Why do Hindus Fast?

Why do Hindus Fast?

Baby with Baby Ganesh

In Hinduism, fasting is major aspect of several celebrations and a part of our that culture most people are familiar with. But, why do we fast?

Fasting in Sanskrit is called upavaasa: Upa’ meaning near and vaasa’ = to stay. These combine to create Upavaasa, or (mentally) staying near (God).

Fasting is also meant to train the mind and the body to endure and build tolerance against hardships, to persevere under difficulties and not give up.

Some people fast on certain days of the month like:

  • Purnima (full moon)
  • Tuesday - the auspicious day for Hanuman
  • Thursday - the auspicious day for Lord Vishnu

Some others fast on certain festivals like:

  • Mahashivratri
  • Navratri
  • Karwa Chauth

In particular, why do Hindus fast during Mahashivratri? One story states that Shiva had to consume a poison to remove it from the ocean. In order to save him, his consort, Goddess Parvati, held his throat to stop the poison from spreading. Because she fasted for a full day and night, devotees now do the same.

Shiva and Parvati - Symbol of Love, Devotion and Faithfulness -  TemplePurohit - Your Spiritual Destination | Bhakti, Shraddha Aur Ashirwad

Fasting can come in several ways. It can be total abstinence from all foods, only eating specific foods, or following specific diets, or whatever form of restraint fits best with your health.

Regardless of the true origin of this tradition, Hindus continue to fast for a variety of reasons, including:

  1. Set the mental stage for deep meditation
  2. Increase the power of your prayers
  3. Focus on meditation
  4. Absolve you of sins
  5. Increase consciousness or become closer to God
  6. Cleanse and purify the mind and body
  7. Participate in life cycle sacraments called saṃskāras.

We hope you learned something new in this edition of #TheologyThursday!