Monday, October 3, 2011


USA ( - The practice of fasting is common to many religions. It is an integral part of Hindu culture, where individuals observe different fasts depending on their beliefs and practices. Several holy days are occasions for fasting; for many, it is a more regular ritual. Many devotees of Lord Shiva fast one day each week, while others fast on days of Purnima (full moon) or Ekadashi (11th lunar day, occurring twice a month).  Some Hindu fasts avoid salt during the day but allow sweets like sago kheer, makhana kheer, fruits, milk products and nuts. Others avoid cereal products, sticking to fruits, burfis, milk and milk products until evening. During fasts like Navratras, food products commonly consumed are potatoes, kuttu ka atta (buckwheat) and its products, sago (also known as saboo dana or tapioca pearls), samak rice and special salt. 

These religious fasts are different from those done for purposes of weight loss. Potatoes, kuttu ka atta, dairy products, sweets, nuts and fruit are high in calories; such a fast may result in gaining weight. In addition, a restricted diet may lack essential vitamins and minerals - and people often end up eating more during such fasts than when not fasting!  
Many people today fast to detoxify the body by consuming only fruits, vegetables, fruits juices and water. These foods do help detoxify the body, and they are high in vitamins and minerals. But such a diet is healthy for only a day or two. If continued longer, it deprives the body of calories, proteins, vitamins like vitamin-B, calcium, iron and other essential minerals.

Fasting is an integral part of many traditions.  Fasting means holding oneself back voluntarily from eating something certain or even any kind of food for a definite period of time. In Hindi language it is called “vrat”.  Hindus observe vrat or fasting and they have earmarked special days for each deity.  Fasting is good for short periods, but avoid long fasts.  Drink plenty of fluids, especially plain water.  Water is the most essential liquid for the body. Lemon water, coconut water and buttermilk are also good.  Avoid caffeine, whether from coffee, tea or soft drinks.

Customs form over a long period. ... It is common for Hindus to observe vrat, or fasting, on some religious days, such as Ekadasi. Essentially, it is a token of a self-restraint. It may be in other forms, such as a vow to observe silence (maun vrat) for one or more days, as Mahatma Gandhi often did. It is a self-willed determination, sankalpa, to purify oneself with some type of physical austerity. The long-term benefit of building a good character and willpower cannot be underestimated with such religious customs. It is also a period of time when one remains dedicated to the virtue of God and refrains from any evil thought, word, or deed. The Sanskrit word for fasting is also upavassa; upa means near, and vassa is to stay, which is a symbolic ritual for staying near God during the period of fasting.

Dr. Hiro Badlani:
“Hinduism - Path of the Ancient Wisdom”
Chapter 53: “Hindu Customs”

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