Indian Hindu wives fast, sometimes luxuriously, for husbands’ health
On Saturday, Kanika Syal will wake up before dawn to begin a fast at sunrise, and not eat or drink until she sees the moon at night — all in the hope her husband will have a long life. Karva Chauth is a centuries-old tradition observed by Hindu women annually in north India, where they dress up and fast for the day to pray for their spouse’s good health and success.
“Since a very long time ago, we have been looking at our mothers celebrate,” says the 25-year-old Syal, who is making her Karva Chauth debut as a newlywed. “It is our turn now.” But it’s different for the teacher-turned-homemaker, who, as a member of India’s rapidly growing middle class, will be doing a lot more than her mother ever did for the festival.
While it is customary for women to apply henna on their hands, buy clothes and expect gifts from relatives, the new generation of fast-keepers, with money to spare, is exploring a range of pampering options. They are spoilt for choice.
Syal will indulge in a 5,000 rupee ($102) diamond facial and body spa treatment to make sure she looks her best. Also on the must-have list for the urban elite are botox, laser-hair reduction and chemical peel treatments at spas and beauty parlors offering Karva Chauth packages.
“There is a 30 to 40 percent increase in the number of patients who look for cosmetic procedures around this time,” says Amit Bangia, head of the department of dermatology at the Asian Institute of Medical Sciences.
The origins of the festival are shrouded in mystery, but one tale tells of a queen being duped by her brothers into breaking her fast before moonrise, leading to the king’s immediate death. She is given a second chance, fasts faithfully — and he returns to life.