Karva Chauth

The grandson of Genghis Khan, Babur "the tiger" Badishah was, especially for the barbaric times he lived in, moderate to the territories he conquered - but the humane treatment of those nations he conquered did not prevent their resistance. And when, over successive generations, his Mughal Empire (founded 1526) extended to and then through India, the Hindus there understood resistance against wars of aggression as a profound duty to their Kings and Republics.

Warfare was conducted differently there and then than here and today due to cultural and scientific differences.  Culturally, armies were composed entirely of men - instead of being composed of both men and women, fighting side-by-side.  Scientifically, Satyagraha had not been conceived of: warfare was conducted with the object of forcing or subjecting another to the will of the victor - who was obligated to bring woe to the conquered.  The stakes were total: genocide, either by the destruction of your language, religion, culture and way of life, or by the actual massacre of every living being in your nation, was the penalty of loss. And reprisal was guaranteed: if you failed to conquer your enemy, they would retaliate and bring the same terror to you. It should not surprise you that war was easily resorted to - without the science of Diplomacy to avoid war, people lived in terror of the least provocation of their neighbors.

The Mughals differentiated themselves by incorporating a primitive form of Satyagraha: their Islamic beliefs required non-violence against civilians and non-combatants, and precluded the genocide of cultures and peoples.  However, the "merciful" method of warfare was new to India, and so the defenders were under the belief that no mercy could be expected - and defended themselves accordingly.

The Mughals would begin their campaigns about the time that wheat was planted. In what we call September, or October: the fourth day of the dark-fortnight, or krishna paksh, of the month of Kartik was from prehistoric times a festival in prayer for a good harvest.  Having planted their crop, the male members of the Kingdoms and Republics would prepare to meet the Mughals in war - and the festival became a prayer for the preservation of husbands. The tradition subtly altered, and with all men absent, the practice now was undertaken wholly by women.

The practice is a puja of devotion by women for their husbands: recognizing their husbands by their notable absence.  Men are therefore precluded from participating in the ritual.  Women decorate themselves with cosmetics and their best clothes, as if in courtship.  The night before, and before the dawn, they eat large meals and drink - in preparation for a fast.  As a person does not eat when they are distressed, the women emulate this behavior by fasting. The women perform no other duty that day, emulating the distraction of their worry for their husbands.  They spend the day visiting their female friends and relatives, exchanging small gifts.  They reaffirm their friendship and relationship, and promise to protect and support each other, should their husbands die. In some regions, children are reminded of their duty to care for their mothers and siblings should their fathers die, and the desire for children by childless families is expressed.  It is forbidden to wake anyone who is sleeping, to do work, or to try to make anyone happy: to do nothing you would not do for a friend exhausted by worry for their husband's safety. The fast is concluded by husbands feeding their wives.

The region has not been in danger of a Mughal invasion for many hundreds of years, and presently the puja has become a festival celebrating spousal romance.  And most recently, as the culture of India has changed, the romantic festival has become criticized for being sexist - and men are being required by new social norms to perform the puja of devotion.  As the puja cultivates the practice of spousal devotion, necessary in the Ashramas of Grihastha and Vanaprastha, this is doubtlessly an improvement to the practice.

The puja also provides opportunity to reflect on warfare.  Even if your enemy is "merciful," the duty of self-defense is required of anyone who cannot flee or avoid conflict. And extends to the defense of spouses, children, and even those friends and family - and strangers - who share our world. And extends even to sustaining our way of life.  However, the manner of the warfare we undertake is just as important and non-violence is as much a duty as resistance.

How is non-violent warfare undertaken?

Logic reveals that an opponent's antagonism is motivated by fear, desire and hatred - and when these are engaged, the antagonism will end and friendly relations will result.  When the cause of aggression is engaged instead of the opponent, the form of warfare is called Satyagraha: for it is only by love, respect and friendship that hate, desire and fear are quelled.  The means of inspiring that love, respect and friendship are Diplomatic in nature, but incorporate economic, martial and even spiritual strategies.

Advances in logic permitted an even more recent innovation in non-violent warfare: co-operation.  Co-operations are those which are jointly administered: when required, even two sworn enemies can and will work together. In working together, mutual respect and trust is gained.  And interdependence develops, providing the grounds to more easily facilitate Satyagraha.

Today is a good day to remember that we are all one human family, we are all friends, sharing one world. Even if we fight or squabble, we are social by nature, and we always seek to return to a state of peace and harmony - and are inclined to love each other.  We must take care of each other, and remain devoted to each other.