Fasting in India - The Hindu Day Fasts

Posted by Rachayta Gupta • Tuesday, June 14. 2011 • Category: People and Places

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It is observed for the Lord Sun or Surya. Red is the colour of this day. It is believed that this fast helps you in fulfilling desires. People suffering from skin diseases also observe this fast to get rid of it. Extra importance is given to cleanliness of the body and surroundings. Red flowers are offered for prayers and red coloured sandalwood tilak is applied on the forehead.

It is observed for Lord Shiva. On this day unmarried girls observe fast to find an ideal husband and married women fast to pray for a prosperous married life. Lord Shiva is considered to be very calm and also as somebody who can be pleased easily. Fasting on Mondays begins at sunrise and ends at sunset. On this day, food is only eaten after evening prayer. Lord Shiva and his consort Goddess Parvati are worshipped, but of course no worship begins without remembering their elephant-headed son Lord Ganesha. The fasting on Mondays in the month of Shravan is considered even more auspicious.

(c) by Manil Gupta

Tuesday fasts are either observed for Lord Hanuman or for Planet Mars called Mangal in Hindi. This fast is observed by people to alleviate the problems from their life as they pray to Lord Hanuman, who is also known as Sankat Mochan (the Problem Solver). However, some communities might be worshipping other deities on Tuesday. For example, in South India the day is dedicated to Skanda or Murugan or Kartikeya (Kartik). But in most regions Tuesday is dedicated to Hanuman. People wear red coloured clothes on the day and offer red flowers to Lord Hanuman. It is believed that Lord Hanuman will help his devotees in overcoming difficulties in life. Those who undertake the fast on Tuesdays only take a single meal. It is a whole day fast. The single meal on the day is usually food made of wheat and jaggery. Most people observe the fast for 21 Tuesdays without a break.

The concept of fasting on a Wednesday started quite recently. It is generally related to Lord Shiva or Planet Buddh (Mercury). It is generally observed by married people, whereby both husband and wife together keep the fast and pray for a happy married life. The food is generally taken only once but rather in the afternoon than in the evening.

Thursday also known as Brihaspativar or Guruvar is generally dedicated to Lord Vishnu or Planet Brihaspati (Jupiter). It is thought that people who observe a fast on this day will be blessed with wealth and a happy life. The colour of this day is yellow, so people who are fasting prefer to wear yellow clothes. They also eat yellow-coloured food without salt, often made out of Channa Daal Aata (Besan flour). Some people also pray to the banana tree on this day and thus do not eat any bananas.

(c) by Alexandre Marchand

Friday is dedicated to Shakti, the mother goddess in Hinduism, and also to planet Shukra (Venus). The worship of Shakti on Fridays basically relates to Goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth), and to Goddess Santoshi (another incarnation of the mother goddess). Shukra is believed to provide material wealth and joy. Observing fasts in the name of Goddess Lakshmi on this day is considered highly auspicious. The fasting ends only with sunset. The evening should compulsorily include one dessert, usually kheer or any other milk-based sweet. Ladies worshipping Lakshmi on this day generally wear red clothes. This fast is mostly observed for bringing joy and material well-being.

Saturday fast is generally observed to alleviate the ill effects of the planet Shani (Saturn). Shani is symbolic of cruelty and is adverse in nature. It is also considered to be the planet of justice and thus has the power to punish anybody who does injustice to anyone in his lifetime. People generally donate black cloth, pieces of metal, mustard oil, black urad gram and black til (sesame seeds) to the Dakot (a person who accepts offerings made to Shani). Food is generally taken after the evening prayers, and generally includes black urad and sesame seeds, etc. Also some people worship the peepal tree on this day and tie a thread around its bark. People also pray to Lord Hanuman in order to lessen the ill effects of Shani because it is said that Hanuman is respected by Shani as Lord Hanuman rescued Shani from the prison of the demon Ravana. Hence, devotees of Hanuman are not harmed by Shani.

Apart from these religious reasons fasting also has a health purpose. You can see many Indians fasting partly because of the religious reasons and partly because of medical reasons. Some people observe fasts to keep their metabolic rates working properly, for instance. Thus fasting in India is not based on religious traditions alone.

(c) by Jakub Michankow

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