“ஓர் அடையும் உருகாத வெண்ணையும் உனக்காக நான் நோற்றேன். ஒரு நாளும் என் கணவன் பிரியாது இருக்கணுமே”
“Thee, I feast you with delicacies and butter. Endow my husband with longevity and health!”
Those are the hymns that we recite during the காரடையான் நோன்பு (“Karadaiyan Nombu”) fast. An age old ritual that runs deep in our culture, where the pious married women pray for the good health of their husband and damsels for their future husband, and be on fast for the entire day until pooja. This tradition comes from an interesting story where Savithri wittily wins over Lord of Death and bring her husband back to life. Oldies would say it is the epitome of chastity and devotion to husband. But as a modern day girl, this ritual has a totally different meaning to me. Before you read further, let me tell you: this ritual is one that I hold so close to my heart.
By starving myself or tying a yellow thread in my neck, I don’t prove my devotion to husband (Read “future husband”). Well, I am not trying to please some sadist deity who would be appeased by my hunger. But, I condition myself to shower that unconditional love on my man no matter what. I would go to any extreme and fight against the world to keep my man safe. That’s what Savithri did. The part I love the most is, she didn’t win by water works or sympathy. Sheer brilliance and wit made sure her husband comes back to life. Now, that’s a modern woman! She didn’t trade her life to bring him back alive. She didn’t sacrifice something awful to bring him back. But she went to the end of the world and faced Death himself to trick him and bring back her love. I am pretty confident that any day I could do the same too. Intelligence talk, bring it on! Sentiments and dam of tears, oh huh!
To me, Savithri is not the symbol of celibacy or chastity. She is the symbol of undeterred commitment and unfailing love. Now, that’s what every man deserves! A woman whom he can count to save his back and be strong for both during dark times. Not a maiden in distress who needs rescuing at every turn. A self-sufficient woman, who knows she is good on her own but still, wants her man around to make her life meaningful. A woman who can nudge and push him to be better and pat and soothe him in pain.
I grew up with this Savithri picture in mind. If chastity is your yardstick, I might measure only in millimeters. But if it’s being a headstrong woman with unconditional love is you yardstick, I might outgrow it.
So yeah, I didn’t starve myself for this Karadaiyan Nombu. I didn’t tie a holy sari. But yeah, I did tie the yellow thread and pray. Solemnly took my vows in the name of Savithri to be there for my husband, no matter what. To be strong enough for both. To protect him and help him grow in times of need. To take care of his health. To love him unconditionally. To bring him back from death and try my best. To never let go of him. To keep up my faith.