Every year during Karwa Chauth Vrat, we get to hear critical voices on Hindu fasting (especially Karva Chauth) from both men and women who feel they are liberated and are better mortals than the poor souls that go hungry for the long life of their husbands. The usual points they make are - there is no logic that just by fasting on a particular day of the year like Karva Chauth to get the life of husbands increased. The new generation of women should stop observing Karva Chauth so that all wrong traditions gradually removed from Indian society.
Most Indian newspapers which enthusiastically writes about Karwa Chauth Vrat and rituals and spiritual experiences of Hindu women who have undertaken the particular fasting make it a point to publish at least one article which criticizes the Vrat. The equation is 9 articles on Karva Chauth Vrat, spirituality, rituals, shopping, mehandi, vrat katha etc and finally one article opposing the ritual by a self proclaimed feminist whose sole aim is publicity by being different.
In 2009 Times of India has given the space of criticizing Karva Chauth to Himani Dalmia, a writer, who published her novel ‘Life is Perfect’ in 2009.
After giving a lesson in history on Hindu fasting from a negative point of view, Himani Dalmia feels that fasting like Karva Chauth Vrat is the powerlessness of women.
Himani Dalmia asks in an article titled Feeding Hungry Hearts
Does the modern Hindu woman need to believe in this powerful, mysterious force that is on her side? Sometimes, she finds the spiritual power of a fast to be unconvincing and supplements it with a rational explanation. Fasting can clean out the system, she says. It builds willpower, self-control and moral character. Such arguments are dubious, of course, for the scientific benefits of fasting can be debated. Even Mahatma Gandhi, perhaps the greatest modern exponent of fasting, wrote in his autobiography that if fasting is not accompanied by a powerful spiritual longing, it can in fact stimulate one's passions, lower one's self-restraint and "end in hypocrisy and disaster".
A modern rationalization is usually exactly that: a rationalisation. It is never the driving force behind the observance of vrats. To find the motivation, one needs to search backwards in history, within the powerlessness of women and the promises made by reassuring vrat kathas.
Is this a powerlessness that modern women want to stay associated with? It is time to understand the exploitative, repressive character of fasting and be done with this antiquated tradition. The modern Indian woman need not put herself through an agonising, humiliating and ultimately harmful ritual that she no longer needs in order to fulfil her desires. After all, this was a ritual born of a hunger for some influence over her own life and, in a rapidly equalizing world; there are other means to feed that hunger.
The most important and vital fact all these critics miss is that in Hinduism nothing is forced. When there are millions of Hindu women fasting there are other millions that don’t fast. To keep or not to keep Karva Chauth Vrat is a personal choice.
Our Muslim brothers and sisters just completed the month-long fasting during the Holy month of Ramzan. I did not hear any critical voice from that community on fasting it is because they respect the spiritual values of a person.
All these silly critical voices on Hindu fasting are purely meant for cheap publicity and just for the sake of opposing it and to show that they are different. Some use it as a short cut to fame through cheap publicity.
It is good that you don’t fast and you have the freedom to not to fast or observe Karva Chauth. Just as you value your freedom, you don’t have any right to hurt the religious sentiments and freedom of millions of people who observe Hindu Vrats.