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Mahashivratri – A Day of Fasting & Prayer

Upasana Kamineni Konidela

Wellbeing Curator

5 min read

One of the most important Hindu festivals, Mahashivratri is here and Hindus around the world are geared up to worship their beloved deity, Lord Shiva on this auspicious day. Devotees with their offerings throng the temples right across the country and assemble around the Shiva Linga. Throughout the night of this festival, vigils and prayers are conducted. The devotees also chant hymns and do puja.

Another reason this festival is special is because of the fasting observed on this day by the deity’s devotees. Known as the Mahashivratri vrata, this is considered to be a very significant act by all of the devotees of Lord Shiva. Some devotees fast for the whole day without drinking even a drop of water. But most devotees keep a special fast – only water, milk and fruits are consumed. This fast has been observed for generations with much diligence. According to the scriptures, the devotees who fast sincerely on this day are blessed abundantly by Lord Shiva and absolved of their sins.

On the day of Mahashivratri, devotees wake up early, take a bath and wear new clothes before setting out to the temple. Fruits, milk and bel leaves are given as offerings. Some of the other offerings include ghee, honey, curd, sweets and incense sticks. After the puja, the fast continues for the whole day and night. During the night every three hours the Shiva Lings are given a holy bath.

The most important night for Lord Shiva’s devotees, Mahashivratri is celebrated annually on the fourteenth day (Chaturdashi Tithi) of Phalguna, Krishna Paksha, also known as the phase when the moon wanes.

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According to tradition, goddess Parvati fasted the entire day and night during her endeavor to save Lord Shiva from the poison that he drank to save the devas and asuras. Due to this occurrence, fasting and staying awake the entire night during Mahashivratri became a custom.

On this auspicious day, devotees focus on meditating. When fasting, you are less distracted due to which UR meditation becomes more effective. Your prayers and intentions are stronger because UR mind and body is detoxified. For Mahashivratri, devotees keep a day-long fast and worship God Shiva.

When fasting, you are less distracted due to which UR meditation becomes more effective. Your prayers and intentions are stronger because UR mind and body is detoxified.

Fasting as a medium bridges the union between mind and body. It enhances the ability to concentrate. Fasting also activates the entire body. It flushes out toxins and detoxifies the body. Though there are many health benefits of fasting, different bodies respond to it in different ways. A lot depends on the type of body and the body’s requirements. If you are planning to observe the Mahashivratri fast this year, it would be wise to first consult a doctor.

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Ensure you get a health check done before you decide to observe the traditional vrat. This is especially important if UR taking any medication or under some kind of treatment. But if UR medically fit and want to observe the fast, here are some rules you can follow:

  • Get up early, preferably two hours before sunrise and take a bath
  • Wear clean clothes and do meditation
  • Make a promise (sankalpa) that you will observe the fast sincerely
  • To exercise self-control maintain celibacy and start the vrat
  • The eating of wheat, rice or pluses is not allowed
  • Follow self-denial on this day and have only fruits and milk
  • You can follow vrat recipes like sabudana khichdi, kuttu singhare ki puri or parantha
  • Use rock salt or Sendha namak as you must avoid common salt
  • You may perform Abhishekam if you have a metal idol of Lord Shiva or the Shiva Linga at home or you can visit a temple with UR offerings to perform the Abhishek while chanting ‘Om Namah Shivaya’
  • There is no eating after sunset on this day. Ardent devotees of Lord Shiva stay awake the entire night and perform puja. Food is only eaten the next morning, after puja.
Special Diet for Mahashivratri
  • A classic Shivaratri meal known as phalar in certain communities consists of a curry made from boiled potatoes with no garlic, onions, turmeric or ginger.
  • As non-cereal food is encouraged, some of the other popular dishes include upma, pakora and as mentioned before, sabudana khichdi and kuttu singahri ka puri.
  • Some of the common sweet dishes and snacks consumed on this day comprises of thandai, kaju katli, lauki ka halwa, aloo pakoda, paneer and aloo chaat (minus the spices), sweet potato chaat, raw banana vadas etc.

One of the main benefits and purposes of fasting is to give UR body a break. When you abstain from food you help UR body discard toxins. You have better control over UR senses and connect with UR inner being. You not only cleanse UR body but UR mind as well.

Fasting lowers blood glucose levels. While taking control of the situation, UR liver tries to create a balance by converting fat into glucose. As a result, you may lose some fat when you fast. Though fasting is usually safe, it can be risky for some. The following people should avoid fasting:

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • Adolescents and children
  • Those suffering with eating disorders
  • People with diabetes
  • People who are on medication (especially if it’s taken with food)
  • Individuals undergoing treatment of any kind
Safe ways to break UR fast:
  • Ensure you drink adequate amounts of water
  • Avoid straining UR digestive system and eat a small meal immediately after fasting
  • Opt for foods that are cooked (not raw) and easy to digest
  • Don’t experiment with new foods after a fast – it can make you feel sick
  • Chew UR food thoroughly to improve digestion