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Kalpana Upadhyaya, a professor by profession and a naturalist by heart says, “By integrating the practice of fasting with Navratris, people are willy-nilly made to follow a tradition of cleansing, detoxifying, and resting their bodies. Most people usually have a mob mentality; hence even those who claim that they cannot survive without eating also take great pride in fasting for these seven/eight days. This offers them an opportunity for inner cleansing; both physical as well as spiritual as fasting during Navratris lays great emphasis on purifying the mind and thoughts as well.”
Kalpana’s young daughter-in-law Jaya adds, “I fast for all eight days every year and I have realized that fasting not only clears my gastro-intestinal tract, but also keeps me peaceful, calm and unflustered. I stop worrying about things. I don’t know how this happens, but it happens. ”
For a self certified hard-core non-vegetarian like Mayank, fasting means not eating non-vegetarian food for nine days, “I make this huge sacrifice for nine days, all thanks to my wife’s insistence; but at the end of these nine days, I find myself lighter and full of energy, though I generally hate to admit it in public.”
According to nutritionist Rita Gandhi, “People, who are usually non-vegetarians but refrain from eating meat for nine days, benefit greatly. This practice offers them an opportunity to get all the toxins out of their over-loaded systems. Non-vegetarians, who fast during Navratris, will benefit by drinking fresh vegetable juice made of lauki, tomato, apple and a little bit of ginger. This juice will flush out their system and provide a great deal of anti-oxidants. Eating lots of fruits also clears toxic cholesterol accumulation from the liver. However, it is best to avoid too much of dairy products, especially full cream milk and paneer.”
Shveta, a young mother of two, is perpetually on one or the other diet to lose her extra pounds. She loves Navtratris and gushes excitedly, “This is one time when the whole world is on a diet, so I don’t have to justify my diet. I happily survive on papaya, apples, pears, cucumber and pomegranate besides soaked almonds and raisins to take care of my vitamin and mineral requirements. At the end of the nine days I am a few kilos lighter and my skin glows.”
Jyoti, a teacher, is a diabetic but religious rituals are very important to her. She fasts by eating a fruit and some almonds every couple of hours. This practice keeps her blood sugar levels under control.
Kavita was sick during last Navratris but against all medical advice, she chose to observe the fast. She asserts, “Conventional wisdom says that when we are sick we must eat food to keep our strength up, but I had observed our dog, Tiger. Tiger has an instinctive understanding of self-healing. Whenever he is sick, he refuses to eat. I told my mother about this experiment and she supported me. To everyone’s surprise, I became well on fasting, prayer, meditation, rest and sunshine. Navratra fasting restored me to peak health. I guess all the energy which the body uses to digest food was diverted towards healing. Now I advocate this fasting to everyone. It is easy to do because everyone around you is doing it.”
Archana, a new convert to the benefits of fasting says, “Fasting for eight days puts my life into perspective. Unlike my friends, I don’t pass time watching TV or movies duringNavratri. Instead, I like to sit and contemplate. I notice that time moves slowly. My obsession with past and future disappears. Hurry seems stupid. My priorities in life become clear. I experience an easy joy, which replaces my compulsion to do something or have something. It is amazing. I feel rejuvenated after these fasts. I was told that a continually stuffed body can’t see the secrets of the sacred! Now I have experienced this truth.”
Vidya is a spiritual teacher. She says, “Navratris are celebrated at the onset of both, summer and winter. These are two very important junctions of climactic conditions and solar influence. This is the time when our inner nature undergoes change, in resonance with the change in the Nature outside us. These are great times for sadhana. Fasting helps us in our sadhana, prayer and meditation. The first three days of the fasting are the most difficult. This is the time to pray to Goddess Durga to destroy all our impurities, vices, defects and imperfections. In this process of sadhana, Tamoguna is transformed. This is when we conquer the animal qualities within us. Fasting aids in eliminating toxicity and impurities from our body, and negative tendencies, hostilities and uneasiness from our minds at this stage. Hence, a determined effort is required to fast for first three days.
During the next three days, once the cravings and old habits subside, a sublime spiritual personality is revealed. Now fasting brings out a calm, steady, orderly, peaceful persona. Here Rajoguna is acquired. Fasting at this stage provides a sound base for sitting quietly and listening to the voice within.
The last three days are most peaceful as after defeating and routing out evil propensities hidden inside us, we become pure and attain supreme wisdom. Attaining Satoguna is the last phase of this sadhana.
Fasting plays a great role along with prayer and meditation in achieving this victory over the three-fold forces of the Universe. That is when Sat-Chit-Ananda or supreme bliss is known.”
The question arises that how many of those fasting actually achieve this victory? How many understand these deeper truths? How many just follow the herd mentality? How many use self-restraint of fasting for spiritual uplifting? What is required during Navratris is the earnest effort, and total energy directed towards absolute peace and supreme bliss. That is the true culmination of fasting during Navratris. That is what ancients had in mind when they advocated these practices. It is time to wake up and consciously follow these religious practices, so beautifully interwoven in our culture.
Divyaa Kummar, another spiritual teacher adds, “Fasting works in many ways, but like all spiritual practices, the best clue of whether it is good for you or required by you in the NOW is to see if you are drawn to it. Explore it only if it beckons you, and not because others are doing it. That holds true for all spiritual practices- be it fasting, chanting, praying or meditating. All these practices expand your energy field, hence enabling your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Fasting can be pure bhakti, if you do it for your beloved. When we give up food, which is of great importance to us, it becomes an act of pure love for the Goddess.”
Leena Katoch, a life coach has the final word, “Navratri is about a little moderation in the daily routine. It is about getting up before dawn. It is about achieving balance, harmony, and moderation in our food habits. It is about prayer, meditation, contemplation, introspection, charity, purity and chastity in one’s individual and social behavior. It is about rejuvenating and re-shaping our lives. It is about destroying evil qualities and developing virtuous ones. It is about achieving victory over the demon of worldliness. It is about living in love, harmony, peace, and happiness. If we can achieve all this, our fasting is successful.”
How many of us are practicing successful fasting??? This is a question we must answer during this Navratri.
navratri recipes, navratri fasting food, rules & procedure.
(this detailed post is to share navratri recipes, navratri vrat/fast rules, navratri pooja vidhi or procedure or guidelines, kanjak pooja or navratri kanya pooja, food ingredients allowed for navratri vrat and how navratri vrat vidhi is observed in our place.)
this year sharad navaratri begins on 25th Sep, 2014 and ends on 3rd Oct, 2014. navratri literally means nine nights and during this period, 9 forms of mother goddess or shakti or devi are worshiped through out india.
out of 5 major navratri, only two navratri are celebrated. first ‘chaitra navratri‘ celebration is when summer is starting (march-april) and second ‘sharad navratri’ when winter is starting (oct-nov).
in north and western india, many people keep fast during navratri. as its a very good time to make progress in your spiritual practice or to invoke the energy of mother goddess or to purify your body-mind.
navratri fasting rules varies little from community to community. the same fasting rules applies for fasts during the ekadashi, janmashtami and mahashivratri fasts. i hope this post will be helpful to you all.
you can also check this post which shares 71 navratri recipes which covers north indian navratri fasting recipes as well as south indian navratri festival recipes.
flours & grains allowed for navratri fasting
1. singhare ka atta (water chestnut flour) – you can make singhare ki poori, paratha, pakoras, halwa .
2. kuttu ka atta (buckwheat flour) – you can make paratha, pakoras, poori, halwa.
3. rajgira ka atta (amaranth flour) and rajgira (amaranth) – you can make pooris, vrat ka halwa, paratha, and thalipeeth. roasted rajgira can be had mixed with fruits, porridge and even ladoos.
4. sama ke chawal ka atta (barnyard millet flour) – can be used to make vrat ke uttapam,idli, dosa, pooris.
5. vrat ke chawal (barnyard millet) – you can make pulao, kheer, dalia, idli, dosa, upma or just plain steamed .
6. arrowroot flour or paniphal flour – used as a thickener and binding agent
spices & herbs allowed for navratri fasting
1. cumin or cumin powder ( jeera or jeera powder )- you can add them to your curry or veggie dishes or make jeera aloo.
2. black pepper powder and rock salt (sendha namak)
4. green cardamom (chhoti illaichi), cloves (laung), black peppercorns (saboot kali mirch), cinnamon (dalchini) and nutmeg (jaiphal)
5. dry pomegranate seeds (anardana) – you can make chutney or raita or use it as a souring agent.
6. ginger – both fresh as well as dry, including dry ginger powder
7. green chilli or hari mirch and lemons.
8. ajwain or carom seeds
9. *coriander (dhania) and mint leaves (pudina) and curry leaves (kadi patta) – some folks include and some don’t
10. *dry mango powder (amchur powder), chaat masala, red chili powder – some folks include and some don’t
11. *black salt (kala namak) – some folks include and some don’t
vegetables allowed for navratri fast or upvas
1. potatoes – make vrat ke aloo, dahi aloo, jeera aloo. halwa or add them to raita.
2. petha or pumpkin – you can make kaddu ki sabzi, halwa, khatta meetha kaddu sabzi or pakoras.
3. shakarkandi or sweet potato – you can make shakarkandi halwa, tikki or chaat.
4. arbi or kachalu or colocasia – you can make many dishes from arbi like sukhi arbi, dahi arbi, arbi tikki, arbi cutlet.
5. suran or jimkand or yam (regular yam as well as purple yam) – you can make suran chips. suran ki sabzi.
6. raw banana – you can make sabzi, banana fries and banana chips.
7. raw or semi ripe papaya – you can make papaya halwa and salad from raw papaya.
8. *tomatoes – tomatoes are added to curries or sabzis. tomato sauce and chutney is also made. but some people don’t use tomatoes too.
* some folks also use spinach (palak), bottle gourd (lauki), cucumber (kheera) and carrots (gajar)
other food or ingredients allowed for navratri vrat:
1. sabudana or tapioca pearls – sabudana is favorite during fasting. you can makesabudana khichdi, vada, thalipeeth, pakoras, ladoos and kheer.
2. makhana or phool makhana – you can make makhana kheer, roasted makhana, rotis or a simple makhana sabzi.
3. all dry fruits – you can make dry fruits milkshake or dry fruits ladoo or add them to halwas or other dishes.
4. all fruits – make fruit chaat, fruit salads, fruit raita or fruit juices like musk melon juiceor have them raw.
5. all milk products like paneer, curd, white butter, cream, ghee, khoya, malai, condensed milk. but some people make paneer at home (use lemon juice or curd for curdling the milk) and don’t use the paneer brought from market.
6. sugar, honey, gur or jaggery
7. tamarind (imli), kokum, lemon juice, yogurt – these can be used as souring agents.
8. coconut and coconut milk – you can use coconut in your dishes, make coconut ladoo or use coconut milk in milkshakes.
9. melon seeds (magaz), peanuts, groundnut oil
foods to be avoided for navratri fast or vrat:
1. onion and garlic are strictly avoided. if you find any recipe in a food blog which has onion and garlic then skip adding them. so most vrat recipes make use of curd and ginger.
2. no lentils and legumes.
3. common salt is not used and instead rock salt or sendha namak also called as upvaas ka namak is used.
4. turmeric (haldi), asafoetida (hing), mustard (sarson or rai), fenugreek seeds (methi dana), garam masala and dhania powder (coriander powder) are not allowed.
5. alcohol and non-vegetarian food is strictly NO during this holy period.
flours and grains not allowed for navratri fasting:
1. rice and rice flour
2. wheat flour or atta
3. maida (all purpose flour)
4. sooji (rava or semolina)
5. besan (chickpea flour or gram flour)
note: if you want to make roti, poori or paratha for fasting then use above mention singhare ka atta, kuttu ka atta and rajgira ka atta. for making rice based dishes, kindly use sama ke chawal.
navratri vrat vidhi or procedure or guidelines:
how navratri vrat pooja is observed at my in laws place:
1. to start with if possible, clean the house as you are inviting the goddess mother in your house. you can specially clean your house temple and sprinkle ganga water in it.
2. my mil does not use any onion and garlic in any recipe, no matter other people are keeping fast or not. so try to use all the onions and garlic before the fast is starting.
3. many devotees keep fast on all nine days. my mil has kept fast on all nine days through out her life. but now because of old age and falling health, she keep fast on one day. if somehow, its not possible for you to keep fast on all nine days then you can try that on each day one person of your family is keeping fast in the house.
note: some people keep fast on 1st and last day (my mil used to do this for last few years). this year one brahmin lady told her that it is better to keep fast on last 2 days. as after the first day fast you have started eating again and then you are keeping fast on the last day. according to this brahmin lady, it is better to keep fast on last 2 days than on keeping fast on first and last day of navratri.
4. many people grow ‘khetri‘ or barley seeds during this period. for this they collect, clean mud from an auspicious or clean place. this mud is put in a earthen pot. clean and wash the barley to remove any insects or impurities and soak them in water for 15-30 minutes and then put these barley or ‘jau’ on the top of mud. make a thin layer of mud on top of barley, so as to cover it. don’t put too much mud otherwise barley will not grow and put just enough water to soak the barley. one red color string (mauli) of mata rani is tied to khetri pot.
5. the progress of ‘khetri’ or barley is observed very keenly by the devotee and it is believed that the longer they grow in height… the better it is for your family’s fortune and well being. it is also related to the blessings or happiness of the goddess on you. few people believe that instead of observing the height of khetri, we should look at the color of khetri. yellow color khetri is not good whereas green color khetri is considered good. on the last day of navratri, the khetri is immersed in moving water body like river or even a pond. if there is no water body nearby to your house then you can put the khetri under pipal tree in a temple.
navratri pooja and items:
6. mata rani ka shingar (cosmetics) – my mil keep them in the house temple and whenever (any day of navratri) she go to a city temple devoted to maa then she offer these shingar item in the temple. the shingar items include red bangles, red chunri, red lipstick, bindi, mehendi, kajal, nail polish, anklets, mirror and sindhur.
7. one diya or lamp is burned through out the nine days and care must be taken that there is enough ghee or oil in the diya all the time. it is akhand jyoti (burning all the time for nine days). this akhand jyoti will destroy all the negativity in your house.
8. along with this one red color chunri or cloth and one mature coconut is kept in the house temple. the thin edge of coconut should be towards the temple.
9. one kalash (earthen or copper pot) is filled with water, 5 betel nuts or suparis, sugar, rice and a five rupees coin and is kept with all these pooja items. in the kalash, red color string of mata rani is tied and this kalash water is sprinkled in your house after the kanjak pooja on 8th or 9th day. you can also drink this water. this water is considered as charanamrit and is holy.
10. after taking bath in the morning , aarti is done for devi maa and bhog is given to maa in the form of dry fruits (5 types), milk, bananas, mishri or other fruits. you can also offer fresh flowers. after doing the aarti or pooja only, my mil takes the food. the same aarti is done in evening time (sandhya kaal) too. burning incense, dhoop etc is part of morning and evening pooja.
11. please refrain from tasting the food ingredients for bhog, while assembling or preparing the bhog.
12. bhog suggestions: the below info about bhog on each day, my mil has seen in television this year and will be part of her navratri pooja procedure now onwards.
1st day of navratri – cow ghee ka bhog
2nd day of navratri – sugar and fruits
3rd day of navratri – doodh or milk ka bhog
4th day of navratri – malpuda or puda (skip adding fennel seeds or saunf), after giving this bhog to mata… the pudas can be keep below pipal tree.
5th day of navratri – banana or kela ka bhog
6th day of navratri – honey ka bhog. you can also make donation to pandit on this day. this removes fight, quarrels & conflicts in the family.
7th day of navratri – jaggery or gur ka bhog
8th day of navratri – mature coconut.
13. chanting, mantras and bhav: try to keep your body and mind clean. keep your thoughts focused on maa or goddess while doing your household work. you can do some special pooja or havan in your house or chant ‘jai mata di’ or chant durga saptashati or sri lalita sahasranama. you can also chant the mantra “Aaim hreem kleem chamundayai vichche” – 108 times (1 mala) in morning and one mala in evening.
you can also visit devi temples during these days or can play devotional songs or mata ke bhajan in the house to help your mind to stay connected with maa.
fasting food – there is no fix rule and it varies from community to community. some people eat only one flour based diet in a day and rest of the day they take milk, tea, fruits etc. those who can not go for such strict diet take 2 flour based meals. in my place, we also buy ‘seel ki patti or laddu’ – made from popped amaranth seeds, from the grocery stores and have it during the fasting. normally, there is always relaxation for old or sick people, even for nursing mothers or for those who can not follow rigorous fasting rules. but non-veg food and alcohol should not be allowed in the house till navratri is over. no matter you are keeping navratri fast or not.
navratri kanjak pooja or kanya pooja – many families also do kanya puja on 8th or 9th day. my parents get up early in the morning, take bath and wear fresh clothes to start the pooja preparation. in the kanya puja, nine girls who have not reached the puberty stage are worshiped. for the devotee these nine girls represents nine forms of goddess durga. the young girls who sit for kanya pooja take bath in the morning and wear new clothes.
i have seen this kanjak puja. first the feet of the girls are washed with water by the family elders. one mauli (red color string) is tied on their hands and tilak is put on forehead. then they are worshiped and blessings is taken from them. after the customary navratri kanya pooja, small girls are offered prasadam which is usually puri, dry black chana and halwa. the coconut which is kept in the house temple is also broken during this occasion and is part of prasad. some families also worship one small boy in the form of bhairav but most families only worship the girls. many people insist that only girls should sit for kanjak pooja.
minimum two girls should sit for kanjak pooja. no restriction on doing pooja with more than 2 girls but minimum two girls, older than one year of age is must. if in your locality, nine girls can sit for kanjak pooja then very good. you can worship them as nine forms of goddess.
along with the prasadam and eatables (in one plate puri, black chana and halwa is given), gifts, fruits and money is given to the girls (nowadays many people give gifts items like chocolate, frooti etc). fruits are must to be given.
make sure that the girls eat part of poori, chana and halwa before going to another house for pooja. they won’t be able to eat much. so just one bite is also enough and take blessings from them which they will give by gently patting on your head.
with the tilak on head and so much attention, love, and devotion received, these small girls really look divine and they are really sought after on kanjak pooja day. raksha bandhan and kanjak pooja are two big days for small girls !!!
note: if you have followed the rituals correctly during nine days and the worship of nine girls is done with real devotion then goddess will be there inside the girls when you are worshiping them. its all up to your devotion and faith in ma. if you can call maa with real devotion then she will come for sure.
when navratri fast is broken – on the day, kanjak pooja is done, the navratri fast is broken in my house. some people do kanjak pooja on 8th day (ashtami) and some do it on 9th day (navami) and few people do it on dussehra (10th). mostly it is done on 8th or 9th day. the day kanjak pooja is done, on that day in our house we do the immersion of khetri along with red cloth (chunri) in moving water or it can be kept under pippal tree in a temple.
update: this year, kanjak pooja will be done in our home on 9th (navami) and will be completed before 1 pm (indian standard time) as after that dussehra festivalperiod will start. normally, in our house pooja is completed early morning itself. if you also want to do kanjak pooja on 9th then keep fast on 8th (ashtami) as many people keep fast on 1st and last day of navratri.
please don’t take this above navrati vrat procedure or guidelines as a thumb rule. i am just sharing the procedure which is observed at my in law’s place and it is just for your reference and help. navratri vrat rules are flexible and vary from family to family. i have also seen, some families who have started growing khetri in their home seeing my mil doing it.
most important thing in religious fast or acts is your devotion and purity of heart. if somehow you miss any rule or make a mistake, don’t worry. mother goddess is always kind to her children and is forgiving. just make sure that your heart is clean or without malice for anyone and your energies are devoted to righteous actions. instead of regretting about the mistake which happened unknowingly, try to remember maa all the time. keep your thoughts on maa and don’t waste in mundane matters.