ages in India, Europe & Middle East, you notice that wives generally didn’t have rights to marital property & assets (unlike in the previous millenium). So the husband’s wealth & assets generally went to the next male inheritor in the family.
This was certainly the practice in Indian families in the middle ages. The wife did enjoy the benefits of wealth & power while her husband was alive. But that ended after the husband’s death. That wealth went to the next male inheritor, often the brother, son or nephew. And the family responsibility & power went to the wife of that male inheritor. The newly widowed woman would then become a powerless dependent of the male inheritor.
So you see that a living husband, however bad, was the most important asset of a wife in those days. The death of the husband was not merely a grievous emotional loss for the wife but also a total catastrophe from a monetary & social perspective. No wonder wives were willing to do whatever it took to ensure a long life for their husbands including fasting on Karva Chauth day. This makes it a survivalocracy and not necessarily patriarchy. Because the male didn’t get any material benefits from it.
Indian society has always been creative in building religio-social practices around important objectives. Such practices (pratha or rudhi) went a long way towards delivering a more emotionally richer and comforting life for wives.
Today the situation is different. Wives generally inherit the assets & wealth of the husband after his death. So the benefits of Karva Chauth are mainly geared to warding off misfortune and preventing an emotional tragedy. Therefore, in its wisdom, Indian society has now converted Karva Chauth into a celebratory event that binds the family together.
Today, Karva Chauth is a practice of choice. It can be celebrated by wives alone or jointly with husbands. Who knows it may soon be celebrated by husbands alone for the long lives of their wealthy wives. After all, we husbands love gifts too.
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