The fast lasts from sunrise to moonrise, when it is broken by a ritual where the wife looks through a sieve at the moon, and then at her husband. The husband then offers her water and sweets to help her break her fast. Karva Chauth refers to chauth, the fourth day after the full moon, and Karva refers to a clay pot, within which bangles and clothes are exchanged between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. 

Karva Chauth is an ancient custom and its exact origin is not known. Some historians speculate that it may have started as a festival of bonding between newly married women in a village, who were living away from their parental homes for the first time. Over a period of time, husbands were added into the mix. However, the festival is celebrated quite widely in North India even today. Niharika, a 26-year-old architect told the Times of India newspaper, ""My husband also kept the Karva Chauth fast in the first year after marriage. Now, he cooks a special dinner for me. He also buys me a gift for this day every year. My family has given me the option of drinking tea or juice after the katha so as to avoid weakness, but so for, I have never felt the need. I prefer to go to office during the day as it keeps my thoughts away food. Anyway, once the mind is made up to abstain, it is not difficult".

Several rituals are held during the day, including regular prayers and the chanting of several devotional hymns and songs. The women also listen to mythological tales from the Hindu scriptures, predominantly about Shiva, his wife Parvati and their son the elephant-headed Ganesha. The women may also chant hymns like Om Namah Shivaya and Rudrashtakam for spiritual cleansing and for the wellbeing of their husband and families.