I remember being highly fond of the Navratri days since my childhood, primarily for just one reason- the yummy non–grain food. The special rice, roti, puri, pakodas etc tempted me to start observing ‘fast’ for a full week twice a year at the age of 8 years. The special navrarti thali nowadays available in the restaurants made it indeed a feasting time for me until I was told about the intended purport of the ritual.
Observing a fast is a common practice in most of the religions. The list of Dos and Don’ts of course vary but the underlying factor remains the same- abstaining from a desirable thing for a set period of time. In Sanskrit the word ‘fast’ is ‘Upvaas’ (up + vaas)- up means near and vaas means stay. So fasting implies staying near (the Lord). Ordinarily, we remain occupied with our sensual pleasures but the fasting time provides us an opportunity to take a leave for a while and connect to Divinity.
I do sincerely admit I have been missing out the real essence for many years because I had committed myself to fasting for everything else than His affinity. Initially it was a means to savor some different taste and later became a tool for urging God to fulfill this or that wish of mine. Fasting is actually about self control aimed at a regulated style of living. Hindu scriptures have widely spoken of healthy eating & behavioral patterns. As it is not possible for a casual householder to always observe the disciplined regime, specific days were marked to avoid certain habits. Additionally, the periodical change in diet is must for cleansing the body from the accumulated toxins. Jainism clearly states that fasting is a means to purify both the body and the mind. Buddhism also takes it as an aid to meditation and good health. Christianity advocates generosity, unselfishness and concern for the needy ones while Islam prescribes all the more extensive set of moral values to be observed while fasting- learning good qualities and applying them to daily situations; controlling anger, lust and impulses; abstaining from falsehood and fighting.
Hence, fasting is a trial for the mind and not just tummy or tongue. It may be easy to observe silence for a day but difficult is to resist an angry tone. It is easier to stay hungry for one day but hard is to willingly not overdo our favorite dish.
On that note, I pray to God for the strength to observe a conscious self check this time and be mindful of what I do in the name of fasting.
Jai Mata Di!
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