Fasting in Hindu Dharma (Sanatan Dharma)

Fasting is willing abstinence from food and drinks for a period adopting specific regulations. Fasting has been practiced from time immemorial by humans, and in the evolution of humans, fasting has been performed as an offering to god. Almost all religions, such as Sanatan Hindu Dharma, Christianity, Jain, and Muslim, adopted fasting to pay their devotion.

why do we fast?

Fasting is an integral part of the Hindu religion. There are different kinds of fasting procedures for each god and goddess. Individuals observe different kinds of fast based on personal beliefs and local customs. 

The Beginning

I was born and raised in a Hindu  Brahman family. Until I was in grade 10, I might have heard about Buddhism because Buddha was born in Nepal, but I did not know about other religions, including Christianity.

My father was a teacher and priest. My mother was a housewife and also an ardent follower of Sanatan Dharma. She used to take lots of Vrats (Upavas), in which one has to take a bath and full-day fasting. She used to take a very light vegetarian meal after finishing puja (worship) of that god or goddess.

When I was young, I always used to think that people were doing these things only for time to pass or to feel good, and while doing such things, they were destroying their good health. This practice was started by some shrewd Brahman who wanted free money, food, and fruits.

When I started college and learned about various food, nutrition, and human physiology, I told my mother not to fast. One of my favorite writers in that period was Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist who has written such as “The Selfish Gene,” “The God Delusion,” “The Blind Watchmaker,” and so on. I used to fight with my mother about the existence of god and question everything she did, which is attached to religion. I used to tell my mother that she was harming her body because of regular fasting as she might not be getting the vital nutrients needed to sustain her life. 

I used to caution my mother, telling her, If you keep fasting, you will have gastric ulcers, which may one day turn into cancer, an incurable disease. But she never listened to my advice and kept taking Vrata till she was around 50 years old. After that, she used to take Vrata occasionally, but she did not do extended worship like earlier. 

On those days, she used to take full-day fasting on some occasions, but on others, she might take very light meals such as fruits, not salt!

What do Hindu Books say about Fasting?

Vrata, or fasting, is an integral aspect of Hindu Dharma, but it is an optional ritual. The method of fasting is not imposed in Hindu Scripture. Hindus observe fasts of varying strictness depending on individual beliefs and practices. Based on personal preference ranges from taking light vegetarian meals or only fruits to not drinking a drop of water for a certain period. 

People do fastings in various Vrata, such as Ekadashi, Purnima, Pradosha, and Amavasya. Fasting during religious festivals is also very common. Typical examples are Maha Shivaratri, the nine days of Navaratri during Vijayadashami, and the six days of Kanta Shasti Vratam. 

Certain days of the week are also set aside for fasting depending on personal belief and favorite deity. On such days, devotees do fasting to appease a particular god or goddess; for example, followers of Vishnu may fast every Thursday, and those following Shiva may fast every Monday. Sawan Somwar Vrat is taken as auspicious for the devotees of Lord Shiva.

Why Fasting in Hinduism?

Fasting is a moral and spiritual act that aims to purify the body and mind to acquire divine grace. According to the Hindu scriptures, fasting helps create an attunement with God by establishing a harmonious relationship between the body and the soul. This is thought to be imperative for the well-being of a human being as it nourishes both physical and spiritual demands.

There are many physical and spiritual benefits of fasting.

Physical benefits of fasting

The physical benefits of fasting include improved health, reduced cholesterol, full body detoxification, improved blood circulation, and better heart and brain functioning. Nowadays, intermittent fasting is a global phenomenon. Scientific research has proved that intermittent fasting is essential for vitality and longevity.  One such scientist is Harvard Professor David Sinclair, who practices intermittent fasting and advocates for a plant-based diet for increasing health and longevity. 

A couple of research has proved that fasting controls longevity-related molecules. Intermittent fasting regulates sirtuins, mTOR, and AMPK pathways and helps us to retain youthfulness and thus prevent, delay or reverse aging. He and many scientists have also proved through various clinical trials that eating plant-based foods is vital to longevity and prevent age-related illnesses such as type 2 Diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and cardiovascular and neurovascular diseases. 

Various epidemiological studies have shown that fasting has improved mental health by making people feel good about themselves with increased self-esteem, self-confidence, willpower, and discipline.

Spiritual benefits of fasting

Fasting is an essential part of worship. Symbolically, fasting is an act of sacrifice, in which one sacrifices food and hunger to God as a mark of devotion and surrender.

Fasting purifies the mind, controls passion and the senses, and checks emotions. Fasting, for many Hindus, is also a sort of penance as it provides a window to escape from sins. Fasting also controls the tongue, which can cause harm when let loose.


It gives me immense pleasure to see those who used to say that Hindu Dharma was an archaic religion with no scientific basis are now following two standard Sanatan Dharma practices: fasting and consumption of plant-based diets. 

Why Hindu

We, a group of youths born into Hindu families, were raised in the rich culture of Vedic Sanatan Dharma, embracing its cultures and traditions. Post-graduation, recognizing the immense value of our Sanatan Dharma for humanity, we initiated the "Why Hindu" project. With guidance from our elders, we aim to create awareness about Hindu Dharma, delve into Vedic scripture, explore Vedic mantras, and elucidate the significance of festivals. Through this endeavor, we strive to share the profound teachings of our heritage, fostering understanding and appreciation for the timeless principles of Sanatan Dharma.

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