Why Only Women Fast For Men??

October 14, 2011
Tomorrow is Karva Chauth and last year on this occasion I wrote a post "Karva Chauth - A Modern View On The Ancient Ritual " analyzing the rituals followed, the tale or tales behind the festival, the scope and myths attached to it.  The post was liked by many of my dear blogger pals and was also selected and picked up by AsiaMag.

A woman looks at the moon through a strainer on Karva Chauth
This year I have another question to ask.  Why is that only women fast in Indian society?  Why is it defined that way that women - be it the mother, the wife, the wife to be fasts for the health and life of her son, or husband or husband to be? 

I really don't want the male reader to think that I have a problem with women fasting for the men? But why is it that it has been preached by our religion, by our customs, through the folk lore, the myths that it's the woman who must abstain from food in order to be pious enough to pray for the man/men in her life?

Vrat Savitri Puja performed by women

As you know that  Karva Chauth is rampantly followed in North of India in which married women and engaged girls fast for their husbands or husband to be.  There is another fast for husband known as Vat Savitri Puja  which is mainly observed in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Orissa and Maharashtra. Also, South Indian married ladies especially of Tamil Nadu and Karanataka observe festival with the different name as Karadaiyan Nonbu or Savitri Nonbu Vritham.
 When we are talking about the husband or the husband to be, then how can i forget the Solah Somwar Vrat ie. fasting for 16 Mondays in a row to appease Lord Shiva so as to get a good husband. 

 Not just for the husband , but Indian culture has many fasts for the well being of one's son or sons. Be it the Ahoi Mata fast or Ahoi Ashthami in which the mother fasts for the well being of her sons or the Chath Pooja where the mother or the elder woman of the family fasts and performs elaborate fasting, pooja etc for the welfare of the family.  (However, I have many acquaintance from Bihar and UP and they say that although it's for the family, but it's mostly for the son and so the mother fasts for the son.)

Chath puja
Does it not baffle you as to why different regions of our country prescribe different fasts and rituals for the welfare of our sons or husbands, but there is not even a single fast for the well being of the wife or the daughter!!!

Ahoi Mata picture in front of which mothers perform puja

Does it not amuse you as to how the women who fast for their men slog the whole day, cooking, cleaning, washing, serving food to other members of the family while she is hungry the whole day and at times without water? I don't think there is any consideration for this in our average Indian families.

What is it? Abstinence prescribed only for women for the sake of the males of the family? The energy of piousness of the woman to be used for the betterment of the family? Just what do the scriptures  and the rituals mean when they say WOMEN SHOULD FAST FOR MEN?

Or was it because earlier men worked and women stayed at home (and that is taken as no work!), so they could get into all this stuff to keep themselves busy? It sounds absurd to me.

Coming back to the most famous fast for married women - Karva Chauth. Have you, the men reading the post, ever fasted for your woman? At least skipped one meal on this day for her?

Or let me ask the women, have you ever asked or expected your husband to reciprocate your gesture?  Or have you slogged all day at office and home, helping your children with their homework and prepared dinner for the whole family?  Did this question ever cross your mind that love needs to be reciprocated by your partner, so why does he also not join you in fasting for a day?

Let me know what do you think about it? Feel free to share about any other ritual related to the post.


PS: I remember a course mate of mine ( with whom I attended a training and the whole class got discussing this issue passionately) who fasts every year for his wife since then and calls or smses me to tell this to me every year!


Rituparna Mukerji said...

These are all rituals to keep women busy and make them feel responsible for all that happens. Sick Indian rituals, there really irk me.

Nittinj said...

well, I haven't read Hindu mythology extensively, but the no. of female gods in Hinduism are far more than any other religion in the world. I dont think Karva Chauth fast is something ascribed in ancient texts.

The current state of affairs in India society are more of a cultural issue, which is further complicated by acceptance and amalgamation of lot ideas from different religions and cultures from all across the world in past 2000 years.

regarding fasting, well I agree with you. If fasting is done out of concern, show of love and/or respect, it should be mutual. But I guess fasting in Adi Sanatana dharma is more of an individual, spiritual activity so that the fasting men/women gets time to concentrate and look inside, reflect etc.

In any case, I totally agree with you that we should question all the rituals, traditions, whatever is written in ancient texts, rather then blindly following them without even understanding the significance and purpose.

kranthi said...

well...i dont comment on this.bcoz it is our culture.Its their opinion to do or not.

Prateek said...

I remember your last year post.
Actually come to think of it; Indian cult has acknowledged man as the bread earner of the family, his protection is must BUT it never said women can't work. 
People in jiffy and in this long course of time tangled the unsaid words into stereotype. 

"Welcome back :)"

BookWorm said...

well, frankly, having grown up in a not-so religious environment, i for one have never fasted for my woman.. (nor i know whether men do generally fast for women).. anyhow.. 

that apart, when it came to thinking about similar rituals, in my place, i had to ask one friend of mine, as she is more religious than me.. for her,  there is this occassion called 'Thiruvathira'.. one can split this word to read 'Thiru Aathira'.. where Thiru means something pious and 'Aathira' is the birth star of Lord Shiva. so thiruvathira is the birthday of Lord Shiva and women do fast on this day.. 

apart from that i have heard someone say that women do fasting on the occassion of 'Savitri Puja'. Savitri was a pious woman who loved her husband 'Satyavan' very much.. the rest of the story i am not that sure.. may be.. google knows better than me..! but this is mostly observed in teh brahmin communities of northern kerala and tamilnadu.. and not among other. 

having said that, your post compelled me to think about what could be the case for women to fast for men.. and probably the only explanation i can give is because in earlier days.. men used to go out for finding food, be it hunting (venturing into forest), fishing (venturing in sea) etc.. and the woman of hte house is expected to keep herself pious and faithful..it was generally believed that, their men would die once the woman go astray...  so this fasting for their men..probably carried on from that tradition. 

all other readers are welcome to correct me if i am wrong.. 

Alkagurha said...

My husband has offered to fast with me but poor guys patience is running out.....I do fast but take fruit and milk. it cleanses my system, thats it. 

Vikram Waman Karve said...

You have a point - but then please ask the women why they fast for their husbands. They do it out of their free will and choice.

In a lighter vein - women fast for men, and men fast for the nation!

RESTLESS said...

Vikram Karve wrote :
You have a point - but then please ask the women why they fast for their husbands. They do it out of their free will and choice. In a lighter vein - women fast for men, and men fast for the nation!By VIKRAM KARVE on Why Only Women Fast For Men?? at 6:43 PM

RESTLESS said...

Kranthi wrote :

well...i dont comment on this.bcoz it is our culture.Its their opinion to do or not.By kranthi on Why Only Women Fast For Men?? on 10/14/11

RESTLESS said...

Vikramji, you asked a very valid question, and i was expecting somebody to ask this!

Knowing all this, and having an opinion on all this, I also fast and today i was thinking what has made me stick to this ritual despite my strong opinions against it.

Its the fear of the negative consequences, if a woman fails to keep the fast properly, which is one major reason why women fast. That fear is ingrained in us through the folk tales attached to it. Rituals bind us by fear. I am not saying everyone is only scared, but there wud be many who it with a lot of devotion, and i have no problem with that. My question was why does all the fasts are meant for women?

Jack said...


Because we perforce fast for the rest of the year. LOL. Jokes apart, a good follow up on your post of last year. I am not an expert on religious matters or rituals but whatever I know makes me feel that in olden times the humans were wild. If you follow evolution of mankind you may agree with me on what I say. Marriage was not a must right from the time mankind came into being but was given religious hue later to ensure that there is no might is right in keeping as many females in harem as one wanted to with muscle power. Religion or in earlier days Power of God is what was used to keep mankind on leash. Man was considered provider and as such it was felt that woman should marry one who can meet her needs. This is what in my thinking is what lead to making all rituals of fasting etc. As we progress and women are finding own standing in the society, it is but natural to rethink our customs to get rid of following the same blindly. I had left it to my wife to take her own decision and as she fasts, I try to see that she is comfortable. We had left it to our DIL also to do what she wishes to. 

Take care

PS : I will be heading to terrace in a few minutes to see if moon has risen so she can break her fast.   

sunil deepak said...

I know of couple of men who fast occasionally because they feel it is good for their health. But I feel that men and women don't need to fast to show that they care about their husband/wife. May be with women getting education and working, slowly the mindsets will change and festivals like karvachauth will be transformed into something more equal for men and women. :)

Deepa said...

There is no 'free will' or 'choice' involved here. It is mental and social conditioning over the ages, handed down from generation to generation. Where women are made to feel guilty of wrong doing should they 'choose' to abstain from such a fast. 

Warwinrules said...

I remember a friend telling me that his cousin called him on the big night this year asking him if he cud see the moon as they cud not see it frm their place.. :)

Well, I'm of the opinion that culture is a dynamic thing n it adapts itself to assume the overall sentiment. So, who knows.. if a lot of people feel the same way, maybe the concept can go away or change in another few decades..:)

But I am so much a sucker for tradition.. so hope it doesn't :)

But I personally know friends who also share the fast with their wives.. :)

Very interesting thought though :)

Vaish said...

First of all, I do not understand this whole fasting rituals!  Why do one has to fast for another person's well being??  I would fast, may be..but to reduce some calories!  If we have to support and run a family, we should eat properly, without skipping any meals.  To me, this is a ritual created by some cruel superstitious sadist person!  And it seems to me like punishing a person!  I do understand that these statements could offend few people's ideologies and religious belief. Do not take me wrong here.  I do not mean fasting is wrong! We can fast for God, which is common in India! But again, God will not curse us if we do not fast!  When will people wake up and realise these things is a question that will remain unanswered for god-knows-how-long!  

PURBA RAY said...

Karva Chauth is essentially a North India ritual and I am sure it is superstition and fear that drives women to blindly follow these customs.

Reema said...

I too have written about such customs.  I don't like the reason behind these customs and it is a two way street!

meera said...

i seriously dont like dis ritual at all .... no sense 2 it at all ... y dont men try 2 fast for once

neha said...

I guess I am a little late in replying.. I came across your post when exactly i was thinking about the same issue. I am not sure about what happened in stone age, I don't think in stone age anybody cared about getting married also. People were rather very free and happy at that time I believe. Our  vedas suggest women in ancient india had the right to rule and wasn't looked down upon but respected. Then what has happened to so called modern India??? For me these are some of the ways to show men's superiority over women! Countless fasts for husbands, sons and not even a single for girls and wives. What does this suggest? Who have made these rules?? Are they Gods, who have made these rules?? And if they are humans, why do we blindly follow them??? Don't we have our own brains to realise what is right and what is wrong??
!!!!!????!!!!! Think please!!

Cuteanu111 said...

i too want my husband to fast for me...but he says he cant stay hungry for the whole day....and if i will nt fast for him... my mother and my mother in law wl feel bad and moreover i think my husband wl feel bad that i could nt do this for him :(
 want to stop fasting...dont knw what to do

soniya said...


I was searching on the net about why men never fast for their wives and came across your blog. Really yaar m sick of these fasts, just got married last year and guess what every month my f______ mother in law tell me to do some fast. I did a inter caste marriage and don't know about all these rituals.I sometimes feel that did I make a mistake marrying love of my life, or this everyone has to do.

Why there is no fast for wives, or may be it doesn't matters much if we die. No body cares about the wives and these MIL they are like taking revenge for what they have done in their past.

Is that really true that the life a men increased by fasting???????????????????????????????????????????

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