Unique 'Karva Chauth' ceremony in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, November 9 2004

Fifty South African Indian couples sang to each other, fasted and reaffirmed marriage vows in a unique mass ceremony here modelled on the "Karva Chauth" Hindu festival in which wives pray for their husbands' long life.

The event organised on Friday evening saw newly married couples and ones that had been married for half a century fasting for the day, renewing their vows and ending the fast by feeding each other with a full moon in the backdrop - an essential element for the festival.

Pandit Yogesh Argya, who organised the festival, told IANS several people had enquired why Karva Chauth was not observed in South Africa as it was in India.

"The festival has been observed by people individually with wives fasting for the well-being of their husbands, but not on a large public scale."

India observed Karva Chauth on Tuesday last week.

"In South Africa a lot of things are done for convenience and we also find that spouses start taking each other for granted in the chase for material success," Argya, editor of the magazine "Hindu Insights", explained.

"We decided that we would give Karva Chauth a different dimension. We made husband and wife fast for a day to appreciate each other and at the end of the day we had a prayer and made them renew their vows in terms of marital union. They also ended their fast by feeding each other something."

Among those who renewed their vows were Alasha and Anesh Meghraj, who have been married for 13 years. "It was very fulfilling and, though I didn't eat or drink anything all day, I didn't feel bad," said Alasha, adding that she would definitely do so again.

"It was very emotional, reaffirming our vows 13 years and two children later."

Anesh, who admitted that he had not fasted himself, said: "It was an affirmation of our love and I felt very good that she was doing it on my behalf."

Ranee Ramparsadh sang the popular golden oldie song "Suhani Raat" (Beautiful Night) for her husband Billy, who she said was there in spirit even if he could not be there in person because he was recovering at home from a stroke.

"I have done Karva Chauth many times in the past personally, but never on this large scale. I think it was excellent. When I went home and told Billy that I had pledged to be married to him for at least another 50 years to add to the 43 years that we have been together, he beamed from ear to ear!"

To popularise the event, which Argya hoped will become an annual one, a Bollywood theme was used.

"We had a karaoke type event with songs from movies related to Karva Chauth being shown on a big screen. Wives and husbands sang to each other and had lots of fun."

Argya explained the delay of half a week in marking Karva Chauth in South Africa: "Everyone works in South Africa, so we had to take it to a weekend for convenience."

Another innovation, since the event took place indoors, was to have a small pool in which the light of the moon was reflected with an artificial light.