Monday, November 1, 2010

Karvachauth – How does fasting by wife increase the life expectancy of her husband?

In India, more specifically among the followers of a religion called Santana Dharma (popularly known as Hinduism), wives fast a day every year for the increase in lifespan of her husband. This custom is referred as ‘Karva-Chauth’. In this blog post, I would make an attempt to list out the scientific reasons behind this custom i.e. how does fasting by wife increase the life expectancy of her husband?

Foundations of Santana Dharma are deeply rooted in the advance scientific culture that once existed in ancient India. However, due to decline of science in India, several customs of Santana Dharma have become blind beliefs. Also, over the years, several customs have gone through unscientific modifications resulting in ambiguity. Nevertheless, there still remains several customs that reflect the rich scientific understanding of ancient Indians. Let us now, understand the scientific explanation for Karva-Chauth custom.

Fasting for a limited duration (~12 hours) has scientifically proven to have positive results on both adult men and women. Various publications on this can be found in the literature. Following are the core advantages highlighted by several researchers

  1. 1. Fasting results in biological process called ‘autolysis’, which is breaking down of fat stored in the body in order to produce energy. Autolysis leads to higher detoxification, a normal body process of eliminating or neutralizing toxins through body organs such as kidneys, liver, skins, etc. In layman terms, detoxification is equivalent to body cleaning.
  2. 2. It is proven that, during fasting, healing process occurs faster within the body due to higher efficiency in protein synthesis resulting in healthier cells, tissues and organs. (This is also proven in several animals. When animals get wounded, they stop consuming food to increase the rate of healing.)

Note: Prolonged fasting for more than 24 hours can be harmful to health. In above paragraph, fasting refers to ‘not consuming any food for duration of approx. 12 hours.

Now, that explains why fasting can be helpful to human beings. Better health is equivalent to better life expectancy. But the above scientific explanation doesn’t explain why fasting by a wife would result in higher life expectancy of her husband. To understand this, let us look at some recent biomedical results.

According to recent research done by Giana Angelo and Marc R.Van Gilst, female worms when subjected to fasting (starvation) have shown increase in their life-expectancy and more remarkably have shown increase in their reproductive longevity. In a paper titled ‘Starvation protects Germline stem cells and extends reproductive longevity in C. elegan’ published in Science journal highlights these findings.

“The study of starvation-resistant biological programs has elucidated numerous mechanisms influencing aging. Here we present the discovery and characterization of starvation-induced adult reproductive diapause (ARD) in Caenorhabditis elegans. ARD differs from the C. elegans dauer diapause in that it enables sexually mature adults to delay reproductive onset 15-fold and extend total adult life span at least threefold. The effectiveness of ARD requires apoptotic death of the entire germ line, except for a small population of protected germline stem cells (GSCs). When feeding is resumed, surviving GSCs regenerate a new germ line capable of offspring production near the level of non-starved animals. The starvation-sensing nuclear receptor NHR-49 is required for ARD entry and recovery. Our findings establish mechanisms for preserving stem cell potency and reproductive potential during prolonged starvation.”

Dr. Van Gilst goes on to quote, “Many paradigm-shifting discoveries in C. elegans have since been replicated in humans. Therefore, the idea that our findings will be relevant to human reproduction is a possibility that certainly needs exploration” and “If such a process exists in humans, it likely evolved to help our ancestors preserve fertility during periods of famine or food shortage. We certainly don't have a prescription for famine. Consequently, our study should not be used to promote potentially dangerous interventions such as severe caloric restriction and starvation as a means to restore a woman's fertility”

If we assume that, fasting indeed improves the reproductive longevity and life expectancy among women, it still doesn’t prove ‘fasting by wife increases the life expectancy of men’. For this, we need to look at another important biomedical result.

According to the research done by Davey Smith, S. Frankel and J. Yarnell from University of Bristol, sexual activity seems to have a protective effect on men’s health. As per their research paper titled “Sex and death: are they related? Findings from the Caerphilly cohort Study”,

“Mortality risk was 50% lower in the group with high orgasmic frequency than in the group with low orgasmic frequency, with evidence of a dose-response relation across the groups. Age adjusted odds ratio for all-cause mortality was 2.0 for the group with low frequency of orgasm (95% confidence interval 1.1 to 3.5, test for trend P = 0.02). With adjustment for risk factors this became 1.9 (1.0 to 3.4, test for trend P = 0.04). Death from coronary heart disease and from other causes showed similar associations with frequency of orgasm, although the gradient was most marked for deaths from coronary heart disease. Analysed in terms of actual frequency of orgasm, the odds ratio for total mortality associated with an increase in 100 orgasms per year was 0.64 (0.44 to 0.95).”

Now, let’s combine the two results and understand the bigger picture. It can be summarized as follows,

  • · Fasting increases reproductive longevity and female lifespan
  • · Higher Reproductive longevity implies potential for more sexual activity by women during lifespan.
  • · Higher Sexual activity has protective effect on men’s health, increasing the life expectancy.

As per Karva-chauth custom in India, a wife fasts for the increase in life expectancy for her husband. Scientifically, her fasting leads to higher reproductive longevity, leading to higher sexual activity during her lifespan. And since Santana Dharma strictly prohibits adultery, husband is the only option for sexual activity for married woman; hence her increase in sexual activity is directly proportional to her husband’s sexual activity, which in turn means, husband is going to have higher life expectancy due to increase in sexual activity.

The above scientific explanation can be easily tested on animals and humans, hence one can safely say, ancient Indians could have conducted scientific experiment and come to the conclusion that, by ‘fasting by wives would result in higher life expectancy for their husbands’. Note, this result is statistical in nature, individual cases might vary. But overall, it would increase the life expectancy.

Now, that explains why, ancient Indians started the custom of Karva-Chauth.






Anonymous said...

I was browsing the net for the scientific reason behind the rituals and I agree to what you say. But why that specific day only (Karva Chauth)? If you tell me a story of Parvati or Shiva in order to determine the significance of this day then you are not talking science. I am interested in knowing the cosmological significance behind this day.

Mohammed Abubakr said...

@Above: Probably, because on that day, the ancient Indian scientists concluded their research or presented their research findings to the people or the king announced the research findings to the people. I will do research on let you know.

Anonymous said...

Excellent explanation! That's exactly what I was looking for. Great work.

Anonymous said...

ha ha ha
wow what a way to still keep a woman in the binds. i am sorry to say this all is bullshit. even if your so called scientific research is true one day in a year can never make a difference.

Devajyoti Guha said...

Please dont slam someone's research as "bullshit". I get your point of "keeping women in binds" but what wud the writer feel when he sees such a comment. It wud have taken him days to write the comprehensive piece but you wud have taken just 5 mins to read it and half a minute to term it as bullshit. Thoughts are changing now-a-days. A plethora of husbands fast on KC day alongside their wives these days, including myself. And there are others who cant fast due to physiological contraints but coax, convince and cajole their wives not to keep such a day long fast. Surely these husbands are not the ones who believe in keeping women in binds. So even if society was formed to keep women in binds surely there is a section of people still, who themselves lend their shoulder in changing such a belief.

Bina Anand said...

This was the only blog where i could find the answer ...Thanks a lot

Payal Dubeyy said...

Nice and good tips for married Indian women in this pooja karwa chauth thali is compulsory.

Neha Sharma said...


i am very excited for karwa chauth because its coming soon. Recently, I bought karwa chauth thali form eBay.

It is very beautiful thali.

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Divishi Verma said...

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Divishi Verma said...

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Van Sal said...

Why can't men keep this fast? Same effect could be achieved with that too right? Any science behind this and why black or white is not allowed to wear on these days?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the comprehensive research and summarizing it. All the supporting facts and research are convincing but one question..Can Fasting once in 365 days do all this? Also coming to this direct conclusion is right? ...That men who do not indulge in sexual activity have low life expectancy... ?

Anonymous said...

If fasting is that good for us then 1) why one day a year 2) why associate it with husband's life and not the real truth? It's like giving false hopes to wives out there by reasoning out that if the wife fasts the husband will have longer life! 3) Why is it traditionally for women only if the real reason is scientific? Men who keep it for wives do it as a sweet gesture of support and love and not because they think they are supposed to that ritual. But wives remain obligated if that family is a follower of this tradition. It is a big deal to not keep it if the family follows it and of course the husband has to be supportive in whatever the wife's decision is. 3) If fasting is so good, then why don't we do it every week? and a fast where you eat in the morning and then eat after looking at the moon instead of clocking the '12' hours as you suggested? No food or water during the day!! A lot of things have changed now, women go out and work, they don't stay indoors and have to work even if they want forest because they had not had any meal or water. When they work they get tired-physically/mentally depends upon the kind of work, but both needs energy, which needs food. A lot of people are on medications and might not be able to keep this fast for which they ll feel bad. There is n need to feel bad. It is advised to have frequent and smaller quantity of meals for a healthier lifestyle, and this is widely prevalent in literature. Its time people should start understanding that health comes first. Not feeding yourself with water or food is not healthy. If someone wants to do it its his/her wish but this should not be a custom because all people tend to follow custom specially when its linked to your partner's longevity!!

GAUTAM said...

Great research! Also Many people are asking why fast once a year? Well if you follow Hinduism you will find that each day of the year you can fast based on one God or another e.g. Mondays are for Lord Shiva, Tuesdays for Hanumanji and so on. So it's your choice if you want to fast twice a week you can and along with that once a year fast without water on Karvachauth.

Anonymous said...

Fasting without water and light food doesn't make sense. Autophasy is about using the stored protein. Secondly in karvachauth women are not drinking water which is quite harmful. It is literally dehydrating ones body. Fast where water and light food like fruits can be taken is better and hence, that is the correct way of Autophasy or detoxification. You need energy to work in offices and outside. Outrageously fasting without water and food for 12 hrs is not good. Revise your work. Manipulating the reseach of our scholar just to justify the patriarchal society is hideous. Lastly if the level of testosterone is less or a man is not interest in too much sex , this will make woman sexually frustrated. You point is insignificant.
T Parvati didnt fast for shiv. Shivji is matter( shav) and Parvati is energy ( prakriti). Let god stay like god then what is the difference between them and us. Cosmically it falls in krishna paksh, the waning moon or the dark phase. its not auspicious because waning moon is the period when moon is getting weak. I only know some people want respect by creating a BDMS ritual.