Religious Fasting


There are so many things in our culture that have a significant impact on our life. One such tradition is religious fasting. I have been practising religious fasting for so many years, started when I was only fifteen years old.

In India, we give a lot of importance to religious practices and traditions and many times we just follow things due to our faith and not necessarily know the reason behind those traditions. We fast during Navratri’s (9 days continuously, twice a year). We get up early and offer special prayers after bath, sow wheat grains in a pot. Sowing grains is an appreciation to demanding work of the farmers. The fasting diet comprises of only fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Fasting is like a celebration. Fasts are also performed on special occasions such as anniversaries and birthdays of Gods. Each day in the week signifies a specific God, therefore, people fast on specific day during the week for their favourite God. Fasting purifies both mind and body, it removes impurities through abstinence of food and through mental discipline. 

Several religions and cultures have been practising fasting. Jains do eight-day festival of Paryusan. Hinduism, Budhism, Judaism, Seventh-Day-Adventism and Orthodox Christianity, Islamics voluntarily abstain from some specific food for a specific timeframe. Religious fasting is considered a time of great spiritual growth. It has also proven its healthcare benefits and associated positively with improvement in several diseases and longevity. God has been considered an inspiration for the physician’s knowledge and healing resources since ancient times. Fasting is mentioned in Ayurveda to maintain health and longevity and it makes one feel lighter.

Muslims fast every year during the holy month of Ramadan for 28 to 30 days, eating and drinking are forbidden from sunrise also known as Sahur to sunset also known as Iftar. There is fasting and feasting period in Ramadan. Scientific data is available and clinical studies demonstrated reduction in lipid levels, weight loss and depression after Ramadan fasting.

Greek Orthodox Christians consume only fruits, vegetables, nuts and seafoods during fasting. There is restriction of eggs, fish, meat and milk for 180 to 200 days each year. They practised three fasting periods, 40 days during the Nativity fast, 48 days during Lent, and 15 days during Assumption and fasting days are all Wednesday and Friday. Scientific data reported reduction in blood pressure and ageing process.

Apart from religion also, our ancestors faced feast and famine periods, when food used to be plenty they used to be feasting and during the scarcity they practised fasting. Therefore, our body is designed to handle the fasting and feasting rather than feasting all the time.

In my upcoming blog, I will be talking about the ways of fasting and the scientific research carried out on fasting. Please stay connected.