Hinduism - Rules for Fasting

Eating Food

by Jayaram V

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 everyday with the help of the gods in them. Jayaram V


Fasting is a very common and ancient form of austerity in Hinduism. It is usually done in Hinduism, either to show your sincerity and resolve or to express your gratitude. The gods in your body are not pleased if you starve yourself. Therefore, when you fast, you have to keep your body's wellbeing in mind.

There are no hard and fast rules for fasting unless you are performing a particular Vedic sacrifice, in which case you have to follow the scriptures.

On such occasions, you will be usually guided by the priest who officiates the ceremony or your spiritual guru who may have advised you to perform it. There are some Vedic ceremonies, in which you are allowed to drink only milk and water.

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 of these cases, people break their fast upon eating the remains of the food they offer to gods, called prasadam.

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.

There are some ceremonies in which only women have to fast while no restrictions apply to their husbands.

Under normal circumstances, if you are fasting for your own good or spiritual progress, you may set down 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 the three may be practiced simultaneously or selectively or in stages. Some people abstain from eating solid foods while they fast but consume liquid foods such as fruit juice. Some people abstain from eating certain foods like rice, meat etc. but eat fruits and vegetables.

Whatever fasting you may practice, in the modern world, sincerity and purity of intention are important. If you want to fast selectively, you may have to consider your body's tolerance for certain foods 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 the complete their fasting.

It is important what food you eat after you complete prolonged fasting and consult your physician before making such attempt.

Overall, fasting in moderation is good for the mind and the body. It purifies the system, besides making you feel light and good. Medical research proves that the habit of fasting prolongs life and keep 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.

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