Karvachauth

Today is Karvachauth and like so many others, Swati has also kept a fast. No food, no water from 4 a.m. last night till the moon comes out tonight, about 17 hours. This is in addition to the myriad prayers and rituals which must be performed throughout the day. All this for me, her husband – for my long life and health. Wow! I’d love to meet and shake the hand of the one who started this. At least for a day in the year we husbands get to live like kings, ?.

I don’t know the exact story behind this festival or why worship and faith are so often based on one’s ability of sacrifice. All the religions I know have some form of sacrifice to purify the body and soul. For me God is like a perfect father, more loving and caring than anything else. But most religions are based on the concept of sacrifice to appease their deity. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the blessings. And if you give up everything and live like a Sadhu in the Himalayas, you get unconditional salvation. But I can’t figure out the greater truth in that. How would that work? Processes like procreation, communal harmony, advancement of humanity would all fail miserably. I think it would be pretty self-centered to leave everything, including all my responsibilities, and chase my salvation. Even if I was to find it, would it be worth it?

In the evening today, we would be going to my in-laws place so Swati and my mother-in-law can perform the rituals and rites of married women. Most of the things are do-this-and-do-that but I don’t think that even my mother-in-law knows why they are done the way they are. I have asked her several times and the only reply I get is that this is the way she has been taught by her mother and her mother’s mother before that and so on. No one knows why they are doing a particular ritual, they just know that it is done that way and that way alone. I, of course, have no clue, but then, there is no ‘wife’s day’ in Hinduism so I really don’t need to worry about it. But still, if it was me in her place, I’d try to figure out why things are done the way they are and tradition is not an answer I can live with.

I’m sure there must have been a valid reason when all these rituals were started. Its like a custom in the villages around here that I had witnessed. For festivals and community prayers, the main priest would find a lamb and put a large wicker basket over it for the duration of the prayers. When I later asked him why, he just told me that its part of the ritual. I came to know much later from a historian that in ancient times, goats and sheep were generally kept in the house. And during festival celebrations generally held in the courtyard where the animals were also kept, the lambs used to run around and create a nuisance. So the priests used to keep them under a wicker basket while the ceremonies were going on. And it became a ritual.

These days no one keeps farm animals at home but the ritual remains. So now the priests go out of the way to find these animals and keep them under the basket near the prayer places as part of the ritual. You can’t convince them otherwise, it has become part of religious processes in these parts.

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