Karva Chauth is celebrated on the fourth day (-chauth) of the waning moon (the period after Sharad Poornima). It usually falls in late October, ten days or so before Diwali. According to tradition, women keep a day-long fast and pray to Goddess Parvati for the health and longevity of their husbands.
On a typical Karva Chauth morning, women wake up before sunrise, and eat a meal called sargi, which consists of dry fruits (like almonds, pistachios and raisins) and milk-based sweets given to them by their mother-in-laws. In the afternoon, the parents of newly-married women send a gift in the form of baya to their son-in-law’s mother. This gift can be in the form of clothes, money, or traditionally, simple sweets.
The women of the community gather in the evening at a temple or a chosen household and celebrate the festival with singing of bhajans. A pot of water, called karva, is placed next to an image of Goddess Parvati for the purpose of the prayers or puja. Women will wear their finest clothes and jewelry for the occasion.
In recent years, the cosmetics and make-up industry markets heavily to women in the days coming up to this occasion. Beauty parlors are heavily booked as women treat themselves to make-up and hair-dressing appointments. In essence, it is a day of rest, relaxation, camaraderie and building relationships for women.
The festival concludes in the evening with the much anticipated sighting of the moon in the night sky. The fast is usually broken after the women pay obeisance to the moon while viewing it from behind a veil or sieve. According to the Upanisads, the moon is the provider of all food and nourishment – so, it is logical that the fasting women would acknowledge the moon before eating or drinking anything to mark the completion of the fast. A sumptuous meal usually follows, which indeed is a tradition for all hindu festivals and occasions!