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Karva Chauth – Fasting And Food

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Every year, on the fourth day following the full moon in the Hindu month of Kartik, a one-day festival takes place. An ancient tradition, Karva Chauth is celebrated by married Hindu women across northern India. Women fast from dawn until dusk and pray for the health, happiness and longevity of their husbands. 

When translated from Hindi, karva means ‘pot’ and chauth means ‘fourth’. The reference to four is clear, with the festival falling on the fourth day of Krishna Paksh. The pot refers to a small earthenware vessel of water with a spout, which is symbolic of peace and prosperity and which plays a role in the ritual. 

Married women observing Karva Chauth fast throughout the day. They get up early, before sunrise, to prepare. Their make-up is immaculate and their clothes are specially chosen for the occasion. They drink water and eat food before sunrise. A dish eaten at this time might be gobi paratha or aloo gobi with raita. Women will also drink chai to prepare themselves for the day. 

It is considered the most important (and most difficult) fast observed by Hindu women. No food or drink can be consumed after the sun has risen and women follow a strict fast until the moon is in the sky later that evening. The fast is broken by a series of prayers, worshipping and offerings. It is also customary for husbands to give their wives lavish gifts. 

By the time the fast is broken the women are keen to eat and their husbands will often give them food. Husbands offer water from the aforementioned earthenware pot with a spout. 

The whole family throughout the course of the day prepares special dishes to eat once the fast is broken. Each family has their own particular dishes that they like to cook for the occasion; some stick to a very traditional style of food, others opt for a more modern approach. However, whatever the style of food, there will always be some kind of sweets on offer. 

Dum aloo is a recipe that is particularly popular during Karva Chauth. The dish is essentially potatoes cooked in tomatoes and spices. Traditionally cooked in a sealed earthenware pot, today dum aloo is usually made using the convenience of a pressure cooker. This dish is a great end of day comfort food with which to break the fast. 

Dal makhani is a popular Punjabi recipe and is served at all big events, including weddings, engagements and parties across the country. Thus, it is only right that it is included on the Karva Chauth menu too. Made with whole black lentils, red kidney beans, tomatoes, spices and cream, this dish is rich and high in calories. It is also one of those dishes that tastes even better after a day or two. 

Life in India is full of festivals and rituals. You can get a feel for the culture of India by eating at one of London’s popular Indian brasseries. Located across the capital, the food and atmosphere will make you savour every mouthful.

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