FaithWorld

Indian Hindu wives fast, sometimes luxuriously, for husbands’ health

(Indian women with their hands decorated with henna paste pray during the Hindu festival of Karva Chauth inside a temple's premises in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh October 7, 2009/Ajay Verma)

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.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania turns to God for fiscal relief

(The state capitol dome over Harrisburg, 24 December 2004/Pollinator)

 

Pennsylvania’s debt-ridden capital of Harrisburg has tried every form of fiscal belt-tightening, from layoffs to furloughs to filing for bankruptcy. Now, it is turning to God.

Mayor Linda Thompson said on Friday she will join religious leaders in three days of fasting and prayer to encourage “a cooperative spirit among government leaders, the business community and citizens.”

“I am open about my faith and will be participating in the voluntary prayer and fast,” Thompson said in a statement. The city is now weighing a financial rescue plan presented by the state.

Popular Indian guru Swami Ramdev to start hunger strike against corruption

(India's yoga guru Swami Ramdev speaks in support of anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare during a "fast unto death" campaign in New Delhi April 8, 2011. In the background is an image depicting Mother India/B Mathur)

Swami Ramdev, India’s most popular and powerful yoga guru, rejected an appeal by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday to call off a hunger strike against corruption, the second major challenge to a government losing its authority due to rampant graft. The charismatic guru, who dons a saffron cloth thrown over his bare torso, runs a $40 million-a-year global yoga and health empire and has millions of followers. Some 30 million viewers tune into his daily yoga TV show.

These followers are expected to rally behind him as he begins on Saturday a “fast-to-the-death” in Delhi until the government agrees to pass a tough anti-corruption “Jan Lokpal” bill and set up a task force for repatriating illegal funds held in foreign bank accounts by Indians.