Dear Ratna Pathak Shah, Observing Karwa Chauth Should Be A Choice

nowadays, the practice of Karwa Chauth is no longer gender biased because men too observe this fast for the betterment of their female partners. Women are now rewriting the traditions and meanings of customs and festivals. They are no longer walled by the sexist traditions and are rather owning what significance any custom has in their lives.

Rudrani Gupta
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The festival of Karwa Chauth has always been contentious because of its gender-biased roots. Many feminists dismiss the festival as it looks at valuing the life of their husbands more than themselves. While others consider the festival as a choice that women make out of love and concern for their partners. While which stance is right can be  a long standing debate but is enforcing a particular stance right?

Recently, Bollywood actor Ratna Pathak Shah opened up about the custom of Karwa Chauth. She criticised the festival as a part of the process of making our society conservative, superstitious and enforcing religion as an important part of life. Commenting on the festival of Karwa Chauth, Shah said, “Isn’t it appalling that modern educated women do Karwa Chauth, praying for the lives of husbands so that they can have some validity in life? A widow in the Indian context is a horrible situation, isn’t it? So anything that keeps me away from widowhood. Really? In the 21st century, we are talking like this? Educated women are doing this.” Shah even compared India’s bend towards religion and superstitions to oppress women to Saudi Arabia where women are the most affected.

Ratna Pathak Shah Karwa Chauth Comment

On a personal level when Shah was asked if she observes Karwa Chauth for her husband, she outright denied it and said “Am I mad.”

Shah’s criticism of Karwa Chauth deserves respect because she has the right to opine and make personal decisions even if they are against the norms of society. Her belief about Karwa Chauth cannot be simply dismissed as an anti-religion stand because Karwa Chauth is about the women who are involved in it. And being a woman herself, she has the right to derive different meanings of the festival meant for women.

However, Shah went down the slippery slope of enforcing a particular perspective as the new norm in society. By calling women who observe Karwa Chauth as mad and foolishness of an educated woman, Shah forgot the idea that every woman has the right to make choices in their life. Feminism is not about enforcing a particular thought process it is rather about providing women with the freedom to choose what they want in their lives. If a woman strongly believes in the idea of Karwa Chauth, then enforcing them to change will be a disrespect of her freedom to choose.

I totally agree with Shah when she says that Karwa Chauth is a result of the fear of women that they will have to live a miserable life as a widow. It is undeniable that widows in our country are met with atrocities just because they don’t have a husband’s support. Living and dying as a &t=1127s">married woman is considered to be a blessing in our society. So praying for a husband’s long life becomes imperative for women to remain valid. And this cannot be counted as a reason to observe Karwa Chauth fast because it emanates from the patriarchal perception of women’s lives. If a woman observes the fast just to escape the consequences of widowhood it is not of her free will.



However, if women observe it as a festival they like to celebrate then they should not be judged. Why must observing religious customs be labelled as traits of uneducated people? Do education and modernity mean a person should against every custom? Why can’t we normalise following religious customs and festivals to seek harmony?

In fact, nowadays, the practice of Karwa Chauth is no longer gender biased because men too observe this fast for their partners. Women are now rewriting customs. They are no longer walled by the sexist traditions and are rather owning what significance any custom has in their lives. Blind faith should never be encouraged, but the catch here is being blind to what a person is believing in. If the superstition about Karwa Chauth is filtered to remove the patriarchal narrative, it becomes an act of wishing for the wellbeing of the partner whom one loves. What do you feel about it?

The views expressed are the author's own.

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