India is the Country were festivals and occasions spread happiness more than any materialistic things in the world. People gather along with friends and family to celebrate happiness and also worship God and Goddesses to shower them with blessings.
One such Colourful and beautiful Occasion is Navratri..
Associated with Goddess Durga and worshiping her nine incarnations, the festival holds significance in India as well as the central and western regions of the country. While some strictly believe in holding fast for all nine days, most people fast only on the first and the last days, and a few just abstain from consuming Alcohol, Onion, Garlic or non-vegetarian meal.
Interestingly, the festival chalks out a strict list of food items that one can consume while fasting. It is during Navratras that a few ingredients, which otherwise get a convenient skip in a regular Indian kitchen – resume utmost importance.
So, why is it that a set of food items are strictly prohibited during the festival or fasting?
Many of us believe in the philosophy of quitting their favorite edible or avoiding materialistic luxuries to please the God and receiving blessings in return for fulfillment of the desired wish. This concept is prevalent during the seven or eight days of fasting of Navratras. During the seven or eight day period, the devotees perform complete (Nirjal or Nirahar) fast or partial fast for pleasing Goddess Durga and seeking her divine grace.
The devotee performing fast wake up early and after having bath they worship the deity. Certain people consume the food just once a day while others prefer a specific diet. High energy (Tamsic) food like meat, egg, alcohol, grains, pulses and any kind of spices and salt are avoided in the diet. Beverages like milk, juices, coconut water and tea can be taken along with diet consisting of potato, sago or vrat(fasting)-snacks. Common salt is replaced by rock salt (sendha namak) during these days.
The 8th Day (Ashtami) or 9th Day (Navami) is reserved for paying homage to nine small girls and one boy through Kanya Pooja or Kanchika Pujan. Special food is prepared according to the varied rituals among family, which is offered to the nine girls in the form of 9 Goddess. Form of Dakshina or new utensils are also offered to them. Then the Prasadam is consumed by the family to break their fast and mark the completion of auspicious Navratri.
The practices or rituals mentioned above differ from different states of the country. North Indians follow a different custom, whereas the South Indians have a different set of rituals set for 9 days of Pooja at home or at temple. West Bengal has a completely different celebration worshiping Maa Durga.
Scientific Relevance behind fasting for Navratri..
Fasting is a natural healer as during this process the energy is utilized for maintaining the metabolic rate and restoring the immune system. It heals the dead cells and damaged tissues of the body along with burning away the extra toxins. Fasting is also recommended as it helps in maintaining the salt balance in the body as extra salt and deficiency of salt, both are harmful for us.
Thus the seven or eight day of fasting is a way of expressing the faith and devotion in Goddess Durga. As time is changing, so does the patterns of fasting but in any way you perform it, your faith should be intact. Whether you hold a wish within you or not, fasting for these 9 days definitely benefits your body and overall Health. It does provide you with better concentration, self-control & healing.
Credits: Meenakshi Ahuja