Hindu Fasts (VRATS, Upvaas), Fasting in Hinduism: – Vrats(Hindu Fastings) are votive fasting rites which are practiced throughout India. The observance of Vrats spans religious boundaries, social classes and even caste and sectarian affiliations.
Naturally then, there is a great variety in the kinds of vrats(Hindu Fasts) performed and numerous variations in the actual practice of any particular vrat.
The word fasting means to move near( to the Supreme) and by implication to overcome helplessness. A calamity has always been an occasion for prayer, we normally pray for a positive reason like asking for a boon, other reasons include appeasement of an anger deity.
It is believed that no prayer can be complete unless it is accompanied by an offering.
Why do women perform vrat (Fast) in Hinduism?
It is generally understood that women perform vrats(Hindu Fasts) in conformity with their sense of what constitutes a woman’s obligatory duty ( stridharm), to maintain the highly auspicious state of being married ( saubhagya) and for the benefit of their families, particularly their husbands and children.
What are the Fasting in Hinduism commonly performed?
Monday Vrat (Fast) in Hinduism: Dedicated to Shiva
Note: * Fasting is done till evening
- One can take meals only once at night
- We worship Lord Shiva and Parvati
Story related to this vrat (Fast) in Hinduism : Once there was a rich trader who was a god fearing devoted man, inspite of having all luxuries he used to remain depressed as he had no son. He used to pray to Lord Shiva and Parvati every Monday and fasted on these days with the hope that God would bless him one day.
Seeing his devotion , Parvati inquired with Shiva why he had not blessed his disciple with a son. Shiva replied that this world is a Karmabhoomi – sow shall you reap. Just like the farmer gets his crop depending on the seeds he has sown, the trader too would get what he deserved. On repeated requests of goddess Parvati he relented and agreed to bless the trader with a son, but cautioned that the boy would live for 12 years only.
The trader was listening to the conversation, he was neither happy nor sad and continued with his routine worship of God. After sometime his wife gave birth to boy. Everyone was happy except the trader for he knew what lay in store for the child. He hid the truth from everyone. The child grew up and when he was 11 years old his mother wanted to initiate his marriage proceedings, but the trader refused. Instead he sent the boy to Kashi with the boys maternal uncle and a large sum of money to regularly perform yagya and worships God.
On the way, a King’s daughter was getting married. The bridegroom could see from only one eye and the boys parents had hidden this fact from the King. When they saw the good looking boy, the bridegrooms father thought that if he could let this boy conduct the marriage ceremonies instead of his own son, no one would know about the defect in his eye. The trader’s son and his uncle agreed to this proposal . Once the marriage was over while leaving he quietly wrote on the bride’s clothes that it was he who was the real husband and the one left behind in the palace was having a defective eye.
When the bride came to know about the facts she refused to go with the other boy and the marriage party had to return back.
Meanwhile time passed by, and the boy grew up to be 12 years old. One day when the boy was in the middle of a Yagya, he fell sick and died. Seeing this , his maternal uncle started weeping loudly. Incidentally Lord Shiva and Parvati were passing that way and recognised the trader’s son. Parvati pleaded with Shiva to give him life otherwise his parents would die in grief. The trader was his disciple and Shiva agreed to revive him back to recovery.
While returning back to his native town , the boy passed the town where he had got married to the King’s daughter. He was recognised and brought to the palace, following which the King bade his daughter and the traders son farewell and gave them expensive gifts.
Around the same time , the trader and his wife were sitting on their rooftop praying to Lord Shiva to protect their son. He vowed that if the boy did not return, they too will jump from the rooftop and die. On seeing their son hale and hearty, the trader was very pleased and they all lived a life full of prosperity.
It is therefore believed that those who worship Lord Shiva and Parvati, keep fast on Mondays and recite this story to others – their sorrows will end and all their desires would be fulfilled.
Tuesday Vrat (Fast) in Hinduism : Dedicated to Ganapati
Note : * This fast is kept for obtaining lasting happiness, improving blood circulation, gain respect and status and if one desires a son. This fast destroys all evils associated with mangala graha
- The food cooked with wheat and jaggery (gur) alone should be consumed only once during the whole day
- The fast should be kept for 21 weeks
- The flowers used for puja should be red flowers only.
Story related to this vrat (Fast) in Hinduism : There was once a Brahmin couple who used to remain depressed all the time for they had no children. They longed for a child and therefore worshiped Lord Hanuman and his wife kept a vrat(fast) on Tuesdays.
Once the Brahmin went to the forests to worship Lord Hanuman leaving his wife behind. Once it so happened that for some reason she could not worship Lord Hanuman and therefore decided not to have meals. She fasted for 6 days following which she collapsed. The Lord , appreciating the sincerity in her devotion , presented himself before her and blessed her with a son.
When the Brahmin returned, he saw a sweet boy playing in the courtyard. His wife narrated to him the entire story. The Brahmin thought otherwise and could not believe her words. He felt that his wife was one of a bad character and had given birth to an illegitimate son. One day the Brahmin went to the well to fetch water and took the boy along with him. He then pushed the boy into the well and returned home. When his wife inquired about the boy he kept mum. Suddenly the boy appeared at the door and the Brahmin was astonished to see him.
That very night , Lord Hanuman came in his dreams and set aside all his doubts. The Brahmin felt very guilty and apologised. Thereafter both made it a routine to observe fast on Tuesday.
It is believed that those who worship Lord Hanuman, narrate this story to others and observe fast on Tuesdays – Lord Hanuman will destroy all the evils and help them to lead a happy life.
Wednesday Vrat (Fast) in Hinduism : For Krishna
Note: * This fast is kept for peace, tranquility and to fulfill all dreams.
- Lord Shanker is worshiped on this day
- Have meals only once
- The green color is significant on this day. One should therefore wear green clothes and eat green vegetables etc.
- One should leave the puja only after the arati is over and after taking prasadam
Do not leave the puja midway.
Story related to this vrat or Fast in Hinduism : The story goes that there was once a couple who led a happy life. Once the wife had gone to her parents place , after a few days stay her husband came to take her back. His in-laws insisted that the day being Wednesday, it was inauspicious for them to travel. However the husband was adamant and proceeded back home along with his wife.
On the way the wife felt thirsty and requested him to fetch some water. When her husband returned , he was astonished to see a man seated beside his wife, that man was an exact replica of him in appearance and clothing. On inquiring who he was, the man replied that he was the lady’s husband. This angered the husband and led to heated arguments. Seeing this, the royal troops came and started to arrest the husband. Finding no respite , the husband started to pray to the Lord to guide them through this crisis. There was then an announcement in the skies that being wednesday the husband should not have brought his wife back as it was inauspicious to travel on this day. He realised his mistake and requested the Lord to pardon him. Thereafter the Lord presented himself before him and killed the other man who wrongly claimed to be the lady’s husband.
The couple returned safely back home and made it a routine to worship and keep vrat on Wednesdays.
It is said that keeping fasts on Wednesdays provide protection against evils related to travelling on Wednesdays.
Thursday Vrat (Fast) in Hinduism : For Dattaguru
Note: * We worship Lord Vishnu this day
- Food should be eaten only once , the food should have chana dal (Bengal gram) with no salt
- The yellow color is significant – wear yellow clothes, offer yellow flowers.
- Banana is worshiped on this day.
Story related to this vrat (Fast) : Once there was a very benevolent god fearing King who was known for his generosity , no one ever returned empty handed from his court. He used to worship and perform vrat(Fast) on Thursdays. His wife however, was just his opposite and used to resent his giving donations and performing pujas and vrats.
Once the King left for the forests for hunting leaving behind his Queen with her maids.
Lord Vishnu, in disguise of a Monk (Sadhu) approached the queen and asked for alms( donation , bhiksha). The Queen , true to her character told Him that she was fed up of all the wealth she possessed as this was not giving her happiness, and wished that the wealth be taken away from her. The Lord was surprised because it is believed that children and money bring happiness and everyone aspires to have them. He advised her that if she possessed surplus wealth , she should utilize it to feed the poor, donate to Brahmins, construct wells and Dharamshalas( resting places for monks and devoted people), develop gardens etc. However the Queen would have none of it and was adamant that her wish be fulfilled. The Monk finally told her that Lord would fulfill her desires — to make her wish come true, she should cover the house with cowdung, wash her hair, ask the King to shave, eat and drink etc. for seven Thursdays.
The Queen followed his instructions and after three Thursdays only all her wealth was finished and she was left to lead a life of penury, hunger and misery. The King too decided to leave the town in search for some work. He took up the job of a woodcutter and could barely manage two meals.
In dire straits, the maids advised the Queen to approach her wealthy sister for help. A maid was sent to the sister but she could not meet her as she was busy listening to the story of Thursday vrat (Fast) . The sister did not want to get interrupted and therefore did not acknowledge her presence. However she visited the Queen later and seeing her condition advised her to perform the Thursday vrat(fast) and worship the Lord .
When Thursday came, the Queen somehow managed to arrange for the puja and offerings and prayed to Lord Vishnu. This kept on for some weeks and eventually the God bestowed all her wealth once again. Having fulfilled her desires for wealth, the Queen started to feel lazy in performing vrats(Hindu fasting) on Thursdays but her maids cautioned her that she should not forget that the Lord was so courteous in returning her wealth such that she should always remain grateful to Him.
The Queen realised her mistake and made it a ritual to perform vrats on Thursadays.
• Friday Vrat (Fast) in Hinduism : For Lakshmi
Note: * This fast is done to remove all obstacles
- Fast till evening and have meals only at night.
- Food should include white coloured food like rice pudding (kheer) or milk.
Story related to this vrat (Fast) in Hinduism : Once upon a time there were three friends each belonging to different castes – Kayastha, Brahmin and Vaishya. They were married, however the Vaishya had not brought her wife home after wedlock. On the suggestion of his friends, the Vaishya one day decided to go and fetch his wife from his in-laws home. The Brahmin friend cautioned him that at this time the Friday was setting, this was not an auspicious period; he better wait and fetch her at the rise of Friday. However the boy was adamant and did not pay heed to the advice of friends and relatives and set forth.
On seeing their son-in-law, the girl’s parents were surprised, they tried to reason with him that it was inauspicious to leave during that period. The Vaish boy took his wife along and set for his journey back home. On the way he met with a few mishaps – firstly the wheel of his chariot broke injuring his wife, then the dacoits waylaid him and deprived him of all the valuables and cash. Moreover a short distance away from home, a poisonous snake bit him and he became unconscious.
The wife was deeply grieved when she was informed that her husband would live for three days only. When the Brahmin friend came to know about the state of his Vaishya friend, he realised that this was all because of his friend’s insistence to fetch his wife back during the inauspicious period. He sent the couple back to the in-laws house. No sooner had the couple reached the house the boy came back to his senses. Having realised their mistake, when the period was the rise of Friday, the couple were sent back home. Thereafter they enjoyed a happy and prosperous life.
Saturday Vrat (Fast) in Hinduism : for Hanuman
Note: * WE worship The God Shani this day
- Among the things offered to the Lord are Black Til (sesame oil), Black clothes,Oil, Urad( black gram whole)
- One should have meals only once in the evening after the puja is over
- Food cooked should be without salt
Story related to this fast in Hinduism : Once there was an argument between the nine planets Sun (Sunday), Moon(Monday), Mars(Tuesday) ,Mercury (Wednesday), Jupiter(Thursday), Venus(Friday), Saturn(Saturday), Rahu and Ketu that who occupied the highest place amongst them. Lord Indra did not know how to answer this question so he asked them to approach King Vikramaditya on Earth .All of them approached the King with this query; he too fell in a dilemma for it meant pleasing one God and antagonizing others.
He came up with a solution – he ordered that thrones of all three elements (gold,silver,bronze, copper, glass, iron etc) be made and they be put in the order that gold is in front and iron throne is kept last. Then he requested the Gods to occupy them. He said that the throne that is in front would occupy the highest place among them. Since iron was at the end and it was the throne occupied by Lord Shani, the Lord Shani understood that the King had chosen him to be the weakest.
This angered Lord Shani, he told the king that the sun sign stays for 1 month, moon stays for 2 ¼ days, Mars 1 ½ month, Jupiter 13 month, Mercury and Venus 1 month each, while Rahu and Ketu move in opposite directions and stay for 18 months on one Rashi ; while He stays for 30 months. He warned the King of adverse circumstances.
Time went by, then came the period of Sare Saathi ( a period of 7 ½ years) of King Vikramaditya . Lord Shani in disguise of a horse seller arrived at his palace and the King chose to buy a beautiful horse. No sooner did he sit on it’ back, he ran far away into the forests and disappeared. The King wandered in the forests. Finally he reached a town and sat outside a traders shop.The King had kept his name as Vika to hide his identity. The business was dull those days, but fortunately that day, the trader did a roaring business. Considering that this man had brought him luck, he took him to his house to feed him. Unfortunately, while he was in their house, an expensive necklace disappeared and he was arrested and brought to the King’s court who ordered that all his four limbs be severed from the body.
The King wandered aimlessly until an oil seller picked him up and carried him to his home where he earned his living by pulling a bullock cart with his teeth. After the Shani period of the King ended, he was one day singing aloud the Malhar raga. The royal princess was so impressed on hearing this melodious song that she decided she would marry the singer alone and none else. Her parents tried to reason with her but she was adamant and went on a fast. Finally her parents had to get her married to Vika(the King Vikramaditya). That very night when the couple was sleeping in the palace, Lord Shani came in Vika’s dreams and told him that his present state was because he had pronounced Lord Shani to be the weakest among the planets. King Vikramaditya begged mercy and the God pardoned him , he became normal and his limbs were restored. The King told the Lord Shani that he has suffered a lot and pleaded with him that henceforth he should not give so much misery to anyone. Lord Shani agreed and proclaimed that whosoever listens and narrates his stories will be immune from all evils related to Shani sign. Those who will worship him daily and feed the ants with flour will have all their desires fulfilled.
Meanwhile the trader whose necklace was lost came to know the facts and rushed to the King Vikramaditya and fell on his feet. He invited him for meals at his place. While the King was having meals at his house a miracle occurred and the lost necklace reappeared. The trader was very pleased and he married off his daughter to the King .
Thereafter after resting for sometime, King Vikramaditya returned to his native town Ujjain with both his wifes, a lot of dowry, valuables and maids, much to the delight of the local citizens whose happiness knew no bounds.
Next day the King ordered that no one will ever undervalue the strength of Lord Shani because he was the Supreme among the planets. As a ritual the King started to worship the Lord on Saturdays and kept vrat(fast) , offered oil, black Urad(Black gram whole dal), black clothes and copper.
Those who worship Lord Shani on Saturdays and observe vrat(fast) will have all their sorrows driven away and will lead a happy life.
How to safeguard against the evils linked to Shani rashi?
Those born with Shani signs should apply oil themselves and donate oil to Brahmans on Saturdays. The worship includes first praying before an iron image of Shani kept in an iron utensil, then black flowers, 2 black clothes ,kasar (prasadam), til(sesame seeds) and cooker rice are used for worshipping. A black blanket, sesame seeds oil and some donation is offered to a Brahman. Thereafter recite the following verse:
” Sha No Dewarmishtaya Aapo Bhavantu Pitaye Sha Yorbhi Stravantu namah.”
In order to make himself immune to the evils related to Shani sign, one should perform this worship and observe vrat (fast) on each Saturday for 1 year.
On each Saturday one should also worship the Peepul tree, tie a cotton thread round it’s bark seven times while chanting ” Shani Devta Ki Jai”. Worship the God using Dhoop, and sweets, wear an iron ring.
The Lord Hanuman is also worshiped on Saturdays because disciples of Lord Hanuman are never influenced by the Shani sign. The story is that Ravana had held Lord Shani and Mahakal captive and it was Lord Hanuman who freed them from his captivity during the burning of Lanka. Feeling obliged, Lord Shani had promised Hanuman that he would not trouble those who worship Lord Hanuman.
Sunday Vrat (Fast) in Hinduism : For Surya
Note : * This fast is done to fulfill all desires
- Consume food only once during the daytime before sunset.
- Oily and salty food is prohibited
Story related to this vrat in Hinduism : Once there was an old devoted god fearing lady who was poor and therefore could not afford to buy a cow for herself. She would go to her neighbours house to collect cow dung for performing puja early in the mornings, only after puja she had her meals.She was happy in her own little world.
After sometime her neighbour decided to lock the cow inside her house with the aim of denying the old lady the opportunity to collect cowdung from her place. The lady, unable to get the cowdung, could not perform the puja that day and remained fasting the whole day. God was observing the whole episode, he came in the old lady’s dreams that night and told her that he appreciated her devotion towards God and therefore He was presenting her a Cow. The lady woke up to find a cow standing in her courtyard.
Before the lady had woken up, her neighbour had seen the cow and was surprised to see that instead of cowdung, the cow was excreting gold. Out of jealousy, she picked up the gold and substituted it with cowdung. This went on for sometime and the poor old lady never knew that her cow was excreting gold. The God observed it for sometime and decided that he needed to help the devotee. One evening he created a storm, seeing this the old lady locked her cow inside her house. When she woke up, she was surprised to see the gold and realised what her neighbour was upto. Thereafter she made it a practice to lock the cow inside and collect the gold, with time she began to prosper. This made her neighbour more jealous, she went to the King and narrated the story and requested the King to get the cow and use the gold for providing amenities to the general public. The King ordered that the cow be brought to the palace. The old lady protested and cried but the guards brought the cow to the palace.
When it was morning, instead of gold, the entire palace was full of cowdung. The God came in the King’s dreams and asked him to return the cow to it’s rightful owner. The King realised his mistake and promptly sent the cow back to the lady and punished the neighbour.The old lady began to prosper and her family lived happily ever after.
The King ordered that on Sundays, all should worship and keep fast for a peaceful and contented life.
Karva Chouth Vrat (Fasting) in Hinduism
Dates : Karva Chouth falls about nine days before Diwali on the Kartik ki Chouth (fourth day of the waning moon or the dark fortnight) some time in October or November.
Practice : It is the most important fast observed by the women of North India. A woman keeps such a fast for the well being of her husband, who becomes her protector after she leaves her parents home. In the past, a widow was regarded as a burden to the house and was burned on the funeral pyre of her husband. This was glorified by attributing great virtue to the woman concerned, and she was known as a Sati. Hence, it was in her best interest that her husband remains alive.
Earlier, the elders of the family were also keen to discipline the young wife, who was sometimes married off at the tender age of seven or eight years. Great care was taken on the day of this fast to ensure that she took neither food nor water unwittingly. An older woman would accompany the young girl even to the bathroom, or the toilet, to ensure that she did not drink any water.
The fast of Karva Chouth is a very tough fast to observe, as it starts before sunrise and ends after worshipping the moon, which rises at night. Today, this fast is kept even in modern homes, as a symbol of a woman’s love for her husband.
The goddess known as Gaur Mata is worshiped. Women celebrate this fast by applying henna designs on their hands and by buying bangles. New brides wear their bridal outfits and others wear outfits woven with gold. Once the moon starts showing up, the women starts to see reflection of moon in a thali filled with water, after doing this they do some pooja for their husband’s safety & long life, and finally break their fast, after feeding their husbands.