Last Sunday I fasted on the Hindu festival of Vat Savitri Vrat (or Vat Purnima as it is know in some states). This is the day when many Hindu women in India fast and pray to the divine for their husband’s prosperity and long healthy life.
The same festival appears to me to be celebrated on a completely separate date as Kawa Chauth in October. Being a novice to the whole religion I went with what my google Hindu calendar told me – I’m sure I will give it another go in October also as I really enjoyed the whole festival, be it by myself on my boat in London, thousands of miles away from the Hindu partner I was praying for!
So I can already hear the feminists among you crying out “why would you fast for a man?! why should you make this sacrifice?! You are not even a Hindu!” I would like to share with you my reading of the Savitri story and my own personal reasons for doing this pooja. I will begin with my interpretation of the legend of the Devi Savitri herself:
Savitri, beautiful daughter of King Aswapati was married to Satyawaan and she loved him to the moon and back. One day Lord Yama, the god of death came along to take her husband’s soul. Savitri was having absolutely none of this so she followed him around demanding it back being a right pain in his backside. To relieve this headache and make her go away he says he will grant her three wishes, but none of these can be for the soul of her husband back.
Savitri was clever (being a woman obviously) and first wished for the good health and long life of her inlaws. “Done” said Lord Yama, “Next?” For her second wish she asked for the long life and good health of her own parents. “No problem” said Lord Yama, thinking “well this is easy.” However, for her last wish she said “I wish for a son.”
“Ok no worries one son coming right up” said Lord Yama being rather dismissive about the whole thing.
“But Lord Yama, you know I am a virtuous and loyal wife to my husband – how can I get a son if my husband is dead – for you know I could never remarry or love another?”
“Oh drat! You’ve got me there woman!” Said Lord Yama “Well OK then – here is your husband back – I can’t break my promise of three wishes.”
And thus clever Savitri had outsmarted death and went on to have 100 sons and live happily ever after…
A lovely story I’m sure you will all agree, but why fast? The way I see it is that Savirti had some guts and determination and serious willpower. Hindus worship her as Devi (goddess) on this day as she embodies the feminine Shakti (energy AKA Girl Power!) which is so strong and smart and powerful that it can outwit even death itself – such is the power of love and call me a hippy, but the power of love is a good thing to celebrate.
Through fasting, meditation and prayer and exercising your willpower on your own body to ignore its desires, you can feel very empowered – of course spiritually there is a lot more to this – maybe I will write a further blog on the subject one day. You also get to wear your nicest clothes (a particularly glittery salwar kameeze suit in my case) and you are not allowed to do any housework all day long (oh well!).
At the end of my fast, with all that feminine shakti and looking beautiful and feeling accomplished and great I prayed not only for my own love, so far away, but for all the men out there because let’s face it they need it!
Women are not giving anything up on Vat Savitri – they are being reminded of their strength as women and the feminine goddess-like power contained in all women and mother earth. Very generously a bit of that is given out to the men in the form of prayer – after all, we do love them! Happy Vat Savitri London!
Here are some links to more information about the festival: