Observing Annual Fast Day Presents Challenges for American Hindu Women

October 20, 2005

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


On October 20, 2005 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, "As a wife, mother, accountant and active school volunteer, [Sangeeta Sarraf, a Hindu-American] is busy. But Thursday was unique: She observed her 23rd Karwa Chauth, a Hindu religious day in which married women fast for their husbands.

If Sarraf had been in her native India, she would have joined other Hindu women for a day of relaxation as they went through the day without food or water. For her and other Hindu women across the state and country, Thursday was work as usual... The challenges area Hindu women face with the widely observed holy day reflect the struggles of a growing number of Hindus across the country who strive to negotiate their faith and their lives in a culture that seems at odds with that faith. In the process, they may well be defining for future generations what it means to be a Hindu in America... The Pluralism Project at Harvard University, which seeks to raise the awareness of religious diversity through research, lists 732 Hindu temples and centers in the United States. But only a few, including the Hindu Temple of Wisconsin, observe Karwa Chauth in a communal way. The Hindu temple in Pewaukee held prayers Thursday for roughly 200 women.

Karwa Chauth is one of the most widely observed Hindu ritual fasts among married women."