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Karva Chauth 2018: Hundreds of Hindu married couples fast for safety and long life in Ilford

PUBLISHED: 10:40 31 October 2018

Worshippers mark Karva Chauth in VHP Temple, in Cleveland Road. Photo: Ravi Bhanot

Worshippers mark Karva Chauth in VHP Temple, in Cleveland Road. Photo: Ravi Bhanot

Archant

About 2,000 worshippers from across the capital gathered at an Ilford Hindu temple at the end of a long day of autumn fasting to mark Karva Chauth.

Worshippers mark Karva Chauth in VHP Temple, in Cleveland Road. Photo: Ravi Bhanot Worshippers mark Karva Chauth in VHP Temple, in Cleveland Road. Photo: Ravi Bhanot

Married couples gathered in their droves at the VHP Temple, in Cleveland Road, on Saturday, October 27.

Originating in northern India, the festival had traditionally seen Hindu wives, and some Sikh wives, observe a fast without food or water – known as nirjala – from sunrise to sunset.

The purpose is to secure the safety and long life of their husbands.

But an increasing number of men, particularly among younger generations, now take part.

“It’s nice to see so many young and old women celebrate this fast,” said Ravi Bhanot, a committee member of the VHP temple.

“Though traditionally married women kept this fast for the long and healthy lives of their husbands, the tradition has evolved.”

He added: “A lot of men now keep this fast too for the reciprocal long life of their wives.

“The event is a bit like Valentine’s Day without the commercialism,” he added.

The day saw women, and some men, wake up at 5am and begin the day with a sergi, a breakfast meal, traditionally consisting of a dish called seni, which is similar to rice pudding.

Worshippers then commenced their day-long fast which can only be broken when they can see the moon.

In the evening, women gathered inside the VHP temple wearing henna tattoos and dressed mostly in red, the ceremony’s official colour according to worshipper Sushma Bhanot.

They then stood in a circle and exchange trays, known as thalis, bearing wheat and rice while a Hindu priest recounted folk stories.

After the ceremony, the women returned home to break their fast.

Sangita Goyal Big, 56, travelled to the event from her home in Barnet.

Commenting on the change in attitudes to the festival, she said: “It’s the way I have been brought up – I am happy to keep it for husbands.

“The younger generation, they have this issue, they want their husbands to fast for them because the world has changed.”

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