ॐ Hindu Of Universe ॐ

“God’s light is within you, It never leaves you.”

“Hindu Dharma or Sanatan Dharma” is nothing but living a spiritual way of life. Fasting is a common practice to many faiths like Sikh, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism but fasting is an integral aspect of Hindu Dharma.

Individuals observe different kinds of fasts based on age-old traditions or personal beliefs.

The practice of fasting is as old as Santana Dharma, which is the world’s oldest living faith.

Fasting means a wilful detachment from eating for a particular period of time.

Hindu scriptures describe the rationale and methods of fasting.

Our Puranas and Holy textbooks narrate innumerable stories and their positive spiritual benefits of observing fast.

But as per search science/ medical science fasting brings a whole lot of mental and physical benefits to a person.

Why do Hindus fast?

According to the scriptures, fasting helps create a blissful bonding between “individual spirit” and “The Supreme Spirit – The God”.

The aim of observing fast is to purify the body and mind to acquire divine grace.

For the last thousand years, most Hindus celebrate fasting.

• To develop God-awareness or become closer to God.

To purify the mind and body.

To celebrate rituals or religious festivals.

• To boost stamina and to nourish physical health for long life.

• To train the mind and to strengthen the body to endure and to face difficulties and not to give up. Religious/Spiritual significance:

Fasting is an integral part of Hinduism.

Hindus believe that it is difficult to pursue the path of spirituality in one’s daily life as the Jivatama (individual soul) is attracted and attached to worldly desires. Therefore, a worshiper must practice or impose certain restraints on himself/herself to bring the unfocused mind under control, and fasting is one of such restrain.

•  It is a spiritual act with the aim to acquire divine grace.

• It purifies the mind and prepares the body for austerities.

• Fasting is an act of sacrifice, in which a devotee sacrifices food and hunger to God as a mark of faith and devotion.

• It is a penance for Hindus, as it provides an opportunity to escape from sins.

According to Mahabharata- The mighty warrior Bheeshma advises Yudhishthira (in section 103) there is no penance that is superior to abstention from food, “do thou practice this vow (of fasting) of very superior merit that is not known to all.”

• Manuscripts and voluminous historical literature related to Hinduism describes fasting is a form of “Tapasya”, as it helps us to control our senses, and sense control is very essential in becoming God-conscious.

If our senses are out of control than the fluctuating mind won’t be able to develop sattva-guna (one-pointed focused mind), which is required for steady spiritual progress.

• According to Shrimad Bhagavatam (SB- 12:12:60), who hears this Bhagavatam on the Ekadasi or Dvadasi day is assured of long life and one who recites it with careful attention while fasting, purifies all sinful reactions.

• Citizens fasting for just one day in a month can save a country tons of food, which is helpful for the needy people to alleviate their distress.

Scientific significance:

• Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medical system explains, the accumulation of toxic materials in the digestive system is the main cause of developing many diseases in our body.

By fasting, the digestive organs get rest and our body cleans and corrects the ongoing process on its own.

A complete fast for a day is extremely good for health.

• According to medical research, intermittent fasting is good for people with type 2 diabetes as it increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin and improves the metabolic rate by absorbing an adequate amount of blood sugar.

• According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) reports, heart diseases are the leading cause of death around the world.

Naturopathy, another oldest treatment system explains, incorporating fasting into one’s routine life is highly effective to reduce the risk of heart ailments.

• Fasting increases anti-aging processes in the body and extends longevity.

Several studies have found promising results that fasting can increase levels of human growth hormone (HGH), metabolism, weight loss, and muscle strength which are vital for long life.

Fasting is extremely beneficial for cancer patients as it controls and eliminates cancer cells in the body. Fasting brings good benefits to the human body.

Japanese scientist Dr. Yoshinori Oshsumi’s Nobel prize-winning work on autophagy explains how fasting can eat damaged/dead cells and keeps the body in good condition.

Autophagy is a crucial process that requires 12 to 36 hours of complete fasting.

When the body is in a fast mode, cells break down old and junky proteins and reuse them for energy.

This condition allows for autophagy healthier cells of our body eat out unnecessary or dysfunctional components in order to regenerate newer cells.

This magical process helps to prevent or cure cancer, chronic disorders, and infectious diseases.

The actual meaning of autophagy is “self-devouring”, because, “auto” means self and “phagy” means eat.

Types of Fasting:

Hindus all over India observes fast on certain days of the month such as Purnima (full moon) and Ekadasi (the 11th day of the lunar cycle) and during some festivals like Navaratri, Ganesh Chaturthi, Janmashtami, Shivratri, and Karwa Chauth.

• Some people go for intermittent fasting by skipping a meal during day or night times, as per the tradition.

• Another common kind of fasting known as phalahar which means to eat fruits during the day time (before sunset) and skipping the night meal.

• According to Vedic tradition and personal beliefs, some devotees celebrate waterless fasting for few days in a year, like “Nirjala Ekadasi” and “Maha Shivaratri” etc.

Fasting is good for the upliftment of spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional strength.

Since Vedic times, Hindus are observing fast as per their faith and tradition as well as for their spiritual growth.

According to different spiritual doctrines and scientific research, fasting is not only a part of worship but also a great instrument for self- discipline and healthy life.

Fasting in Hinduism

As in many religions, fasting is also practised in Hinduism. In the Hindu religion, fasting is not an obligation, but a moral and spiritual act where the aim is to purify the body and mind and acquire divine grace.

There are different forms of fasting which are more or less strict, more or less difficult to follow and which vary depending on personal, family and community beliefs.

In some cases, fasting involves abstaining from one meal in the day.

However, fasting does not necessarily mean the body has to go without or suffer.

Sometimes, it is sufficient to eliminate certain types of food and replace them by others, without restricting the quantity.

Meat eaters, for example, may settle for a strictly vegetarian dish.

 Vegetarians, often eliminate rice, wheat, barley and lentils and replace them with potatoes.

It is even possible to snack on sweets throughout the day.

What is more, these restrictions can also be a way of varying the daily diet and trying new food. A day of fasting can even be a promise of treats.

Modaks for example, sweet dumplings made from coconut and covered with rice flour, are prepared for certain days of fasting which involve worshipping the god Ganesh.

Fasting periods in Hinduism

Hinduism is marked by several periods of fasting.

The most commonly-observed fast, Ekadashi, is respected approximately twice a month, on the eleventh day of each ascending and descending moon.

The celebration at the beginning of the year, in honour of Shiva, is another important occasion.

During the months of July and August, many Hindus adopt a vegetarian diet and fast on Mondays and Saturdays until the evening.

Many Hindu women fast on Mondays in order to have a good husband.

Why do Hindus fast?

Fasting is a moral and spiritual act where the aim is to purify the body and mind to acquire divine grace. Most Hindus will fast to:

• Increase God consciousness or become closer to God.

• Cleanse and purify the mind and body.

• Participate in life cycle sacraments called saṃskāras.

• Celebrate festivals or holy days.

• Counter negative forces during inauspicious occasions.

According to the scriptures, fasting helps create an attunement with God by establishing a harmonious relationship between the body and the soul.

This is thought to be imperative for the wellbeing of a human being as it nourishes both his / her physical and spiritual demands.

There are many physical and spiritual benefits of fasting.

Physical benefits of fasting The physical benefits of fasting include: improved health, reduced cholesterol, removed toxins, reduced stress upon the digestive system and other organs in the body, improved blood circulation and the functioning of the heart and brain.

Some studies have shown that fasting has improved mental health by making people feel good about themselves with increased self-esteem, self-confidence, willpower and discipline.

Spiritual benefits of fasting Fasting is an essential part of worship.

Symbolically, fasting is an act of sacrifice, in which one sacrifices food and hunger to God as a mark of devotion and surrender.

Fasting purifies the mind, controls passion and the senses and checks emotions.

Fasting, for many Hindus, is also a sort of penance as it provides a window to escape from sins.

Fasting also controls the tongue, which can cause harm when let loose.

Fasting practices in Hindu Dharma How do Hindus fast?

The method of fasting is not imposed within Hindu Dharma.

Hindus will observe fasts of varying strictness depending on individual beliefs or practices.

Here are some examples of common fasts observed by Hindus:

• not partaking any food or water for a set number of days.

• limiting oneself to one specific vegetarian meal during the day.

• eating or drinking only certain food types for a set number of days.

• abstaining from eating certain food types for a set number of days.

When do Hindus fast? Hindus may fast at anytime for a specific purpose.

Here are a few common purposes for fasting:

Fasting during festivals and holy days Certain Hindu festivals and holy days require devotees to observe fasting as part of their worship. For example, Navarātrī, the nine-night celebration of the Feminine Divine that occurs five times a year (the spring and fall celebrations being among the more widely celebrated).

Many Hindus will observe a period of fasting during the month of Śravaṇa which falls in July / August or August / September depending on the regional calendar being followed.

Many Hindus consider Śravaṇa to be the holiest month of the year.

Fasting on specific days Many Hindus believe that certain days of the week are dedicated to a particular deity and will observe fast to honour that particular deity.

For example, devotees of Lord Śiva tend to fast on Mondays, while devotees of Lord Viṣṇu tend to fast on Thursdays. Many Hindus fast on certain days of the month.

For example, on Pūrṇimā (full moon) and Ekādaśī, the eleventh day after the full moon and the new moon, i.e. once a fortnight.

Some Hindus will fast during inauspicious occasions to make them psychologically stronger and counter negative forces.

Many Hindus are guided on the days to fast by their priest.

Fasting during sacraments

Observance of certain saṃskāras or sacraments also require fasting for the whole duration or for a specific time.

For example, couples who are getting married normally fast for the whole day.

Fasting Guidance

Hindu staff who are fasting may ask for flexibility within their working arrangements or time off work.

Guidance for Hindu staff

Staff should meet with their line managers as early as possible to discuss any work place adjustments necessary during periods of fasting.

This reduces the risks of any confusion or misunderstandings.

Time off work

Give your manager as much notice as possible if you plan to take time off during periods of fasting.

You should use annual or flexi leave, or a combination of both where you have remaining leave entitlement.

You also have the option to use unpaid leave.

Staff are reminded that line managers are under no obligation to automatically give staff time off for religious holidays or festivals.

Flexibility in work You may request flexibility in your working hours.

For example, changing your shift pattern or decreasing your working hours to be made up later.

You may request to work from home or another location closer to home if there is no business need for you to be in your office.

If you wish to pray then you may request to take your breaks at a more convenient time during the day. You may also request a change in duties to make work more comfortable if necessary.

For example, opting out of certain duties such as the handling of food or certain types of food.

Guidance for line managers

Line managers should be more considerate regarding the practicalities of fasting and any workplace adjustments necessary to staff working hours.

Line managers should consider requests carefully and sympathetically, and in line with business needs and departmental policies.

Line managers should be reasonable and flexible where possible, and discuss the request and explore any concerns with the employee.

If the original request cannot be accommodated, it may be possible to come to a compromise arrangement, and the use of creative and flexible solutions by managers and staff is encouraged. Refusing a request without a good business reason could amount to discrimination.

In addition to the aforementioned requests that Hindu staff may ask during periods of fasting, line managers should also be considerate of planning team away days and training courses, while making an effort to engage with their staff to identify the dates of major festivals and holy days, which require staff to observe fast.

Guide to Fasting For Hindus

Summary: The essay is about guidelines or observances for Fasting for devout Hindus for physical, mental and spiritual health

In the past, fasting had always been a religious and spiritual practice.

In today’s world, it has acquired secular connotations in the name of dieting and weight loss.

Recent studies indicate the beneficent effects of fasting.

Fasting can be used both as a preventive method and a curative or healing process to correct the imbalances in the mind and body.

Fasting markedly improves health, reduces cholesterol, removes the toxins, reduces stress upon the digestive system and other organs in the body, improves blood circulation and the functioning of the heart and brain.

Besides, fasting has many advantages.

It is easier to practice, costs nothing, requires no prior preparation except a simple resolve and some self-motivation, and can be practiced anywhere and at any time.

Nutritionists and healthcare professionals find fasting is effective to control calorie consumption and stay fit.

Fasting has proved to improve mental health by making people feel good about themselves with increased self-esteem, self-confidence, will power and discipline.

However, in certain cases fasting may have an adverse impact on health.

Prolonged fasting can certainly impair the functioning of the digestive system even in case of healthy people.

Fasting may also be unsuitable for certain conditions such as diabetes where patients are required to replenish their bodies with glucose to avoid low sugar levels.

Similarly, expert guidance for fasting may be required by those who suffer from chronic stress, digestive disorders, and special conditions which require medical attention.

Fasting in Hinduism

In Hinduism, fasting (upavas) has a great significance in both ritual and spiritual practices. Upavasam (fasting) is an essential part of Upasana (worship).  In the past, it was used as an austerity to practice self-control and produce bodily heat (tapah) which was believed to be effective in self-purification and sublimation of sexual energy (retas) into physical luminosity (varchas), spiritual vigor (tejas) and mental brilliance (medhas).

Students of the Vedas practiced fasting as part of their learning and self-discipline.

Householders practiced it to declare their faith and devotion to gods and renunciants used it to gain mastery over their minds and bodies.

Widows practiced it to avoid a repetition of their misfortune in future births.

Unmarried maidens practiced it to obtain virtuous husbands.

Married women practiced it to obtain children, protect their families or safeguard their marriage.

Fasting is still an integral part of Hindu spiritual practices.

It is used by spiritual people to cleanse their minds and bodies and remove grossness from them.

Symbolically, fasting is an act of sacrifice, in which one sacrifices food and hunger to God as a mark of devotion and surrender.

Since it is a sacrificial offering and an act of self-denial, it is good karma. Further, since it leads to self-purification, it is also an austerity.

Besides inculcating discipline and devotion, it lightens the body and prepares it for the hardships of spiritual life.

With regular fasting, one gains control over one’s mind and body.

With a stable mind thus gained, arises the power of concentration, which makes the mind more receptive to spiritual knowledge and the body more conducive to spiritual practice.

Those who practise fasting find it easier to control their desires and practice detachment.

With increased confidence and lightness in the mind, which arises from regular fasting, one gains dexterity in the practice of yoga and meditation

With the suppleness of the body which arises from fasting and moderate eating, certain types of difficult yogic postures become easier.

Criteria for Fasting

In Hinduism, fasting has been traditionally associated with religious practice. Hence, religious fasting is regulated by a few established criteria such as purpose, time, place, deity and purity.

They are interconnected.

The five aspects should be kept in mind by Hindus while observing religious fasting.

1. Purpose

Hindus practice fasting for various purposes.

It may be done to achieve material or spiritual rewards, to please a deity, to fulfill a desire, to overcome an adversity, to cultivate virtue, to earn merit (punya), to help ancestors, to appease wrathful gods, to seek forgiveness, to punish oneself for sinful conduct, or to perform an expiation for past sins.

It may be done as a religious or spiritual practice in itself or as a part of a ritual worship or sacrificial ceremony.

Fasting on certain dates or at certain time is considered more beneficial. Fasting may be done on own accord or as part of social obligation in association with others.

In Hinduism, fasting is also prescribed as a punishment.

According to karma yoga, fasting done without expectations and desire for its fruit, and as offering to God is the best.

2. Time

Fasting may be done at anytime with or without reason.

However, most religious fasts require adherence to particular timelines which may coincide with specific dates or weeks or seasons according to Hindu calendar.

They may be associated with important celestial events or the deities for whom the fasting is intended.

Certain Hindu festivals also require people to observe fasting as part of their ritual or devotional worship.

Fasting is also recommended on certain inauspicious occasions such as solar or lunar eclipse or when impure periods (dhosha kalam) intervene.

Observance of certain sacrificial ceremonies and sacraments also require the participating couples to observe fasting for the whole duration or for a specific time.

3. Place

Fasting is usually practiced at home. However, on certain occasions one may visit a temple, a river, a tree or a sacred place to observe or complete the fasting.

People may also observe fasting when they go on a pilgrimage and abstain from food, until they visit the deity and receive an offering of food from the temple after the worship.

In the past devotees used to stay in groves or in open fields during fasting as part of their religious observance and spent the time listening to devotional music or religious discourses.

This tradition may still be in vogue in certain parts of India.

4. Deity

In Hinduism, religious fasting is usually done to please a deity to obtain rewards or fulfill one’s desires. Therefore, in most cases fasting is observed according to the specific demands and requirements of the deity.

Even the date and time have to be chosen accordingly since the deities may have specific days in a month, season, year or week which have particular significance to them.

For example, Fridays are auspicious for most goddesses, Mondays for Shiva, Thursdays for Vishnu, Tuesdays for Hanuman and Saturdays for Lord Venkateshwara and Shani.

Fasting on Shivarathri is considered auspicious.

During the Durga Festival, devotees also do fasting for nine consecutive days.

Deities may also have specific demands to be met during fasting.

For example, complete fasting is not required in the worship of some deities, but abstinence from certain foods such as salt, onion, garlic or tamarind is insisted upon, apart from abstinence from sexual intercourse and impure actions.

5. Purity and conduct

In Hinduism, fasting is subject to several rules and observances (yamas and niyamas) to ensure virtuous conduct.

Since it is a religious observance as well as a yoga practice, cleanliness and purity are considered essential to its practice.

Purity is the foundation of fasting.

It should be both physical and mental, and begin with the purity of intention.

The standard rule is that people should not engage in religious fasting unless they wholeheartedly want to do it.

Many people do it out of fear or to comply with the expectations of their family members.

The intention should be sattvic, rather than rajasic or tamasic.

In the former, fasting is done as a sacrifice, while in the other two it is done with a selfish or ulterior motive.

Ideally, fasting is a sacrifice as well as an opportunity for self-transformation.

Hence, it should be done with right attitude, just as one performs a sacrificial ritual or domestic worship.

The decision to fast must come from within.

It must be practiced with great sincerity, out of love and devotion rather than selfish desires.

If it is done for the sake of others, it is even better.

Further, it is much better if it is not done as part of a bargain with God in return for a favor, boon or divine reward.

Religious fasting should be an austere effort to cleanse the mind and body and cultivate purity.

Let it be genuine, wholehearted, sincere, free from expectations, nonviolent, sattvic, kind, gentle, peaceful, and for the wellbeing of the loved ones.

Fasting in most cases requires physical cleanliness (suchi). Before beginning the fast, a clean bath may be necessary, unless it is not part of the requirement for a deity.

Some types of fasting require multiple baths during the day, and some no bath at all until the fasting is complete.

Also, for certain types of fasting, there will be restrictions on what clothing should be worn, what to eat or drink.

They should be diligently followed to comply with the requirements.

Moderation in the practice of austerities is also an important virtue.

The same is expected during fasting also. Extreme fasting is a sign of the predominance of tamas.

It will not help those who engage in it, since it strengthens the ego and creates feelings of pride and vanity.

Fasting must be practiced according to a person’s age, health, tolerance, and the prevailing rules.

The body is a house of gods.

The deities who live in it depend upon the body for nourishment.

They should not be excessively starved to the point they become dissatisfied.

One should also keep the mind positive and free from negative and depressing thoughts, and remain contended with whatever result that may follow.

Fasting is a good karma. Yet, it may not be effective to overcome hurdles caused by previous karmas.

The practice of virtue is an essential part of fasting. At the time of fasting, devotees are urged to keep their minds free from negative and evil thoughts.

Those who fast should focus their minds upon the deity to whom they offer the worship.

For the duration of the fasting, they should not entertain evil thoughts, the thought of harming or hurting anyone, nor should they give into passion and negative emotions such as anger and pride.

Fasting is an opportunity to deal with the pain of hunger and physical suffering caused by it, and practice virtues such as tolerance, equanimity, patience and self-restraint.

People can use the occasion to keep their minds tranquil, and in the higher state of yoga. With right speech, right thoughts, right intentions and right actions, without letting negative thought swaying their minds, they can engage their minds and bodies in the austerity of fasting, harmonious thoughts and pleasant feelings.

Some people prefer to practice silence while fasting, which has its own benefits.

Genuine fasting should be complete in all respects. It should not be confined to abstaining from food only, but may be extended to other pleasures and sense objects as well.

Hence, withdrawal of the mind and senses into oneself and keeping the mind engaged in the contemplation of the Self or God during fasting is highly recommended.

One should also abstain from destructive habits such as smoking, drinking or gambling and avoid the company of irreligious and evil people.

Hinduism – Rules for Fasting

Question: What can you eat when you are fasting?

What are the rules, customs and manners associated with fasting in Hinduism?

Technically, if you are a householder, prolonged fasting is not a recommended practice because when you fast, you starve the deities in you, and they are not pleased by it.

Fasting is a way of life for the ascetics, but not for the householders, who have duties to perform every day with the help of the gods in them.

Fasting is a very common and ancient form of austerity in Hinduism. It is usually done in Hinduism to show your sincerity and resolve or express your gratitude.

The gods in your body are not pleased if you starve yourself for long. Therefore, when you fast, you have to keep your body’s wellbeing in mind.

There are no fixed rules for fasting in contemporary Hinduism unless you are performing a particular Vedic sacrifice or a traditional ritual, in which case you have to follow the scriptures and the long-established traditions.

On such occasions, you will usually be guided by the priest who officiates the ceremony or your spiritual guru, who may have advised you to perform it.

The fasting may be either complete or partial. For example, in some Vedic ceremonies, the worshippers are allowed to drink only milk and water.

The tradition of fasting for religious or spiritual purposes is integral to Vedic tradition.

In the Vedic period, householders practiced fasting on various occasions as part of their ritual practices. However, the renunciants (sanyasis) who gave up worldly life practiced it as a way of life and as a part of their effort to give up their bodies.

Fasting in Hinduism is a declaration of faith and resolve and a way to build character, strength, and purity as part of one’s preparation for liberation

It is also helpful to restrain the mind and the senses and practice detachment, austerity, and self-control.

The Hindu Law Books, such as the Manusmriti, prescribe elaborate rules and procedures for both men and women to practice fasting on specific occasions.

They also consider fasting a meritorious deed or good karma.

According to Manu, women should not observe fasting when they are apart from their husbands.

Manu also declares that students who subsist on begged food earn the same merit as fasting.

Fasting is also used as a punishment.

If a student remains asleep after sunrise, he shall fast during the next day, muttering the Savitri chant.

If a person eats food from forbidden people, he has to observe fast for three days.

Manu prescribed three days of fasting for minor thefts also.

These punishments suggest that fasting was used for atonement and considered a purifier and remover of sins.

Probably, the practice of fasting had its origin in the Vedic ritual of kindling the sacrificial fire for the purposes of sacrifices. We draw this inference from the fact that in Sanskrit, the same word, “upavas,” is used to denote both fasting and kindling sacrificial fire. People probably practiced fasting when they had to kindle or rekindle the domestic fires, which they kept in their homes to perform the daily sacrifices.

Fasting has also been practiced in India for centuries as a penance for the expiation of sins, dereliction of duties, crimes, etc.,

or to annul the mistakes made during religious observances and sacrifices.

One of the penances prescribed in the scriptures is the Krikkhra penance, which has to be observed for several days or a month.

Manu explains how it shall be performed.

In one type of penance, a twice-born man shall eat for the first three days only in the morning, for the next three days only in the evening, for the next three days eat only what has been given to him unasked and observe complete fasting during the last three days.

In another type of penance called Paraka Krikkhra, he has to reduce the daily food intake by one mouthful per day during the dark half of the month and increase it by a mouthful during the bright half.

It is customary for those who participate in Hindu domestic ceremonies, including marriage ceremonies and pujas on specific occasions, to abstain from eating food until the completion of such ceremonies.

In most cases, people break their fast after performing sacrifices or rituals and eating the remains of the food, called prasadam, which was offered to gods.

On the occasion of certain Hindu festivals such as Maha Shivaratri and Durga Puja, the worshippers have to observe fasting either for a day or for several days.

Those who undertake vratas or vows to worship deities in a specific traditional manner also follow a strict code of conduct with regard to their eating and other activities.

On such occasions, they either observe complete fasting or avoid eating certain types of food, such as sour items, curd, etc.

In some ceremonies, only women have to fast, while no restrictions apply to their husbands. Such ceremonies are mainly meant for the protection and wellbeing of the husbands.

Some Hindus, both men and women, observe fasting on specific days in a week or month, which are considered auspicious or favorite days of certain deities.

People also observe fast to fulfill their wishes, overcome adversity, drive away evil spells, please the gods and planetary gods, or obtain their blessings.

Under normal circumstances, if you are fasting for your own good or for spiritual progress, you may set down ground rules. Generally, in Hinduism, there are three types of fasting.

1. Abstaining from eating food of all kinds, both liquid and solid foods

2. Abstaining from drinking water

3. Abstaining from sexual pleasure

All three may be practiced simultaneously, selectively, or in stages. Some people abstain from eating solid foods while fasting but consume liquid foods like fruit juice or milk.

Some people abstain from eating certain foods like rice, meat, etc., but eat fruits and vegetables.

Whatever fasting you may practice, sincerity and purity of intention are important in today’s world.

If you want to fast selectively, you may have to consider your body’s tolerance for certain types of food and, if necessary, make such decisions in consultation with your physician.

Some people fast for several days continuously on occasions like Navaratri.

They do not consume anything except water.

Many people fall sick at the end of such austerity and even develop digestion problems for a few days after they complete their fasting.

It is important to know what food you may eat after you complete prolonged fasting and consult your physician before making an informed decision.

Overall, fasting in moderation is good for the mind and the body.

It purifies the system, besides making you feel light and energized.

Medical research proves that the habit of fasting prolongs life and keeps the body in good shape.

Therefore, if you fast in moderation, without starving your body for days, both the gods in your body and you will feel good about it.

The Meaning and Significance of Vratas in Hinduism

Summary: This is a Comprehensive manual of Vratas or ritual observances of Hinduism from the Vedic period to the modern times.

Vrata (or vrat) means a rule, vow, observance, discipline, law or duty.

In common usage, it is an act of devotion, duty, commitment, spiritual practice, resolve or moral or mental discipline.

Its purpose is to help materially, mentally and spiritually the devotees on the path of self-transformation and liberation. In ritual terms Vrata means following or observing the law, a discipline or a strict code of conduct to please a deity, who is propitiated through it.

The word Vrata (Vrta) is rooted in the Vedic concept of rta or rita, which mean order and regularity. “Vr,” means will, rule, discipline and “rta,” means order.

Vrata means orderly conduct or discipline.

Thus, Vratas are meant to ensure the order and regularity of the world through self-discipline and righteous conduct.

God’s rta is an expression or the result of his righteous duties (dharma).

It is responsible for the orderly progression of the world and the rhythmic patterns of days and nights, years, seasons, the sun and the moon, the stars and the constellation, birth aging, death and rebirth.

Everything in the world has a rhythm or a pattern (rta) of its own.

When the components of the universe work in tandem, there is life, peace, light, progresss and orderliness.

When it is absent, the world falls into chaos.

The order is represented by gods and the chaos and unruliness by the demons or evil beings. Rta ensures orderly progression of the world and help you know how to plan for the four phases of your life. It lets you know when the seasons arise, when the rains fall and when the fields are ready for sowing, so that you can make preparation to grow crops and reap the harvest.

When the rta is disturbed, the world will have chaos.

Natural calamities, pestilence, drought, famine, untimely death, disease and the like become the order of the day.

In that world, you cannot live with peace.

Your mind will remain clouded by suffering and anxiety, while the world remains enveloped in evil impurities.

Thus, the purpose of Vrta in its ultimate sense is to ensure the orderly progression of life upon earth and remove any obstacles in the path.

When life is out of order, vrata is the means to put it back in the groove and take it in the right direction.

Vrata is thus part of self-preservation and righteous progression on the path of liberation.

The purpose of vratas

Vratas are observed by people either to fulfill desires or to express gratitude for fulfillment of desires. They are also practiced to overcome suffering and adversity, neutralize the adverse effects of planets or evil forces, remove birth related defects (doshas) in the natal charts, win the approval of a wrathful deity, overcome infertility, beget children, cleanse the mind and body, express regrets as part of a penance, acquire spiritual power, help the ancestors in the heaven or a family member or child who is in distress, and so on.

Through Vratas you bring order and discipline into your life.

It helps you strengthen your resolve and your commitment to your faith.

It is also very useful to practice self-cleansing and train your mind and body to cultivate sattva.

Vratas and sacrifices

Traditionally, vratas are practiced mostly by married women.

While Vedic sacrifices are mostly men’s affair, Vratas are predominantly performed by women in the household.

It gives them an opportunity to practice their faith and help their families through personal discipline and religious observances.

However, men, young girls and widows also practice several vratas as part of a religious observance, ceremony or Vedic sacrifice.

Some vratas are expiatory, which are meant to neutralize past sins and transgressions (prayaschitta).

Vrata is a form of sacrifice (yajna), although not as formal or structured as the latter.

For example, in the sacrifices you use a ritual altar to make offerings of food and other materials to fire and declare your allegiance to gods.

You do not use idols or worship any images. In Vratas also you make offerings of food to gods, but you do not use a ritual altar.

You practice puja (domestic worship) to worship the images of gods and make them offerings.

Most vratas are simple, but some are complicated and require prior preparation.

They may also last for a long time.

In vratas you abstain from food under self-imposed vows to declare your commitment and loyalty to the deity you worship.

While a sacrifice is essentially an obligatory duty, a Vrata is a voluntary and willful act, which may or may not be obligatory for the person who practices it.

However, just as the sacrifices, vratas also serve well in upholding the eternal laws (Dharma) of God and establishing divine-centered life.

A vrata is also a self-sacrifice in which you are sacrificing your comfort and dependence upon food for a greater end.

Vratas in Vedic tradition

The earliest references to Vratas are found in the Vedas. In the Rigvedic period different professions followed different Vratas.

There was vrata for each professional class such as carpenter, doctor, priest, ironsmith.

It is possible that originally the practice of Vratas was not part of the Vedic tradition, but found its way through ascetic traditions or groups of ascetics who were collectively, and often derogatorily, mentioned as Vratyas.

The Rigveda mentions five groups of Vratyas known as Pancha Vratas. (10:34:12), who according to Tandya and Jaiminiya Brahmanas performed a purification sacrifice called Vratya-stoma.

Probably, Vedic people got the idea of Vrata from such groups and built their own tradition around it. It is also possible that the tradition might have entered Vedism through Shaivism, since Rudra is mentioned in the Vedas as Eka-Vratya.

The Eka Rudriya mentions him as the lord of Vratas (Vratapati).

Whatever may be its origin, vratas are now an integral part of Hinduism. Currently, they are even more popular than the Vedic rituals, since they are more aligned to the practice of puja or the domestic worship of the images of gods and goddesses.

They are currently practiced as part of Vedic rituals, festivals and sacraments such as a wedding ceremony, or independently as austerities and ritual observances. Both the approaches are currently found in Hinduism.

People prefer vratas rather than Vedic rituals, for their simplicity and direct appeal.

A vrata may be observed for a day, a weak, month, year, or even for a lifetime. While the Vedic sacrifices were all about men, the vratas developed as an alternative solution to engage women in religious practice. In today’s Hinduism it is mostly women who practice vratas.

The Grihyasutras prescribe vratas for the students of the Vedas as part of their learning and growing to cultivate discipline and strengthen their resolve.

In the Vedic period, people of both genders practiced vratas as part of Vedic sacrifices or as separate observances or religious practices.

One of the vratas of that period, which is mentioned in the Vedas, was the Chandrayana Vrata (the lunar vrata), in which the devotee first gradually decreased their food consumption in the first half of the month and increased it in the second half.

They began with fifteen mouthfuls of food on the full moon day and reduced it by a mouthful for the next fourteen days to correspond with the decreasing size of the moon.

Then, starting from the new moon, they increased it by a mouthful for the next fourteen days according to the increasing size of the moon until the full moon day again.

References to the vratas are found in the Samhitas, Brahmanas and Aranyakas of all the four Vedas. There are also some references to them in the Upanishads.

They point to the fact that Vedic people routinely practiced Vratas in their daily lives as part of their religious observances as householders, and later during the Vanaprastha (forest dwelling) as part of their spiritual discipline to advance on the path of liberation and prepare for the life of complete renunciation (sanyasa).

In the Vedic sense vrata means the will of a god or the conduct of a person who obeys the will of a god. The violation of that will is called apavratam (nonobservance or defiance).

By obeying the law or the commands of a divinity through a proven conduct, devotees declare their loyalty and allegiance to him and win his appreciation, approval and blessings.

Vratas are also practiced in Jainism as a continuing tradition from the earliest times.

It is even possible that Hinduism incorporated some beliefs and practices about Vratas from Jainism, since the latter gives more prominence to fasting and austerity and prescribes them to the lay followers as part of their preparation to become full-fledged monks.

Vratas as punishment prescribed by Manu

Vratas were also used in the past as part of the penitentiary laws prescribed in the law books (Dharma Shastras) to resolve the problem of sin or evil actions.

They prescribe Vratas or reformatory or expiatory observances as part of a punishment and atonement for certain offences and transgressions.

Some of them were mild, but some were extremely severe.

For example, Manu (Chapter 11) prescribes mild to severe penances (kriddhra and ati kriddhra vratas) as punishments to remove the sins arising from offences such as threatening or striking a Brahmana or shedding his blood.

The following are a few vratas which are mentioned in the Manusrmiti

1. Kridhhra Vrata: In this vrata a twice born person has to remain on fast with a clean mind. He should eat in the morning only for three days, in the evening only for the next three days, only what is given unasked for the next three days, and observe complete fast for the last three days.”

2. Santapana Kriddhra Vrata: In this, a twice born person is allowed to subsist on the urine of cows, cow dung, milk, sour milk, clarified butter, and a boiled extraction of Kusa-grass, and fast for a day and night.

3. Ati Kriddhra Vrata: This is the severe form of Kriddhra vrata, in which the twice born person shall eat only a mouthful at each meal in the morning for three days and in the evening for the next three days, and observe complete fasting in the last three days.

4. Tapta Kriddhra Vrata: This is also prescribed for the twice born, during which he must drink hot water, hot milk, clarified butter and inhale hot air, one at a time for each set of three days, and bathe once a day with concentration.

5. Paraka Kriddhra Vrata: It is observed for twelve days to remove guilt by a person during which he must observe complete fast, fully restraining his mind and body and making no mistakes.

6. Chandrayana Vrata: This is one of the well-known lunar penances.

It is observed by the householders reducing their daily food intake by one mouthful during the dark half of the month and increasing it in the same manner during the bright half, starting with 15 mouthfuls.

They also have to bathe three times each day before offering the morning, mid-day and evening libations respectively.

7. Variations of Kriddhra: In one version of the lunar penance, a twice born person has to practice it by eating only eight mouthfuls of food each day at midday for a month, restraining his mind. If he observes it by eating only four mouthfuls in the morning and four mouthfuls in the night, it is called the lunar penance for children.

Manu states that he who with concentrated mind eats eight mouthfuls of food each time for only three times in a whole month in whatever way he wishes attains the world of the moon after his death.

Rules and Observances

A simple vrata involves observance of a particular code of conduct, rules and restraints, or abstinence from certain habits and desires of the mind. From this perspective, the Yamas and Niyamas of Patanjali’s Yoga constitute a vrata only.

Each vrata usually begins with an intention or resolve.

Most cases the suggestion is made by a priest or an astrologer or a close friend, or circumstances may convince a person that a particular vrata may be needed to address some problems.

Whatever may be the reasons, vratas are the most commonly suggested solutions to worldly problems in Hinduism.

During the observance of the Vrata, a devotee may fast for a specific period of time.

As we have seen in case of the rules prescribed by Manu, the duration and the frequency of the fasting may vary from a day to two or more days according to the tradition and according to the vrata, which may also require the observation of other rules and restraints as part of penance or self-cleansing.

One may observe it on a specific day or days in a weak, fortnight or month and repeat it for a specific number of times as suggested in the scriptures or as recommended by the priest.

Hence, as we shall see later, most vratas are named after the days on which they are performed

A vrata may also be practiced as part of a sacrificial ceremony such as the rites of conception, initiation, marriage, etc.

In some vratas devotees have to abstain from specific types of food or food substances, such as meat, sour things, salt, or they may have to subsist entirely upon specific foods such as milk or fruit juice.

Apart from fasting and other observances, it is common for devotees to perform a puja or a devotional service with offerings and prayers.

Vratas are observed mostly at home but some may be performed in a temple or a sacred place.

During its observance, devotees worship the chosen god sixteen types of ritual offerings (shodasa upachara puja).

If the vrata is performed for a longer duration, devotees may have to worship the deity one or more times each day according to the prescribed procedure.

Depending upon the complexity of the ritual worship and the temperament of the deity, devotees may also engage the services of a Brahmana priest for the worship.

Many vratas require the devotee to give charity to Brahmanas and poor people as part of the observances

In some vratas devotees have to visit a temple or a place of pilgrim and pay respects to the deity at the beginning, middle or the end of the vrata.

In some Vratas one may have to utter a mantra for a specific number of times or worship the deity in a specific manner according to the prescribed procedure. Cleanliness, ritual baths and abstaining from sex, unclean food, foul speech, and evil people are common observances for most vratas.

Some vratas require the devotees to wear rudrakshas, wear a tilak or specific mystic marks on their bodies or foreheads, carry a sacred object upon their bodies, wear clothes of a specific color such as red or black, keep the beard, maintain silence, and stay away from unclean and haunted places.

Some of them also require people to remain awake in the night.

A vrata is incomplete if it does not involve giving (dana) at the end of it.

If a priest performs the worship, he should be adequately compensated with a suitable fee (dakshina) as agreed in advance.

If guests are invited they should be served with food or snacks and treated with respect.

Some vratas may require the hosts to give gifts to the visiting guests.

Charity is considered a virtue and a good karma in Hinduism, which leads to peace and happiness.

Vratas facilitate it.

In giving people are expected to be generous but within their means.

Any charity which is voluntarily given produces happiness for the giver and the receiver.

Both are benefited by it if it is done as a service to the deity.

Vratas provide opportunities to people to celebrate life and give charity to needy people, Brahmanas and others.

Tradition considers the following charitable gifts appropriate, cows (godana), bulls (vrishabha dana), land (bhoomi dana), house (griha dana), food (anna dana), agricultural tools (hala dana), fruit (phala dana), kitchen utensils (apaka dana), etc.

Consequences of failure

A vrata is meant to test the resolve and faith of a devotee They are part of self-cleansing and spiritual preparation.

They teach us the value of sacrifice, charity, discipline, morality, the practice of dharma and virtuous conduct.

The vow of a vrata cannot be taken lightly.

Halfhearted observance of a Vrata may displease the gods and invite their wrath and punitive action.

Those who practice vratas are therefore advised to persevere and endure until the end any hardships that may arise it.

However, unforeseen circumstances may arise which may often force people to abandon their penances in the middle.

If it happens, one should consult the scripture or follow the advice of a priest or a learned person.

If a vrata has been abandoned due to circumstances beyond one’s control, one may repeat it again from the beginning to the end or from where one had left.

In such cases one may have to perform expiatory rites or vratas, seeking forgiveness.

If Vratas do not yield expected results, one should not lose hope.

As the Bhagavadgita suggests, we have the right to actions only.

The results are not in your hands since they depend upon many known and unknown factors, including your past karma.

Therefore, in the event of failure, you should keep faith and not blame the deity or the priest if he officiated it.

You should learn from the failure and move on with greater resolutions to stay on the path of dharma and continue the spiritual journey.


Vratas are considered beneficial in Hinduism.

Apart from preparing people to deal with the hardships of life and cultivate tolerance and patience, they also lead to peace and prosperity.

Fasting, which is common to most vratas, results in the lightness of the body and improvement in the digestive system as it is cleansed of the toxins.

Besides, fasting keeps the body weight under control and boosts a person’s morale and esteem.

Abstinence from sex for the duration of the vrata strengthen a person’s resolve and improve his confidence and mental strength.

If you follow any discipline and obey the rules of conduct, it is bound to boost your morale, self-esteem and confidence.

Vratas facilitate this process. In the long term, vratas help individuals to cultivate virtue and prepare for the hardships of spiritual life or the life of renunciation.

Those who practice vratas experience positive emotions and feel mentally and spiritually uplifted. After the successful completion vratas, they experience improvements in their lives, actions, fate or circumstances.

In practicing vratas care must be taken to ensure that it will not lead to health problems or stress.

Some people who fast for days subsisting only on water find it very difficult to regain their normal digestion at the end of it.

In Northern India, may women visit doctors after the Durga Puja as they observe complete fasting for days, drinking just water.

At the end of it when they try to return to normal diet, they face problems.

Types of vratas

Hindu vratas may be classified into various categories, using different criteria.

The first criterial is the type of abstinence, according to which the vratas can be grouped under bodily observances (kayakia Vratas), mental observances (manas vratas) and silent observances (vachika vratas).

Some Vrtas are composite, which require the observances of all the three.

The second criterion is the purpose, according to which we may classify them as material (bhautika) observances which are performed for material benefits or spiritual (adhyatmika) which are meant for spiritual transformation or liberation.

The third criterion is duration, according to which vratas are one day, week days, fortnightly, monthly, and yearly.

Some vratas are seasonal, while some can be performed only on specific days in a week or month.

The auspicious time to perform some vratas may also depend upon the birth chart of an individual.

Some vratas can be performed only after a person reaches a certain age.

There are also restrictions on when one should not perform them.

For example, women should not observe any vrata during menstruating period.

Hence, women cannot perform certain vratas which extend for longer periods.

List of important vratas of Hinduism

Vratas are named after the deities for whom they are performed, the days on which they are meant to be performed or the purpose for which they are performed.

Thus, you have Lakshmi Vrat, Gauri Vrat, Satyanarayana Vrat, Vinayaka vrat, Kedaraswami Vrat, Ananta Vrta, Saraswathi Vrat, and so on.

The following is a list of important vratas which were practiced in the past.

Some of them are still practiced in parts of India.

Holy Vratas mentioned in the Puranas

Ashtami Vrata: It is performed either every month on the eighth day of the bright lunar half or in the month of Bhadrapads on the eight lunar day of the dark half.

If it is performed on a Wednesday when it also happens to be the eighth lunar day, it is called Budha Ashtami Vrata and considered very auspicious.

Ashtami vrata is considered extremely beneficial to people who practice it since they earn great merit.

Dwadasi Vrata: As the name suggests, it is observed on the day of Dwadasi or the twelfth lunar day.

If it also happens to be a Friday, it is called Sukra Dwadasi and even more auspicious.

If it is performed on both Dwadasi days in the bright and dark lunar half of the month, it is called Ubhaya Dwadasi Vrata.

Those who perform Dwadasu Vrata earn great merit and escape from the pains and punishments of the Hell.

Tilaka Vrata: This is routinely practiced every day in the morning by many Hindus, whether they know that it is a vrata or not.

In this vrata, people wear a religious or caste mark (tilak) on their forehead and other parts of the body in white or in red.

They do it as part of their family tradition, or to keep away evil spirits and influences.

It is also a great way to start the day and keep up the religious fervor.

Most Hindu ceremonies invariably require wearing a tilak on the forehead by both men and women as part of the ritual.

Jatismara Vrata: It is practiced to remember past lives. Hence, the name Jatismara.

On the day when it is performed, devotees worship their personal or family gods and observe the vow of silence until the evening or until the moon appears.

Rasakalyani Vrata: In this vrata, devotees worship Parvathi, who was said to be the first one to perform it.

During the worship, they bathe her image in clarified butter and install it with due process, before making her offerings.

Those who practice it or know its significance or persuade others to practice are freed from sins and assured a permanent place in the abode of Shiva and Parvathi.

Ardranandakari Vrata: In this vrata Shiva and Parvathi are devotionally worshipped with various offerings. It is meant to fill the lives of the worshippers with peace and positive emotions (arda + Ananda).

Upon the death, they are assured a place in Indra’s heaven, which is full of pleasures and happiness.

Mandarashastithee Vrata: This Vrata is mentioned in the Puranas, but we do not know how it was observed.

Going by the name probably it was observed on the sixth lunar day of the bright half of the first month in the six seasons of the Vedic calendar.

The Puranas warn devotees to perform it with great seriousness to avoid incurring the wrath of gods.

In case of a problem, they should perform Akhanda Dwadasi Vrata and worship Vishnu to neutralize the ill effects.

Ananta Tritiya Vrata: This Vrata is performed in winter, exclusively by women.

It is said that women who perform it will earn the same merit as that of performing a horse sacrifice.

On the day of the Vrata married women, widows and young girls wear red, yellow and white clothes respectively and worship Vishnu.

At the end of the ceremony, they honor Brahmanas with gifts and charity.

Vratas for Surya, the Sun god

Ubhaya Paksha Saptami Vrata: It is observed on the seventh lunar day (saptami) in the month of Pousha which falls in winter.

During the vrata, devotees honor Surya, the sun god, under the belief that those who sincerely practice it achieve the four aims of human life.

At the end of the ceremony Brahmans are rewarded with food and gifts.

Shukla Paksha Abhaya Saptami Vrata: It is celebrated on the seventh lunar day of the bright fortnight, especially in the month of Sravan.

On this day, devotees worship Surya and make offering to him to qualify for a place In the realm of the Sun or Brahman.

Ananta Saptami Vrata: This Vrata is also celebrated in honor of the sun god, on the seventh day of the bright fortnight, but in the month of Bhadrapada, which is considered as rewarding as the previous one.

 On this occasion, devotees bathe an image of the deity in the waters of a sacred river and apply clarified butter, before worshipping it.

Bhadrapada Vratas: Apart from the above, many Vratas used to be celebrated in the past during the month of Bhadrapada in honor of the sun god, such as Kamala Saptami Shasthi, Mahasaptami, Mahalaya Saptami, etc.

Of them only Saptami and Shasti Vratas are currently practiced.

Durgandha Nashaka Vrata: It is performed on the seventh day of the first bright half of the moon (Jyeshta Sukla Pakshami) which usually falls in the summer when the temperatures are high.

It is meant to remove the bad odor (sickness) from the body and thereby the impurities of the mind and body.

During the vrata devotees worship auspicious trees such as Shami or the banyan tree.

Hridaya Adityavaana Vrata: According to the legends Lord Rama was advised by Sage Agastya to perform this vrata in the month of Vaisakha to seek the blessings of the Surya to kill the demon, Ravana.

On this day, devotees worship Sun and fast during the day until the sunset.

They do so mainly to their worldly desires overcome their problems.

Mandara Shasthi Vrata: This is celebrated in the month of Margasira, on the sixth day of the bright fortnight.

Devotees worship Sun with Mandara (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) flowers, seeking a good birth in the next life in a good family.

Sharkara Saptami Vrata: It is observed on the seventh lunar day in the bright fortnight of the month of Ashvini.

Devotees wear white clothes and worship an image of Sun, bathing him with milk. As part of the observance, at the end of the ceremony it is obligatory to distribute sweets and food to Brahmanas.

Sarvathra Saptami Vrata: It is observed on the seventh day in the dark fortnight of the month of Margasira.

On that day devotees avoid eating salt and oil, worship Sun and give alms and food to Brahmanas. Those who perform the vrata go to heaven.

Bhadrapada Shukla Paksha Vrata: It is observed by those who desire to become rich with divine help. Devotees worship sun for the purpose on the bright fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada, on the seventh lunar day when the star Ardra appears in the night sky with the moon.

Radha Saptami Vrata: It is performed on the seventh lunar day in the month of Margasira by those who seek a good birth in the next life.

Devotees worship Sun and his charioteer Aruna with devotion and give charity to the Brahmanas.

Sankranti Vrata: It is celebrated every month on 14th and 15th when Sun transitions into Makara (Capricorn) in its celestial journey and which also marks the beginning of spring in the Indian subcontinent.

On this occasion sun is worshipped, which is believed to give long life and good health. Makara Sankranti, which falls on the 14th and 15th of January is celebrated as a festival for three days, especially in the South.

Rogaahari Vrata: As the name implies, it is performed to overcome sickness and bad health.

The observances are very similar to the modern practice of dieting.

During its performance, devotees worship Sun and subsist on a meager diet of fruit and milk.

In the night, they sleep on a bare ground.

Vratas to other gods

Ananta Chaturdasi Vrata: It is observed on the 14th lunar day of the bright half of the month of Bhadrapada to propitiate the serpent deity, Ananta or Adishesha, upon whose coils Lord Vishnu rests in the heavenly abode of Vaikuntha.

On the day of the vrata, devotees worship Ananta and Lord Vishnu and limit their diet to fruit and milk in the day, while in the night they eat a full meal.

The vrata is meant to benefit children and fulfill worldly desires.

Bhishma Panchaka Vrata: It is observed in the bright fortnight of the month of Kartika.

According to the Mahabharata, Bhshma was the first to practice it.

Hence, it is named after him.

On the day devotees worship Lord Vishnu and abstain from drinking alcohol, eating prohibited foods such as meat, speaking evil or unpleasant words and any bad habits such as gambling.

The vrata is beneficial since it has the power to neutralize the gravest of the sins, including that of killing a Brahmana.

Ashoka Vrata: This Vrata is meant to remove sorrow.

On the day devotees worship the Ashoka tree along with Varuna and Chandra who are considered gods of vegetation.

The Ashoka tree is worshipped because it was in the garden of Ashoka trees (Ashoka vatika) that Ravana held Sita in captivity.

Go-pada Tritiya Vrata: It is observed on the third day of the lunar fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada when the Purva Bhadrapada star appears in the sky.

On this day devotees worship cows and make offerings.

The use of oil, salt and cooked food is prohibited.

It guarantees the worshippers a place in Goloka or the world of Vishnu.

Go-vatsa Dwadashi Vrata: As the name suggests on this day a cow (gau) and her calf (vatsa) are worshipped, which falls on the twelfth lunar day in the dark fortnight of the month of Kartika.

Devotees have to practice celibacy and sleep on the bare floor.

This Vrata also ensures them a place in Goloka or the world of Vishnu.

Kukkuti Vrata: It is meant to worship Shiva and Parvathi for health and progeny and observed on the new moon day (amavasya) of the month of Bhadrapada.

Worshippers are required to wear the sacred thread (Yajnopaveetha) on the day of worship.

Madhooka Tritiya Vrata: It is observed by young girls in the bright fortnight of the month of Phalguna to propitiate goddess Parvathi, seeking a virtuous and good-looking husband.

On that day, they worship Madhuca (Mahua) tree.

Naga Panchami Vrata: It is observed in the month of Shravana on the fifth lunar day of dark fortnight to propitiate serpent deities.

Worshippers observe a day of fasting and worship an image of a snake made of cloth.

They also visit a temple or a sacred grove to offer milk to snakes.

The vrata is meant to seek protection from snakes or to remove the impurity caused by a snake spell (naga dosha).

Ulka Dwadashi Vrata: It is observed in the month of Margasira on the twelfth lunar day during which Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi are propitiated to overcome disabilities such as deafness or dumbness or diseases such as leprosy.

Shanti Vrata: It is practiced in Kartika on the day of Ekadasi in the bright fortnight of the month, during which Lord Vishnu is worshipped for peace and happiness for oneself and the family.

During the day people avoid eating sour preparations and cereals.

Some people observe the vrata on both Ekadasis in the month.

Asunya Sayana Vrata: It is observed by married couples for a happy and harmonious married life and progeny.

During a period of four months, they periodically observe fast on specific days in a week or on designated days and make offerings of sweets and fruit to their personal gods.

Aviyoga Tritiya Vrata: It is also observed for conjugal harmony by married couples on the third lunar day, in the month of Margasira, during the bright half of the month.

Lord Shiva and Parvathi are worshipped on the day since they are the best couple who are united forever as the two sides of the same reality.

Some devotees may also choose other divine couples according to their preference.

Vata Savitri Vrata: It is celebrated in the month of Bhadrapada, on the third lunar day, during the bright half of the month.

On this day, married women observe fast and worship the Banyan tree, praying for the long life of their husbands.

In doing so, they follow the example of Savitri, who saved her husband from the jaws of death by confronting Yama, the Lord of Death.

Akshaya Tritiya Vrata: It is observed in the month of Vaisakha, on the third lunar day, in the bright half of the month, which is also considered auspicious to solemnize a Hindu marriage.

Usually the parents of the bride and bridegroom observe it on the day of marriage, seeking long life and a happy marriage for their children.

They remain on fast until the marriage is formally completed and the bride is given to the groom (Kanyadan) as a gift.

Skanda Shasti Vrata: It is observed in honor of Kartikeya in the month of Kartika on the sixth lunar day in the bright fortnight of the month.

During the vrata devotees remain on complete fast for the whole day. In the evening, they stand in a sacred river and make an offering of a special preparation (which is made of curd, clarified butter and a Udak) to the setting sun.

In some cases they turn towards south wherein the abode of the Kartikeya is said to be located to make the offerings.

This vrata can be performed by anyone, irrespective of the caste or gender.

Popular modern Vratas

Present day Hindus practice many vratas either as part of the Vedic rituals, domestic worship, temple rituals and sacraments such as marriage or as part of festivities during the Hindu festivals such as Durga Puja or Maha Shiva Ratri.

Apart from the weekly or fortnightly vratas which go by such names as Ekadasi or Dwadasi, the following are a few well-known vratas which are currently practiced by Hindus in many parts of India.

Vinayaka Vrata: It is observed on the day of Ganesha Chaturthi, which falls in the month of Bhadrapada during the bright half of the moon.

On this day, Lord Ganesha is worshipped at home, in public and in temples with a lot of fanfare.

Young children seek blessings for success in their studies.

Householders pray for fulfillment of desires, progeny, happiness, prosperity, success and removal of suffering.

Ganesha is served with his favorite food.

Both men and women of all ages and backgrounds participate in the worship.

The Puranas state that if widows worshp Ganesha on this day, they will never again suffer from widowhood in future lives.

Fasting is not recommended on the day of Ganesha Vrat since he is a known lover of good food.

However, people should abstain from alcohol, sex, foul speech, evil thoughts, meat, violence, etc., and stay pure and serene.

Devi Vrata: The name of the vrata goes after the goddess chosen for worship which can be Durga, Gauri, Saraswathi, Lalitha, Parvathi, etc.

The procedure is more or less same for all the vratas involving the aspects of Shakti.

The prayers and chants may vary since each has her own aspects, powers and victories.

Any vrata involving the goddess is meant to overcome suffering and adversity and obtain her blessings for peace, prosperity, good children, happiness, etc.

Devotees may worship the chosen aspect of the goddess for a day or for nine days starting from the day after full moon (padyami), during which they should wake up in the early morning take a bath and worship her with sixteen different offerings (shodasopachara puja), uttering prayers and the several names of her.

One may also worship different aspects of the goddess on nine days.

On the tenth day, they should offer the concluding worship, distribute the remains of the offerings and give gifts to Brahmanas, etc.

This vrata can be performed by people of all castes and backgrounds.

It is more auspicious if it is performed during the Durga festival.

Varalakshmi Vrata: It is performed in the month of Sravana on Friday in the preceding week of the full moon day in the bright half of the month. Goddess Lakshmi, who is also an aspect of Mother Goddess, is worshipped.

It is considered extremely auspicious for those who seek eight types riches, a happy family, peace and prosperity.

On that day, women wake up in the early morning, take a bath and prepare and sanctify the ritual place.

They place an image of Lakshmi and perform a domestic worship with sixteen types of offerings (shodasopachara puja), uttering prayers and mantras and chanting the 1000 names of Lakshmi.

They may also tie a garland of consecrated leaves to the main door, decorate the front side of the house and tie a sacred thread around the right wrist.

If a priest is invited, they pay him his dues and offer him food and gifts according to their capacity.

At the end of the worship, worshipper share the sacrificial food offered to the goddess and share a meal.

Ashta Lakshmi Vrata is a variation of the same, in which the eight aspects of Lakshmi are worshipped.

Satyanaryana Vrata:

This is currently one of the most popular vratas of Hinduism, in which Swami Satyanarayana is worshipped, who is considered an emanation or aspect of Lord Vishnu or Narayana. Satyanarayana means god of truth (satyam).

The vrata is performed to mark an important occasion such as entering a new home, a marriage in the house or the reunion of the family or to overcome problems and difficulties.

It is considered to be auspicious and beneficial, as the stories associated with it suggest.

They also suggest that it is an ancient vrata with a long history.

There is no specific month or date when it can be performed.

People perform the worship on any day as suggested by a priest or an astrologer.

 Any auspicious occasion such as the full moon day (Purnima) or seventh lunar day, etc.,

 is chosen for the purpose, barring a few months such as Ashadha. During the vrata in the presence of children, family relations and friends, the head of the household and his wife worship Lord Satyanarayana with prayers and offerings.

They may do it on their own or with the help of a priest.

At the end of the ceremony, they distribute the prasad and share a meal with the guests.

The importance of food in Hindu Worship

This essay is about the importance of food (annam) in the ritual and spiritual practices of Hinduism

In Hinduism, food (annam) is considered Brahman or an aspect of Brahman (annam parabrahma swarūpam).

It is central to both creation and life.

The whole material existence is symbolized as food.

It is the lowest aspect in which Brahman manifests.

The Upanishads declare that by creating different types of food, names, forms and functions, God manifested diversity.

Food as the universal matter

The physical body is called the food body (annamaya kosa) because it is made up of food only.  The soul or the Self is eternal, self-existing and independent.

He does not depend upon food, but the created beings invariably depend upon it.

 Food is both the source of life and the cause of death because it is both the nourisher and destroyer.

According the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, “Prajapati created seven types of food through austerity.

Of them only one was common.

He provided the gods with two.

Three he made for himself.

 One he gave to the animals.

On that rests everything, whether it breaths or not.”

Of the seven, one is the physical or elemental food which is common to all, five are breaths (prana), which serve as subtle food to the senses or gods.

The one which was given to animals was milk which is used by humans both as food and offering in the sacrifices.

Gods receive food through breath in the body and air in the macrocosm.

The same Upanishad states that the multitude of gods can be reduced by their spheres into three, the earth, the mid-region and the heaven.

They can be further reduced into two categories according to their dependence upon subtle (breath) and gross foods.

Thus, in Hinduism food is not just what we eat.

It also includes what we breathe, perceive and accumulate in the mind and body as virtue (punya phalam), desires, sin (papa phalam), attachments, karma and material possessions.

In this essay, we discuss the importance of food in the ritual and spiritual practices of Hinduism.

At the highest level food is the universal matter and energy.

It represents Nature, all the materiality, phenomena and the tattvas (finite realities) from which the whole diversity manifests.

Food is the object as well as the subject of sacrifice.

It is the means to creation as well as procreation.

Existence is not possible without food.

The world itself is considered the food of Kala, the lord of the mortal world. Hence, he is also known as the devourer.

He eats everything. Since the whole material existence is considered the gross body of Brahman, everything in it is worthy as a sacrificial material.

Breath plays an important role in the movement, digestion and transformation of food in the body as well as in the macrocosm.

Through austerity and breath control, food transforms into heat (tapas) and vigor (ojas) in the body (tapas), into mental brilliance (medhas) in the mind, and retas (seed) in the male sexual organ.

Wrong food or foods with the predominance of rajas or tamas cause sickness and inertia or strengthen demonic qualities, whereas light foods with the predominance of sattva improve health and strengthen divine nature.

Food is also a healer and purifier. Hence, diet is considered an important aspect of healing in the Ayurveda.

The symbolism of food is depicted in the following image.

Food in worship

Hindu rituals invariably involve the offering of food due to the significance attached to it.

It is divine and worthy of worship because just as God, food also performs the triple functions of creation, preservation and destruction.

Food also serves as the connecting link between the triple worlds, just as God is considered the thread that binds all worlds together.

Annam in a general sense means all food, but in a specific sense boiled rice.

Food and clothing are considered the bare necessities of life.

Hence, gifting them was an integral part of the Vedic sacrifice.

According to the Vedas, gods in heaven cannot make food for themselves and depend upon humans for nourishment.

So is the case with the ancestors in the ancestral heaven who depend upon their descendants for ritual food to build and sustain their casual bodies.

Then there are animals, mendicants, beggars, poor and decrepit people, ascetics, wandering monks, etc.,

who depend upon other for their survival.

The scriptures stipulate that it is obligatory for humans to perform daily sacrifices, sacraments and other sacrificial ceremonies to nourish these different types of beings and uphold Dharma.

Thus, every Hindu ritual is essentially an act of sacrifice or offering in which one offers both gross and subtle objects.

At the end of the ritual, the remains or what is left of the sacrifice is distributed between the worshippers and the host of the sacrifice as a sacred food.

The Bhagavadgita states that he who eats food without offering it to God verily eats sin.

Food in penance

While in ritual worship, the worshippers offer food to gods and partake the remains of the food as a gift from the gods, in penances they abstain from it to affirm their faith or loyalty, fulfill an oath, overcome an adversity or expiate for sins and transgressions.

Such penances may be performed as a part of ritual worship or separately.

According to Hindu Varnashrama Dharma, students have to obtain food only through begging. Except on certain occasions, they should not eat food unless it is obtained from more than one person, Householders have the obligation to offer food as part of their religious duties, while those who renounce worldly life and undertake Sanyasa, have to abstain from cooking, develop a distaste for food and subsist upon as little food as possible to purify their minds and bodies.

In the final stages, they are expected to completely stop taking food and allow the soul to leave the body to achieve final liberation.

The law books such as the Manusmriti prescribe several types of penances as part of ritual worship or punishments for sinful actions. For example, the Manusmriti prescribes that if a student who has taken initiation from a guru remains asleep at the time of the sunrise or the sunset, he should fast the next day reciting the Gayatri. Otherwise, he will be tainted by great guilt.

One of the most notable penances of the Vedic times was the Krikkhra penance, in which for the first fifteen days during which the moon waned the worshipper increasingly reduced the intake of food by certain mouthfuls, and in the next fifteen days he gradually increased it by the same number.

Hinduism, Food and Fasting

“The saintly persons get relief from all kinds of sins by partaking the food that has been first offered to gods as sacrifice.

But those who prepare food for their selfish ends eat but only sins.

(Bhagavad gita 3:13)

“All beings come into existence from food.

Food comes from rains.

Rains originate from the performance of sacrifices.

And sacrifice is born out of doing prescribed duties.

(Bhagavad gita 3:14)

I speak the truth, it is indeed his death. He who nourishes neither the god nor a friend, he who eats alone, gathers sin.

(Rig Veda X. 117)

From earth herbs, from herbs food, from food seed, from seed man.

Man thus consists of the essence of food. (Taittiriya Upanishad)

‘From food are produced all creatures which dwell on earth.

Then they live by food, and in the end they return to food. For food is the oldest of all beings, and therefore it is called panacea.

(Taittiriya Upanishad)

Food is God

According to Hinduism, food is verily an aspect of Brahman (annam parabrahma swaroopam).

Because it is a gift from God, it should be treated with great respect.

The gross physical body is called annamayakosh or the food body, because it is nourished by food and grows by absorbing the energies from the food.

Orthodox Hindus offer food to God mentally before eating. Food is identified with the element of earth.

According to Prasna Upanishad, “Food is in truth the Lord of Creation (Prajapathi).

From food is produced retas (the sexul energy or semen) and from it beings are born.”

According to Manu, “Food, that is always worshipped, gives strength and manly vigor; but eaten irreverently, it destroys them both.”

Food should be eaten for the survival and strength of the body, with a religious attitude, to practice austerities and gain self control, but not for pleasure.

Eating is therefore any other human activity which can be made into either a sacrificial act that would help in the liberation of soul or a mere pleasure activity that would lead to bondage and suffering.

In the Bhagavadgita Sri Krishna declares that food is of three types as are sacrifices, austerity and charity.

Sattvic (pure) food is that one which increases longevity, purity, strength, health, happiness and taste and which is juicy, oily, durable in nature and liked by sattvic people.

Rajasic (hot) food is that one which is bitter, sour, salty, hot and spicy, burning and which gives unhappiness, sorrow and disease.

Tamasic (intoxicating) food is that one which is stored and devoid of any juices, dried, foul smelling, decomposed, left over and indigestible.

When a person eats these foods without offering them to God, he develops the qualities they impart and acts according to them.

One should therefore be very careful in what one eats and when, where and how it is eaten.

Food Rituals

In Hinduism several rituals are associated with food.

A child’s first feeding is celebrated as a samskara known as annaprasana.

The funeral rites involve serving of of food, offering of food to the departed soul and making of his astral body with food for his continuation in the ancestral world. According to Manu,” Food, that is always worshipped, gives strength and manly vigour; but eaten irreverently, it destroys them both.”

He therefore advices that “a twice-born man should always eat his food with concentrated mind, after performing an ablution; and after he has eaten,” he should “duly cleanse himself with water and sprinkle the cavities of his head.

Devout Hindus observe some rituals before eating food, which are enumerated below.

❀ Cleaning the place. Food is always eaten in a clean place.

The Hindu law books proscribe eating food in unclean places.

❀ Sprinkling of water around the food.

When food is served, water is sprinkled around it, accompanied by some mantras or prayers.

This is meant to purify the food and make it worthy for the gods.

Some water is also sipped following this act, in order to clear the throat.

❀ Making an offering of the food.

Food is then offered to five vital breaths (pranas), namely prana, apana, vyana, udana, samanaya and then to Brahman seated in the heart.

Some offer food to their personal gods or divinities before eating instead of the five vital breaths.

The purpose of offering food to the deities and God is two fold.

It renders the act of eating a sacrificial ritual and signifies internalization of sacrifice, making ones body a sacrificial altar.

Secondly it is believed that offering food to gods is a mark of self-surrender and devotion.

According to Hindu scriptures, he who eats food after offering it to gods or God would come to no harm as any rajasic or tamasic substances or qualities hidden in the food would be neutralized by the their positive energies and blessings.

In addition to these, the twice born were advised to perform five sacrifices every day which are essentially sacrificial offerings of food to different entities.

They are

❀ Ahuta, which is not offered to the fire, usually the vedic mantras,

❀ Huta, which is the burnt oblation offered to the gods,

❀ Prahuta which is usually food grains etc offered by scattering it on the ground

❀ the Bali, which is the sacrificial offering given to the Bhutas or ghosts,

❀ Brahmya-huta, which is the food offered to the digestive fires of Brahmanas and guests invited to one’s house,

❀ Prasita, which is offered to the to the ancestors.

According to the Bhagavadgita, he who eats food without offering to God verily incurs sin.

Food is also served to guests and poor people during festive occasions and important ceremonies.

In ancient India young students who were initiated into Brahmacharya were expected to beg for their food.

Cooking food is also prohibited for those who have entered the phase of Sanyasa or renunciation.

While self-mortification was not suggested, they were expected to gradually reduce their dependence upon food in order to set themselves free from the cravings of the body and the mind.


According to Hinduism, food is responsible for our physical birth and also the development of our bodies. What we eat decides our physical well being as well as our mental makeup.

If we eat sattvic food (pure food) we become sattvic (pure) beings.

If we heat rajasic food (hot and spicy) we become rajasic (ambitious, temparamental, egoistic etc).

If we eat animal food or intoxicating foods, we may develop animal qualities and lethargic nature. Therefore we have to be careful about our food.

Besides killing innocent and helpless animals for the purpose of filling ones stomach is a bad karma with harmful consequences.

Apart from non vegetarian food, orthodox Hindus also avoid eating spicy food, onions, garlic, mushrooms, intoxicating juices, very sour food and some bulbs and tubers.

The following are a few quotations from the Manusmriti.

The eater who daily even devours those destined to be his food, commits no sin; for the creator himself created both the eaters and those who are to be eaten (for those special purposes). ( 5:30)

Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures, and injury to sentient beings is detrimental to (the attainment of) heavenly bliss; let him therefore shun (the use of) meat. (5:48)

There is no sin in eating meat, in (drinking) spirituous liquor, and in carnal intercourse, for that is the natural way of created beings, but abstention brings great rewards. (5:56)

Not all Hindus avoid eating meat.

A great majority of Hindus eat it.

In ancient India even the Brahmins ate certain types of sacrificial meat.

Hindu law books do not prohibit the eating of meat in general, but only certain types of meat.

To a great extent Jainism and to some extent Buddhism influenced the food eating habits of the Hindu community in ancient India, although we cannot say definitely that the concept of non violence and avoiding meat eating were alien to them before.

As early as the rig Vedic period, ancient Hindu sages who spent their lives in meditation and seclusion subsisted on roots and tubers and plant food only to gain control over their minds and bodies and attain self-realization.

Hiuen Tsang who visited India in the 7th Century AD noted that Indian ate mostly vegetarian food.


Hindus believe that serving food to the poor and the needy, to the pious and the religious and to the birds, insects and animas is a very good karma.

In ancient India it was an obligatory religious duty to serve food to the begging students and sadhus and to the Brahmanas.

Food is also associated with a lot of religious activity.

Food is invariably offered to God during most of the religious ceremonies.

On specific days in a year food is offered to departed souls.

Food is also distributed to people at the end of many religious ceremonies.

Many Hindu temples distribute food freely every day to the visiting devotees.


If eating is a sacrificial ritual, fasting is another kind of ritual meant to purify the body and the mind and develop the sattvic quality of detachment and equanimity.

Devout Hindus observe fasting on special occasions as a mark of respect to their personal gods or as a part of their penance.

At certain times in a year like the Durganavami festival they do not take food for days together.

Fasting Benefits, Why Hindus fast?

It is a myth that devotees keep fast to please their adorable God. In the Hindu religion, fasting is not an obligation, but a moral and spiritual act where the aim is to purify the body and mind and acquire divine grace. Fasting in Hinduism indicates the denial of the physical needs of the body for the sake of spiritual gains.

Meaning of the word “Upavaasa” (Fast)

 Fasting in Sanskrit is called upavaasa. ‘Upa’ means “near” + ‘vaasa’ means “to stay”.  Upavaasa therefore means staying near (the Lord), meaning the attainment of close mental proximity with the Lord.
According to the scriptures, fasting helps us tune with the Absolute by establishing a harmonious relationship between the body and the soul.
This is thought to be imperative for the well-being of a human being as it nourishes both his/her physical and spiritual demands.
Hindus believe it is not easy to unceasingly pursue the path of spirituality in one’s daily life.
With our busy lifestyles, it’s not easy to concentrate on spiritual attainment.
Fasting is a way to get your mind focused to attain self-awareness. However, fasting is not only a part of worship but a great instrument for self-discipline too. It is a training of the mind and the body to endure and harden up against all hardships, to persevere under difficulties and not give up.

Is fasting good for health? 

Fasting for short time can be beneficial for health. Nowadays fasting is beco5 widely accepted as a legitimate mean of managing weight and preventing disease. Because a Water-fast restricts calories, one can lose a lot of weight quickly.

Fasting Benefits-

  • Controls Blood Sugar Reducing Insulin resistance.
  • Promotes Better Health by Fighting Inflammation.
  • Enhance Heart Health by improving cholesterol, BP.
  • Boost functioning of brain.
  • Helps weight Loss
  • Improves Hunger
  • Improves Immune System
  • Etc.

Different Kinds of Fasting 

  • Hindus fast on certain days of the month, such as Purnima (full moon) ;Certain days of the week are also marked for fasting, depending on individual choices and on one’s favourite deitye.g.Some fast on Tuesdays, the auspicious day for Hanumanji. On Fridays devotees of the goddess Santoshi Mata.  
  • Fasting at festivals is common. Hindus all over India observe fast on festivals like Navratri, Shivratri & KarwaChouth.  Navaratri is a festival when people fast for nine days. Fasting can take up many forms, from complete fasting without food & water for example in KarwaChoth to giving up certain foods e.g. cereal & only consuming fruit. This is called phalahar.

Ayurvedic Viewpoint 

The underlying principle behind fasting is to be found in Ayurveda. This ancient Indian medical system sees the basic cause of many diseases as the accumulation of toxic materials in the digestive system. Regular cleansing of toxic materials keeps one healthy. By fasting, the digestive organs get rest and all body mechanisms are cleansed and corrected. A complete fast is good for heath, and the occasional intake of warm lemon juice during the period of fasting prevents flatulence.


Finally, the pangs of hunger that one experience during fasting make one think and extend one’s sympathy towards the destitute who often go without food. Fasting provides an opportunity for the privileged to give food-grains to the less privileged and alleviate their distress. Even in the west, intermittent fasting has become a common practice for weight control & cleanses the digestive system of toxins. This phenomenon was written in our Vedas over 5,000 years ago.

 Fasting in Hinduism

Fasting in Hinduism is mainly done for earning Punya. Fasting is a process where we do not eat anything for half-day, one day, or more. It is observed in all religions. It is used as a treatment in Naturopathy as well as Ayurveda. Modern science has also started taking it seriously. Fasting done in a scientific way can be beneficial.

Fasting is a very important aspect of Hinduism. Hindus observe fast in the name of God every once, twice, or more times a week.

The following are the days and deities associated with that particular day. Fast on that particular day is believed to be beneficial for pleasing that deity.

Monday – Lord Shiva

Tuesday – Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesha, Lord Hanuman

Thursday – Lord Dattatreya

Friday – Santoshi Mata

Saturday – Lord Hanuman, Lord Shani

Sunday – Khandoba

Other than these days, there are monthly and yearly fasts also.

Sankashti and Angarki Chaturthi – Lord Ganesha

Ekadashi – Goddess

Mahashivratri – Lord Shiva

Gokulashtami – Lord Krishna

Vat Pournima – this fast is done only by married women to increase the lifespan of their husbands.

Ganesh Jayanti – Lord Ganesha

Guru Pournima – Lord Dattatreya

Navratri – Goddess Durga

An Ideal Way of Fasting in Hinduism:

According to ancient Hinduism tradition, one should fast once a week with remaining empty stomach until afternoon. One is allowed to drink water until that time. In the afternoon one should have fruit juice or one or two fruits (This privilege is given because remaining empty stomachs for a long time can increase acidity and lower blood sugar and blood pressure. Also, some people need to do hard labor throughout the day. In such situations, it is very hard to remain an empty stomach for the whole day. Some people even fall sick and faint at times if they do not eat anything throughout the day). One should break the fast in the evening after sunset. The timing for the fast is from sunrise to sunset or else 12 a.m. to 12 a.m. next night i.e., 24 hours.

While breaking the fast, you should eat some rice first. Eating nonvegetarian food is not allowed on the day of fasting because nonveg food is hard to digest. If you eat nonveg on the day of fasting, it is useless to fast. Plus, killing someone on the day when you are doing fast for God is bad).

Spiritual reasons behind fasting:

It is believed that if your body undergoes sufferings, your sins would lessen. It is like punishing yourself. So, instead of God punishing you, you punish yourself. This would lessen some of your sins and you would have more good time in your life.

It is also believed that if you fast on a particular day that particular deity becomes happy with you and lessens your sufferings. So, if you are in trouble and you go to an astrologer, he would advise you to do fasting on a particular day depending upon the nature of your problem.

Fasting: What You Should Know

What’s a Fast?

Fasting, Praying, and Regular Hindu Rituals

A Day-by-Day Guide to Hindu Weekly Practices

In Hinduism, each day of the week is devoted to one or more of the faith’s deities. Special rituals, including prayer and fasting, are performed to honor these gods and goddesses. Each day also is associated with a celestial body from Vedic astrology and has a corresponding gemstone and color.

There are two different types of fasting in Hinduism. Upvaas are fasts made to fulfill a vow, while vratas are fasts made to observe religious rituals. Devotees may engage in either kind of fast during the week, depending on their spiritual intent.

Ancient Hindu sages used observances like ritual fasts to spread the awareness of different gods. They believed abstaining from food and drink would pave the path of the divine for the devotees to realize God, which is understood to be the sole purpose of human existence.

In the Hindu calendar, days are named after the seven celestial bodies of the ancient solar system: the sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Monday (Somvar)

Monday is dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort goddess Parvati. Lord Ganesha, their son, is venerated at the beginning of the worship. Devotees also listen to devotional songs called shiva bhajans on this day. Shiva is associated with Chandra, the moon. White is his color and pearl his gemstone. 

The Somvar Vrat or Monday fast is observed from sunrise to sunset, broken after evening prayers. Hindus believe that, by fasting, they will be granted wisdom by Lord Shiva who will fulfill all their desires. In some places, unmarried women fast in order to attract their ideal husband.

Tuesday (Mangalvar)

Tuesday is dedicated to the deity Lord Hanuman and Mangal, the planet Mars. In southern India, the day is dedicated to the god Skanda. Devotees also listen to Hanuman Chalisa, songs dedicated to the simian deity, on this day. Hindu faithful fast to honor Hanuman and seek his help in warding off evil and overcoming obstacles placed in their way.

Fasting is also observed by couples who want to have a son. After sundown, the fast is typically broken by a meal consisting only of wheat and jaggery (case sugar). People wear red-colored clothes on Tuesdays and offer red flowers to Lord Hanuman. Moonga (red coral) is the preferred gem of the day.

Wednesday (Budhvar)

Wednesday is dedicated to Lord Krishna and Lord Vithal, an incarnation of Krishna. The day is associated with Budh, the planet Mercury. In some places, Lord Vishnu is also worshipped. Devotees listen to Krishna Bhajans (songs) on this day. Green is the preferred color and onyx and emerald the preferred gems.

Hindu devotees who fast on Wednesdays take a single meal in the afternoon. Budhvar Upvaas (Wednesday fasts) are traditionally observed by couples seeking a peaceful family life and students who want academic success. People start a new business or enterprise on Wednesdays as the planet Mercury or Budh is believed to augment new projects.

Thursday (Guruvar or Vrihaspativar)

Thursday is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Brihaspati, the guru of gods. Vishnu’s planet is Jupiter. Devotees listen to devotional songs, such as “Om Jai Jagadish Hare,” and fast to obtain wealth, success, fame, and happiness.

Yellow is Vishnu’s traditional color. When the fast is broken after sundown, the meal traditionally consists of yellow foods such as chana daal (Bengal Gram) and ghee (clarified butter). Hindus also don yellow clothing and offer yellow flowers and bananas to Vishnu. 

Friday (Shukravar)

Friday is dedicated to Shakti, the mother goddess associated with the planet Venus; Goddesses Durga and Kali also are worshipped. Devotees perform the ceremonies of Durga Aarti, Kali Aarti, and Santoshi Mata Aarti on this day. Hindus seeking material wealth and happiness fast to honor Shakti, eating only a single meal after sunset.

Because white is the color most closely associated with Shakti, the evening meal typically consists of white foods such as kheer or payasam, a dessert made of milk and rice. Offerings of chana (Bengal gram) and gur (jaggery or solid molasses) are given to appeal to the goddess, and sour foods are to be avoided. 

Other colors associated with Shakti include orange, violet, purple, and burgundy, and her gemstone is the diamond.

Saturday (Shanivar)

Saturday is dedicated to the fearful god Shani, who is associated with the planet Saturn. In Hindu mythology, Shani is a hunter who brings bad luck. Devotees fast from sunrise to sunset, seeking protection from Shani’s ill will, illnesses, and other misfortunes. After sundown, Hindus break the fast by eating food prepared using black sesame oil or black gram (beans) and cooked without salt.

Devotees observing the fast usually visit Shani shrines and offer black-colored items like sesame oil, black clothes, and black beans. Some also worship the peepal (the holy Indian fig) and tie a thread around its bark, or offer prayers to Lord Hanuman seeking protection from Shani’s wrath. Blue and black are Shani’s colors. Blue gems, such as blue sapphire, and black iron rings made of horseshoes frequently are worn to ward off Shani.

Sunday (Ravivar)

Sunday is dedicated to Lord Surya or Suryanarayana, the sun god. Devotees fast seeking his help in fulfilling their wishes and curing skin diseases. Hindus begin the day with a ritual bath and a thorough housecleaning. They keep a fast throughout the day, eating only after sunset and avoiding salt, oil, and fried foods. Alms are also given on that day.

Surya is represented by rubies and the colors red and pink. To honor this deity, Hindus will wear red, apply a dot of red sandalwood paste on their forehead, and offer red flowers to statues and icons of the sun god.

The Ultimate Guide to Hindu Fasting: What to Eat During Vrat

Fasting is a significant aspect of Hindu culture, observed for various reasons, including spiritual growth and devotion. During these fasting periods, known as “Vrat” or “Upwas,” it’s essential to adhere to specific dietary restrictions. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the ins and outs of Hindu fasting and provide you with a detailed list of foods that are typically consumed during these fasting days.

Understanding Hindu Fasting

Hindu fasting is not just about abstaining from food; it’s a holistic practice that involves self-discipline and spiritual contemplation. Fasting is often observed on specific days or during festivals like Navratri, Mahashivratri, and Ekadashi. The duration of fasting can vary from a single day to several consecutive days.

The Spiritual Significance

Fasting in Hinduism is more than a dietary practice; it is a means of purifying the mind and body. It is believed to:

Enhance self-control and discipline.

Promote inner reflection and meditation.

Demonstrate devotion and reverence to the divine.

Foods Allowed During Hindu Fasting

When observing Hindu fasting, it’s crucial to adhere to specific dietary guidelines. Here is a comprehensive list of foods typically allowed during fasting:

Staple Ingredients for Hindu Fasting

Food   Description

Sabudana (Sago)    Used for various dishes like Sabudana Khichadi and Sabudana Vada.

Potatoes        A staple in many fasting recipes, used in curry, chips, and more.

Sweet Potatoes        Prepared in various ways during fasting.

Arrowroot (Arbi)        Used in curries or fried dishes.

Fruits  Bananas, apples, papayas, and other fruits are commonly consumed.

Milk and Milk Products        Milk, yogurt, and buttermilk are allowed during fasting.

Nuts and Seeds       Almonds, peanuts, and cashews can be used in recipes.

Spices            Cumin, coriander, and rock salt (sendha namak) add flavor.

Special Flours          Singhara (water chestnut flour), Rajgira (amaranth flour), and Kuttu (buckwheat flour) for making bread and snacks.

Herbs and Spices    Ginger, green chilies, and fresh coriander are used for seasoning.

Table 1: Staple Ingredients for Hindu Fasting

While the foods listed above are commonly allowed during fasting, it’s essential to remember that practices may vary based on regional customs and individual preferences. Additionally, some people may choose to avoid garlic and onions during fasting.

Notable Fasting Days in Hinduism

Fasting Day Occasion

Navratri          A nine-night festival dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga.

Mahashivratri            Celebrated in honor of Lord Shiva, it involves an all-day fast.

Ekadashi       Observed twice a month in devotion to Lord Vishnu.

Karva Chauth           A fasting day for married women, praying for their husbands’ well-being.

Janmashtami            Celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna, often observed with fasting.

Table 2: Notable Fasting Days in Hinduism

Recipes for Hindu Fasting

Hindu fasting doesn’t mean bland or tasteless food. In fact, there’s a wide variety of delicious dishes you can prepare while adhering to fasting rules. Here are a few popular fasting recipes:

Delicious Hindu Fasting Recipes

Recipe           Description

Sabudana Khichadi            A flavorful dish made with sago, peanuts, and spices.

Sabudana Vada       Crispy fritters prepared with sago, potatoes, and spices.

Aloo Jeera     Sautéed potatoes with cumin seeds and other seasonings.

Lauki ki Sabzi           A curry made from bottle gourd and mild spices.

Kuttu Ki Puri Deep-fried bread made from buckwheat flour.

Fruit Salad    A refreshing mix of fruits with a dash of rock salt.

Sabudana Kheer     A sweet dessert made with sago and milk.

Rajgira Paratha        Buckwheat flour flatbread, perfect for breakfast.

Table 3: Delicious Hindu Fasting Recipes

These recipes not only adhere to fasting rules but also offer a burst of flavors to make your fasting days enjoyable.

Additional Considerations

Fasting Rules

Fasting can vary in strictness, so it’s essential to understand the specific rules for the fasting day you are observing. Some fasts allow for a single meal during the day, while others may be more stringent.

Food Preparations

Many people who fast prefer to cook their meals at home to ensure the food complies with their fasting guidelines.

Spices and Herbs

Spices like cumin and rock salt are used in place of regular salt during fasting. Fresh herbs like coriander and curry leaves are also popular for seasoning dishes.

Vrat-Friendly Flours

Flours like Singhara, Rajgira, and Kuttu are readily available in stores, making it easier to prepare fasting meals.


Hindu fasting is a profound practice that combines spiritual devotion with dietary discipline. Understanding what foods are allowed during fasting is essential for those who observe these rituals. With a diverse range of ingredients and recipes available, fasting can be a delicious and spiritually enriching experience. Remember that fasting practices can vary, so it’s crucial to consult local customs and religious guidelines to ensure you are observing the fast correctly. Whether you are fasting for spiritual reasons or seeking a new culinary adventure, these fasting recipes offer a delectable way to celebrate your devotion.

Various Types of Fasting and Its Significance

Fasting on the holy days is a noble and effective exercise undertaken by the Hindus. In fact, fasting is an auspicious act which should be done in an appropriate manner. If it is not done properly, it may not be effective; on the other hand, it may even cause problems. Even those who do not fast at all will have to face difficult situations. In Raja Bhoj’s account, there is a mention of 24 types of fasts.

Three Types of Fast (Based on Purpose)

On the other hand, the names of 700 vratas are mentioned in the book Hemadi. The great Sanskrit scholar Gopinath Kaviraj has mentioned 1,622 vratas in his Shabdakosh. Broadly, there are 3 types of fasting, based on their purpose: 1) Nitya (Daily), 2) Naimittik (Specific), 3) Kamya (Personal)

1) Nitya Vrat is that in which there is an emphasis on the worship of God and good conduct like speaking truth, staying pure, controlling the senses, restraining anger, avoiding bad talk and criticism and getting committed to God come what may. If someone doesn’t follow this vrat and rituals, he/she will invite sin.

2) Naimittik Vrat is for repenting for the bad karma or getting free of your sorrows. Besides, vrats which are kept according to any specific tithi (date as per Hindu calendar) also fall under the category of Naimittik Vrat.

3) Kamya Vrat is kept for fulfilling any wish or desire like to beget a child, to become more prosperous and other reasons.

The Annual Cycle Of Vrats

1) Weekly Fast: In this, we fast once a week. This is the best method to fast.

2) Fortnightly Fast: There are two fortnights in the Hindu time scale method (Waxing Moon or Shukla Paksha and Waning Moon or Krishna Paksha). The important days to fast during the two fortnights are Chaturthi, Ekadashi, Trayodashi, Amavasya and Purnima. We can fast on any of the above mentioned days.

3) Three-Monthly Fast: The prominent fast in this category is the Navratri fast. As per the Hindu calendar, Navratri falls in the months of Paush, Chaitra, Ashaadh and Ashwin. In all of the above mentioned months, the first day till the ninth day is called Navratri. Fasting on these nine days can remove all your sorrows.https://products.ganeshaspeaks.com/my-life/ask-an-expert-report/?utm_source=astrology&utm_campaign=astrology

4) Six-Monthly Fast: Chaitra month Navaratri is called Greater Navratri and Ashwin month Navratri is called Smaller Navratri. The time lag between both is around six months.

5) Yearly Fast: In the annual Vrats is the fast undertaken during Shravan Month. As per the tradition, people are required to fast during the entire month of Shravan. Besides, those who do Chaturmas do not face any disease or sorrow. Shravan month is very useful. Fasting during the entire Shravan month (and not just on Mondays) can free you from physical and mental problems.

Different Kinds of Fast (As per their Nature)

1) Prat
2) Adhopvas
3) Ekaharopvas
4) Rasopvas
5) Phalopvas
6) Dugdhopvas
7) Takropvas
8) Poornopavs
9) Saptahik Upvas
10) Laghu Upvas
11) Kathor Upvas
12) Toote Upvas
13) Deergh Upvas

1) Prat Upvas

In this, we are not required to take our breakfast in the morning. Besides, we are to eat only two times during the entire day.

2) Adhopvas

This is also called the fast of the evening. We are required to eat only once during the entire day; we are not required not to eat at night.

3) Ekaharopvas

In this, we are required to eat only one type of food. For example, if we consume roti in the morning, we can consume only sabji in the evening. On the next day, we can consume fruit in the morning and milk in the evening.

4) Rasopvas

Herein we are required not to consume cereals (ann) and several types of fruits. We can only consume juicy fruits and vegetable juices. Even consuming milk is not allowed on this day.

5) Falopvas

During Falopvas we are required to consume only juicy fruits and vegetables. If fruits do not suit us, we should only consume cooked vegetables.

6) Dughdopvas

This fast is also known as Dugdha Kalp. In this, we are required to consume only milk 4 to 5 times the fasting days.

7) Takropvas

It is also known as Mathakalp. In this, we are required to avoid ghee and sour things. This vrat can be followed for two months at a time.

8) Purnopvas

We are not required to eat anything and just stay on the clean and fresh water. We are required to follow other rules which have been laid down by tradition.

9) Saptahik Upvas

If we do one Purnopvas once in the week, it is called Weekly Upvas.

10) Laghu Upvas

When the Purnopvas is carried out for 3 to 7 days, it is called Laghu Upvas.

11) Kathor Upvas

This upvas is very suitable for people who are suffering from a difficult disease. In this one has to strictly follow all the rules of Purnopvas.

12) Toote Upvas

Here we are supposed to carry out Purnopvas for 2 to 7 days. Thereafter, we are required to eat light natural food for a few days and again go on a fast for some more days. Keep continuing with this cycle (of going on fast and thereafter consuming light fruits) till you get what you were seeking.

13) Deergh Upvas

In this Purnopvas is to be done for a number of days. The days are pre-decided. The number of days may range from 21 to around 50 to 60. This fast is discontinued once we start feeling the need for food or fasting has detoxified our body.

Hindu Vrat Calendar

The Hindu calendar is based on the moon’s movement around the earth, whereas the Gregorian calendar is based on the earth’s rotation as it revolves around the sun. Each of the 12 months in the Gregorian calendar has 30 or 31 days, however, the Hindu calendar’s months only have 28 days. The LifeGuru app contains a schedule of Hindu holidays for India in . All Hindu holidays, fasting days, and traditions are listed on this calendar.

In a symbolic sense, fasting is an act of sacrifice in which one gives up food and comfort to give God a sign of love and submission. Fasting calms the senses suppresses passion, and purifies the intellect. For many Hindus, fasting is also a form of penance because it gives one a chance to atone for sins.

Your Complete Guide to Fasting in

Importance of Fasting in Hinduism

Fasting, or “Upavasa” as it is called in Sanskrit, has historically been revered in Hinduism. Fasting, which has been practiced for millennia and is based on ancient scriptures, is regarded as a way to purify the soul, show devotion, and evoke divine favors.

Fasting acts as a link between the physical and the spiritual, and is frequently timed to coincide with holidays, lunar cycles, and specific days for deity worship like Ekadashi. Hindus think they are using their body energy to concentrate on prayer, meditation, and reflection by refraining from eating or eating in moderation.

It emphasizes the idea that people are more than simply their physical selves and possess a strong, inherently spiritual core as a witness to the discipline of the body and the elevation of the spirit.

Benefits of Fasting for the Body

When we consider how fasting affects our bodies physiologically, science and conventional wisdom converge. Fasting helps with detoxification and cellular healing by giving our digestive systems a break. The procedure triggers autophagy, a mechanism by which the body eliminates damaged cells and promotes cellular renewal.

Additionally, fasting enhances metabolic processes, assists in weight control, and may even enhance brain activity, resulting in increased clarity and focus. Additionally, it controls blood sugar levels, improves heart health, and may lengthen life. In essence, fasting sometimes acts as the body’s “reset button,” allowing it to repair, re-calibrate, and return to its ideal state.

How to fast (along with types of fast)

Hinduism has a wide variety of fasting practices that might vary in rigor according to one’s personal beliefs, local traditions, and particular events. Here are a few typical examples:

Complete Vrat/Fast: Complete fasting is giving up all food and liquids for a full day, or even longer.

Partial Vrat/Fast: Consuming particular items like fruits, nuts, and dairy products while avoiding grains and some vegetables is known as a partial fast.

Fluid Vrat/Fast: Fluid fast involves avoiding solid foods and only consuming liquids such as milk, water, or fruit juices.

Ekadashi Vrat/Fast: A twice-monthly fast in which followers of Lord Vishnu refrain from eating grains and beans.

✿  Nirjala Ekadashi Vrat/Fast: A more stringent kind of Ekadashi that forbids both food and liquids.

Importance of Kathas during fasting

One can be set free from all forms of material slavery and guided to emancipation with the help of Katha. Sometimes Vrat Katha-related short stories are performed in homes as part of kathas. The moral lessons of the didactic Satyanarayan and Ramayana kathas are instilled through showing how human behavior (karma) has consequences.

Major Fasts and Festivals in


Navratri is a nine-night Hindu festival that celebrates the divine feminine and is dedicated to the goddess Durga in her various forms.

Why should you fast during Navratri?

Fasting during Navratri is a way to purify the body, mind, and soul. It’s believed to bring devotees closer to the divine and eradicate negative energies. It’s also a practice of self-discipline and devotion.

Kinds of fast you can keep during Navratri:

✿  Nirjala Fast: Complete abstention from food and water.

Phalahar Fast: Consuming fruits, nuts, and dairy products, excluding grains, salt, and certain vegetables.

✿  Partial Fast: One meal a day, usually dinner, with specific Navratri-approved ingredients.

Do’s and Don’ts during Navratri fasting:


✿  Stay hydrated with water, coconut water, or milk.

✿ Consume light meals to avoid overburdening the digestive system.

✿ Engage in prayer, meditation, and spiritual practices.


✿ Avoid fried or overly spicy foods.

✿ Don’t overexert or engage in strenuous activities.

✿  Avoid negative thoughts and actions.


Ekadashi is the eleventh lunar day (Tithi) of each of the two lunar phases which occur in a Hindu calendar month – the waxing phase (Shukla Paksha) and the waning phase (Krishna Paksha).

Importance of fasting on Ekadashi:

Fasting on Ekadashi is believed to cleanse sins and help in attaining Moksha (liberation). It’s said that observing this fast purifies the soul and brings one closer to Vishnu, a principal deity in Hinduism.

Things to Keep in Mind while fasting during Ekadashi:

✿ Consume light foods like fruits, nuts, and dairy the day before fasting.

✿ Many avoid grains and beans as they’re believed to be contaminated.

✿ Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

✿ Engage in prayer, chanting, and meditation to elevate the spiritual experience.

✿  Avoid excessive physical exertion and take ample rest.


Why should you do this?

Pradosh Vrat, or Pradosham, is observed to seek blessings from Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Devotees believe that fasting on this day purifies the mind and soul, helps in attaining moksha, and brings fulfillment of desires.

Do’s and Don’ts during Pradosh fasting:Do’s:

✿  Engage in prayers and meditation.

✿  Visit Shiva temples in the evening during the ‘Pradosh Kaal.’

✿  Light a lamp with sesame oil.

  Offer Bilva leaves and milk to the Shiva Lingam.

✿ Avoid consumption of non-vegetarian food and alcohol.

✿  Refrain from negative thoughts and actions.

  Avoid the consumption of rice and wheat.

Krishna Janmashtami

Why do people fast on Krishna Janmashtami: Janmashtami marks the birth of Lord Krishna, an avatar of Lord Vishnu. Devotees fast as a sign of devotion, to cleanse the soul, and to seek blessings for good health, happiness, and spiritual growth.

What to eat during Janmashtami fasting:

✿  Kuttu (buckwheat) preparations like kuttu puri or kuttu pakoras.

✿  Sabudana (tapioca pearls) dishes such as sabudana khichdi or sabudana vada.

✿  Fruits and milk-based sweets.

✿  Non-cereal food items like potato curry.

Karva Chauth

Importance of Karva Chauth for Hindus: Karva Chauth is a significant festival for married Hindu women, primarily in North India. Women fast from sunrise to moonrise for the well-being, longevity, and prosperity of their husbands. It symbolizes their love, devotion, and prayers for their husband’s long life.

What to eat during Karva Chauth:

✿  Pre-fast meal (Sargi): Eaten before sunrise, it includes fruits, nuts, milk-based sweets, and a meal with roti, potato curry, and other dishes.

✿  Breaking the fast: After sighting the moon, women break their fast with fresh water, fruits, and a full meal that includes roti, rice, dal, and vegetable curries.

List of all Hindu Vrats and Fasting

September Vrats

✿  Parsva Ekadashi (Sep 27): Parsva Ekadashi is observed during the Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of the moon) in the month of Bhadrapada. It is believed that observing this fast removes sins and bestows spiritual merit.

✿  Navratri / Durga Puja (Sep 30 – Oct 08): Navratri is a nine-night festival celebrating the divine feminine, primarily Goddess Durga. Devotees observe fasts, engage in prayers, and perform dances known as Garba and Dandiya.
October Vrats

Vijaya Ekadashi (Oct 26): This Ekadashi is observed during the Krishna Paksha (waning phase of the moon) in the month of Phalguna. Devotees observe a day-long fast, believing it to grant victory in challenges.

Sharad Purnima / Kojagiri Purnima (Oct 28): Sharad Purnima marks the end of the monsoon season and is celebrated on the full moon day of the lunar month of Ashwin. It’s believed that the moonlight on this day has healing properties. Kojagiri Purnima involves night-long vigils and the consumption of flavored milk under moonlight.
November Vrats

Rama Ekadashi (Nov 24): Observed during the Krishna Paksha in the month of Kartika, this Ekadashi is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Fasting on this day is believed to obliterate past sins.

✿  Tulsi Vivah (Nov 24): This day marks the ceremonial marriage of the Tulsi plant (holy basil) to Lord Vishnu or Krishna. It symbolizes the end of the monsoon season and the beginning of the wedding season in India.
December Vrats

✿  Mokshada Ekadashi (Dec 22): Observed during the Shukla Paksha in the month of Margashirsha, it’s believed that observing a fast on this day can grant moksha (salvation) and free one from the cycle of birth and death.

✿  Geeta Jayanti (Dec 24): This day celebrates the birth of the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred text of the Hindus. It’s believed that on this day, Lord Krishna imparted the essence of life and dharma to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

Significance of fasting in Hinduism

Like many religions, fasting is resolved in Hinduism too. Fasting in Hinduism is not an obligation but a moral and spiritual act aimed at purifying the body and mind and receiving divine grace. There are different forms of fasting, which are pretty strict. Also, the fasting rules are challenging and vary based on individual, family, and community beliefs. One should refrain from taking food even once on the day of fasting. However, observing Vrat in  does not mean the body has to live a whole day without food and water.

There are several periods marked for fasting in Hinduism. The most commonly observed fast is observed twice in the Ekadashi month on the eleventh day of each ascending and descending moon. There is another momentous occasion at the beginning of the year in honour of Shiva, Shivaratri. Many Hindus adopt a vegetarian diet during July and August and observe a fast till the evening on Mondays and Saturdays. Many Hindu women observe a fast on Monday to get a good husband. Also, many festivals, like Krishna Janmashtami, Karva Chauth, Ahoi, etc., are known for fasting.

Important occasions for fasting in


Day when the energy of Shiva, the first yogi, is said to be closest to the earth. The position of the planets in the northern hemisphere on this night is such that there is a natural upsurge of energy.

Mahashivratri vrat in  detoxifies the body and clears the mind. The body feels lighter, and the restlessness of the mind subsides. At the same time, the mind becomes alert. When the mind becomes alert, it is ready for prayer and meditation, which are central to the celebration of Mahashivratri.


Navratri is an important festival celebrated twice a year. Two significant seasonal changes are during spring and fall (autumn), when our bodies become more vulnerable to imbalances.

Fasting during this period is considered auspicious, as our body experiences internal variation due to this seasonal change. It eases that inner bliss journey by reducing the mind’s restlessness, making it easier to turn inward and meditate.

Purnima and Amavasya

Our ancestors believed each moon phase required different ways of nourishing the body. Fasting on the Full Moon and New Moon days is promising, as it reduces the acidic content in our digestive system and slows down the metabolic rate. It also increases stamina. It also restores the balance of body and mind.


It is an ancient practice in India, which is called Ekadashi. People fast on this day. It comes twice a month on the 11th day after Amavasya and Poornima. The two primary purposes of fasting on this day are to heal digestion and prevent disease. Also, this fast gives deep meditation and one’s inner knowledge. One can purify oneself energetically with the clarity provided on these specific days.

According to Ayurveda science, following healthy fasting tips and taking light and easily digestible food these days helps improve the digestive system. It also detoxifies the body from all impurities.


Pradosh (meaning the removal of sins) is the thirteenth day in the lunar fortnight of the Hindu calendar. There are two Pradosha days each month, the thirteenth day of the bright and dark fortnights. Significant energy level Pradosha occurs when one of the 13th lunar days falls on a Saturday. Fasting during Pradosham is good, as it is believed that the energy during this time makes it easier to dissolve and release karma.

What type of fast to observe in ?

  • Start your fast by taking a bath in the morning and end the fast with a light breakfast the following day.
  • If you are fasting for the first time, keep yourself calm and stress-free. Take some rest in the afternoon.
  • There are many ways of fasting, like complete, partial, water, fruit, etc. The important thing is that you fast in some way or the other and do it according to your limit. It would be best if you fasted in the same way that you can. But you should not fast to the extent that you feel sick.
  • Begin with a partial fast of fruits and water between sunrise and sunset, after which you can have your regular meal.

Vrat calendar : Benefits of fasting

  • When you fast, your body is cleansed of toxins, leading to inner purity.
  • Food is a basic need of living beings. But most of us have access to food, and we do not appreciate its value in our lives. But when you fast, you realise the importance of food through hunger.
  • Some people in you are surprised when the feeling of hunger inside you is not satisfied. But when you break your fast, you feel comfortable, and a sense of deep gratitude comes to mind.
  • During fasting, we do penance and avoid many temptations to come.
  • We should use the day of fasting for self-assessment or inner exploration through meditation and chanting.

Hindu Holidays and Observances

Diwali — Diwali, also spelled Divali, is one of the major religious festivals in Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism. The name is derived from the Sanskrit term dipavali, meaning “row of lights.” The festival generally symbolizes the victory of light over darkness.  Some Jains may choose to fast for the two days of Divali.

Dussehra —  This is the important tenth day of Navratri. Dussehra, also called Dasara or Vijayadashami, in Hinduism, holiday marking the triumph of Rama, an avatar of Vishnu, over the 10-headed demon king Ravana.

Ganesha Chaturthi — celebration the birth of Ganesha, son of Shiva, the god of prosperity and wisdom.  The Festival may last 10 days or may be celebrated at home. Holi — The Hindu Spring Festival of Colors, celebrated throughout North India on the full-moon day of Phalguna

Krishna Janmashtami — A two day festival celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna.

Maha Shivratri — “Great Night of Shiva”: the most important sectarian festival of the year for devotees of the Hindu god Shiva. . The celebration involves all-night worship the night before, fasting on the day, prayer, and vigil.

Navratri — Nine Nights.  A major festival held in honor of the divine feminine.The celebration and festival last for nine nights and ten days.

Raksha Bandhan This is a special Hindu festival that is celebrated in India and countries like Nepal to symbolize the love between a brother and a sister.


Hindu Fasting Beliefs and Traditions

According to ancient Hindu belief, abstaining from food and water purifies your body and soul and brings you closer to God.

Fasting also keeps your body light and assists in meditation.

Normally, people spend a lot of time sourcing, preparing, and consuming food. Your mind, which may otherwise be preoccupied with thoughts of food, becomes more alert and clear during a fast.

In fact, one of the Sanskrit words for fasting, “upavasa,” literally translates to “staying near (God).” “Vrata,” another Sanskrit word used in relation to fasting, refers to a practice (which may include fasts) performed to obtain a divine blessing or fulfill a desire.

Different Types of Hindu Fasts

Generally, fasts in Hinduism are observed during specific days of the year. Many Hindus fast on the days of Ekadashi, which is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and falls on the eleventh day of the moon’s waxing and waning phases.

Hindu festivals such as Krishna Janmastami, Durga Puja, and Maha Shivaratri, which are celebrated in honor of Lord Krishna, Goddess Durga, and Lord Shiva respectively, also involve fasting. People fast for a day or for a period of days leading up to the festival.

Particular days of the week are also marked for fasting in certain communities. Followers of Lord Shiva, for example, fast on Mondays and followers of Lord Shani fast on Saturdays. Similarly, Sunday is dedicated to Suryanarayana, or the deity of the Sun.

Fasting can also be done as a votive offering to God. Married women in some Hindu communities routinely observe fasts for the well-being of their family.

Rules of Hindu Fasting

There are no strict fasting rules in Hindu culture unless you’re fasting in preparation for a Vedic ritual or in honor of a specific deity which has established traditions and regulations according to the Vedic scriptures.

Good hygiene, celibacy, forbearance, abstinence from bad habits such as smoking or gambling, and adherence to certain rituals may also be part of the guidelines for observing such a vrata.

In all other cases, each person is free to follow the practices that best suit their beliefs, interests, and needs.

According to Hindu belief, fasting must be done out of one’s own free will. It should not be done out of fear or social compulsion.

Some choose to abstain from all food and drink, while others drink milk, water, tea, and other liquids or eat one small meal a day.

In some parts of India, people avoid cereals and salt during a fast and people who eat meat avoid meat or eggs.

Most Hindus break their fast by performing a puja, or traditional prayer ritual, and by offering food to the gods.

The food eaten after the fast will depend on the reason for the fast and the day of the week.

If the fast was on a Tuesday in honor of Lord Hanuman, people break the fast with an evening meal of rice and jaggery, an unrefined form of cane sugar.

Hindus may also wear different colors on the day of the fast in honor of the deity.

For example, followers of Lord Hanuman wear red clothing on Tuesday in conjunction with their fast.

Furthermore, Hindu scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita encourage people to eat simple and healthy foods in appropriate amounts at all times, even when you’re not fasting.

Fasting According to Ayurveda

The ancient Indian healing system of Ayurveda believes that the digestive system is central to optimal health.

When our digestive system is weak, toxins accumulate in the body leading to illness and disease.

Fasting gives our digestive system a break, allowing the body to clean and remove any buildup of toxic materials for better overall health.

However, Ayurveda does not recommend prolonged fasts. In fact, many Ayurveda practitioners warn that extended fasts can cause an imbalance in the body and create health issues later on. Fasting for just one day a week is believed to be most beneficial.

Fasting is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, and people who suffer from medical conditions or eating disorders. As always, consult your doctor if you plan to try fasting.

The Science and Spirituality of Fasting



Bharatvarsha is famed for its rishis and mystics, who are equally famed for fasting as a form of sadhana.

In the ancient past, some lived only on air, water and mantra japa for life.

Today, many live only on one meal a day, while others live only on fruit. A grand old Ayurvedic physician and expert on darshan chikitsa – facial diagnosis – claimed that many mystics in the Himalayas lived for up to 300 years, eating only one meal of cooked barley (jav) and amla.

Ancient Ayurvedic texts such as the Charak Samhita (Sutrasthan 22/34–35) and Ashtanghrudaya (Sutrasthan 14/16–17) cite various fasting methods to treat diseases.


Fasting prevailed in ancient cultures and lands such as Egypt, Assyria, Scythia, Greece, Babylon, Persia, Nineveh, Palestine, Rome, China, among the Druids, Celts, Scandinavians, Indians of North America, and Aztecs and Incas of South America. Moses fasted for 120 days on Mount Sinai.

Jesus fasted for 40 days.

The Bible also cites fasting by the apostles. Muslims observe the month-long fast of Ramazan (Ramadan).

In Jainism, fasting is an important form of sadhana.


Hindus fast during religious observances, as well as for penance – prayashchitta. Important tithis of fasting include ekadashi, purnima, the anniversaries of avatars and deities, such as Maha Shivaratri, Ramnavmi, Swaminarayan Jayanti, Krishna Janmashtami, Sharad Purnima, Guru Purnima and others.

During the holy for months of Chaturmas period, many fast during the month of Shravan.

The type of fasts observed include ektana (one cooked meal daily), dharna-parna (food one day, fast next day), and several forms of chandrayan – based on the waxing and waning of the moon.

The sages of yore advocated fasting during these four monsoon months for health reasons as well, since cloudy skies, humidity and water-logged countrysides dampened the digestive fire.

Additionally, plants and vegetables are often rendered inedible due to infestation by insects.

The initial surface water run-off would sweep pollutants into rivers and water bodies. Hence, it was prudent to avoid drinking such water until healthy water arrived later, to prevent waterborne diseases.

Not surprisingly, the highest number of festivals which are celebrated by fasting occur during Chaturmas.

Hindus observe such vrats-upvases as a form of self-denial to accrue punya, by pleasing one’s ishtadeva. The time saved from cooking and eating is spent in bhakti such as singing bhajans, mantra japa, deva darshan and so forth.

Fasting induces clarity of mind which aids mantra chanting, katha and smruti (recalling Bhagwan’s divine lila).

Most importantly, fasting purifies the indriyas and antahkaran,

which in turn strengthen the atma. Aspirants overcome dehabhav – body-consciousness – and develop control over the mind and the ten indriyas.

The key indriya to be controlled, which affects other indriyas, is rasna – the sense of taste (Shikshapatri 189).

In the Vachanamrut, Bhagwan Swaminarayan cites such control over the indriyas and mind in observing ekadashi (Gadhada II 8).

He further says that the shastras consider this as the true ekadashi (Padma Puran, Uttarkand 38).


A few examples of fasting in the Swaminarayan Sampradaya are worth citing.

At the age of eleven, Nilkanth Varni renounced Ayodhya for his Kalyan Yatra through Bharat. He reached Badrinath during Diwali (7 November 1792).

The pujari offered him Annakut prasad. Nilkanth Varni then visited Mansarovar and returned to Badrinath on Akha Trij (13 May 1793), when the pujari offered him some food. Nilkanth Varni remarked, “

This is my first morsel of food after you had offered me the Annakut prasad.” Hence, he had fasted for six months during this period.

Even today, there is no human habitation in this region during winter, nor does any edible vegetation grow in the rocky, barren landscape.

The second remarkable fasting episode is of his second successor, Bhagatji Maharaj. With Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami’s agna,

he fasted for two days and then took only one meal on the third day for 3.5 years!

That amounted to one meal every 72 hours.

This vrat is now known as the ‘Bhagatji Vrat’.

Yogiji Maharaj, the fourth successor, used to fast about 8 to 10 times a month.

During the late 50s and 60s, he routinely prescribed nirjala upvas to youths to develop them spiritually.

Among them was Vinubhai (now, Param Pujya Mahant Swami Maharaj), to whom he often advocated two consecutive nirjala fasts.

Once, in 1956, he even directed him to fast for five consecutive days!

BAPS sadhus usually observe, on average, five to seven fasts a month. Many devotees, young and old, observe nirjala ekadashi.

During Shravan, devotees observe one of the following vrats: ektana, dharna-parna or chandrayan.

Many also observe dharna-parna for months or even years as a vow until a shikharbaddha mandir is built in their city or region.

This was the case for the mandir in Robbinsville.


Prayashchitta or atonement is an important spiritual discipline which lessens the burden of vasana resulting from any lapses in the observance of vows.

It lightens the heart of the sincere aspirant.

To subjugate lust, especially during one’s youth, Shriji Maharaj advocates dharna-parna and the various forms of chandrayan in the Satsangijivanam as prayashchitta. He once prescribed a month-long chandrayan to Premanand Swami for having halted momentarily in an alley in Surat to listen to a female singing in a nearby house.

Another vital discipline is ahimsa, especially by speech and action.

For lapses in this vow, Shriji Maharaj advocated prayashchitta depending on the severity of the karmas as follows:

  1. Killing an insect, bug, etc. – one mala.
  2. Killing a mouse, rat, etc. – one upvas.
  3. Harsh speech, anger, mimicry, foul words – one upvas
  4. Injuring someone resulting in a swelling or laceration – four consecutive upvases.
  5. Breaking someone’s limb – parak vrat – a fast of 12 days (no food or water).

Such fasts of prayashchitta reflect Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s insistence on observing ahimsa in speech and physical karmas and the depth of discipline he expected from followers.
While scientists continue to eagerly pursue the secrets of health and longevity through fasting, an enigma remains: what should one do with the resulting health and longevity? Many millennia ago, the sages of Sanatan Dharma had already realized the answer: shariramãdyam khalu dharma sãdhanam – to observe dharma to attain Paramatma. Aware of man’s innate psyche, that he would not readily shun culinary pleasures, they interweaved religious practices such as fasting in festivals, vrats and bhakti rituals at regular intervals throughout the year.

Thus, people happily observe fasts as part of the festival celebratons. This serves two purposes – helps to control one’s gluttony, which benefits one’s physical health, and simultaneously divert the indriyas, mind and antahkaran towards the bhakti of Paramatma.

Such bhakti sadhana would hasten one’s spiritual progress towards moksha. Without dharma and bhakti, one would be entrenched deeper in the quicksands of samsara.

Though the wise rishis remain happy with the scientists’ health phrases cited earlier, they are compelled to add two words: eat less, live healthily – for moksha.


During the fast, the digestive agni is dampened. It needs to be rekindled gradually. Consuming heavy foods and fluids is dangerous. These may cause indigestion, cramping, sour belching, acidity, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation. Hence, experts advise great caution when breaking a fast.


  1. Take a glassful of lukewarm water (200 ml), add half a lemon, a pinch of rock salt (sindhav), roasted cumin powder or a few drops of fresh ginger juice. Sip a mouthful. Swish it inside the mouth 8 to 10 times. Then swallow gradually. In this manner, drink a whole glassful. If need to drink more, then have another half a glassful.
  2. Then, either take a walk or do some house chores. About an hour later repeat the above to drink about 1 to 2 glassfuls more.
  3. One hour later, have a light meal of just mungdal khichdi. Mung is lighter to digest than tuwer dal.
  4. If one wishes to sweeten the juice, use an artificial sweetener of stevia. Avoid sugar, honey, jaggery, fresh or packaged fruit juices. All sugars contain varying proportions of fructose and glucose. Excess fructose in the body is converted into fat and uric acid. Due to the way that fructose is metabolized, eating foods that contain it leaves one still feeling hungry, which can lead to overeating. This ruins all the benefits of fasting. Moreover, a fast also produces uric acid in the body, which needs to be excreted. Hence, the above method of drinking several glasses of lemon water is ideal.
  5. Those who do dharna-parna for a month or longer should be extremely cautious in taking sugars, dairy products and flour products during the period of the vrat since these may lead to hyperuricaemia (and gout) which creates a host of problems. Hence, fasting only on juices, as many do during Shravan or even Chaturmas, is inadvisable.“Our studies raise serious concerns for the common practice among adolescents and young adults, to drink soft drinks as a means to quench thirst following an episode of dehydration.” 
  6. Avoid yogurt for parna. Being vishtambhi and abhishyandi, it is constipative and heavy to digest. Ideally, on the day of parna, it is more desirable to flush wastes and dried stools from the gut rather than curtail stool motion.