Chaturmasya: The Science Behind The Four-Month Abstinence Period

Health consciousness is closely linked to many Indian food traditions that take root in and amalgamate with auspicious occurrences through the year. One such example – the Chaturmasya vrata – coincides with Guru Purnima, that mostly concentrates on seasonal changes and marks the beginning of Dakshinayan – where the sun begins to move towards the southern hemisphere. While Hindu traditions perceive the four-month period of the monsoon season to be one of abstinence from specific foods, delving deeper reveals many scientific explanations as to why certain food items should be avoided, in tandem with the environmental and bodily transtitions.

This year, the fasting or abstinence period begins in July and goes on up until November, where food items like green vegetables for the month of Shravana, yoghurt for the month of Bhadra, milk for the month of Ashvin and urad dal for the month of Kartika are avoided in diets. We breakdown the science behind why these foods are suggested to steer clear of, as per Ayurvedic principles, as well as have some alternatives that you can make do with. As we might be familiar with, the monsoon season increases the chances for contamination and the spread of infections, as well as aggravates the vatta (gas), pitta (acid) and kapha (phlegm) in our bodies. Hence, in order to avoid discomfort, sickness and maintain a sense of well-being, it was prescribed that certain types of foods were to be removed temporarily from diets.

Green Vegetables

Leafy greens like spinach, amaranth leaves, fenugreek, coriander are best avoided during the commencement of the monsoon season; where the soil is replenished with micro-organisms. When leafy greens are uprooted during the beginning of the season, the chances of waterborne infections spreading are higher, when leafy greens are consumed. Since green leafy vegetables are prone to bacterial infections and the rainy season breeds ground worms, it has been suggested that these varieties of vegetables should be kept at a distance. As an alternative to this, it is ideal to consume lentils and lentil-based foods in order to keep the nutritional value in your diet, intact.


Although yoghurt is known to be a natural probiotic and good to cultivate gut enzymes, consuming it during the second month of the four-month abstinence period might be counter-productive to health. Since yoghurt is typically consumed when cold and the temperatures in our external environment cool down gradually when the monsoon intensifies, yoghurt has the capacity to freeze the phlegm in our chest, causing aggravated sinus issues, cough and other ailments. Yoghurt also tends to contain more harmful bacteria during this period and so, converting it into buttermilk or lassi might also cause discomfort. Bring balance to your diet by eating lots of leafy greens instead.

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Along with milk, foods prepared from milk – like butter or ghee – are suggested to be avoided during the third of the four-month period. This also includes milk sweets, ice cream, condensed milk, along with any other products that might contain milk. Since cow and buffalo milk are the most widely consumed varieties, the intake of these food items might cause indigestion and discomfort in the stomach. Milk being a heavy food to digest and our metabolism weakening during the monsoon season, is best avoided or skipped during this time. Consuming milk in any of the above forms could also increase gaseousness in the body, resulting in bloating and stomach aches. Consume alternative milks like almond or oat milk or include kefir in your diet instead.

Urad Dal

The protein-rich urad dal, used widely in Indian preparations like idlis, dosas, pakodas and papads, are incompatible with digestion during the end of the monsoon season. As the weather changes occur during this time, and the dry weather is on the cusp of arrival, our bodies are low on immunity and must fight infections and potential diseases in order to remain healthy. This also affects our digestion and so, eating urad dal-based foods could cause the acidity to flare up, as well as the vatta to cause digestive issues. Also avoiding fermented foods like dhokla, along with alcoholic beverages is recommended. Replace these lentils with lighter options like green moong or sprouts.