Karva Chauth is a festival for Hindu married women, practiced in the northern parts of India. They pray for a long and healthy life and prosperity of their husbands and ask God for the same husband for the next seven lives. It is celebrated nine days before Diwali, on the fourth day of the new moon. The word 'Karva' means an earthen pot with a spout, which is used in prayers. 'Chauth' means the fourth day and hence the name 'Karwa Chauth'. Married women perform karvachauth katha / karvachauth vrat for long life of their husband and take food only after seeing the moon. This year prayers of karvachauth will be done on 3 November 2012.
Women fast all day, sometimes keeping Nirjal (without even a drop of water) fast from sunrise until they see and pray to the moon. Fasting women dress up in their best clothes, new brides wearing their bridal dress and their new jewellery. Often, women also colour their hands with henna or 'mehendi'. They put a red Bindi (a red circle/spot) on their foreheads, and a line of Sindoor, vermillion colour, in their hair. When the moon appears, women offer water to the moon and then break their fast.
In olden days, husband’s wellbeing was paramount to women because they had no status in society as a widow. In the worst cases, they had to die with him on his funeral pyre. So, it was paramount to do everything to keep their man alive. Married women performed karvachauth vrat, by not eating/ drinking for the whole day and performing karvachauth katha and pooja in the evening. Now a days, however, the women often drink fruit juice, water, milk etc. through the day. Some will even eat fruits, but avoid taking normal food.