Sawan Somwar 2023: Why Science Says Avoid Alcohol And Non-Veg
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For most Hindus in India, the months of July-August not only bring in the pleasant weather associated with rains, but also a month of ritual fasting for Lord Shiva popularly known as Sawan or Shravan. Coinciding with the coming of monsoon in India, the Sawan vrat is predominantly followed by devotees of Lord Shiva and many rituals like offering bael leaves on Mondays, fasting, sattvik dieting and avoiding alcohol and non-vegetarian food are strictly adhered to.  

Sawan might seem just like another ritual to you, but did you know that modern science actually backs this Sawan fast? In fact, eating purely sattvik meals with the best the monsoon season has to offer and avoiding both alcohol and non-vegetarian foods like chicken, eggs, fish and meat during Sawan are also backed by science. Avoiding alcohol and non-vegetarian food during Sawan, science says, can not only benefit you and your health, but also that of the entire ecosystem and planet! 

A 2022 study in the peer-reviewed journal, Frontiers In Nutrition, states that “religious fasting, in conjunction with other religious health assets, can provide several opportunities, ranging from the individual to the population, environmental and planetary levels, by facilitating and supporting societal transformations and changes, such as the adoption of healthier, more equitable, and sustainable lifestyles, therein preserving the Earth’s systems and addressing major interconnected, cascading and compound challenges.” 

So, clearly, avoiding alcohol and non-vegetarian food during not only Sawan but other Hindu ritual fasts like Navratri, Ekadashi, etc can provide benefits to your health and the planets. Wondering how science backs the avoidance of alcohol and non-vegetarian foods during the holy month of Sawan? Here are some major reasons you should know about. 

Video Credit: YouTube/Chef Ranveer Brar

Monsoon Season 

The Sawan fast coincides with the monsoon season in India. During this time, the weather can be unpredictable, with heavy rainfall, high humidity, and the prevalence of waterborne diseases. Fasting during this period may help in avoiding certain food-borne illnesses as fasting can reduce the chances of consuming contaminated food and water. 

Let Nature Thrive 

Monsoon is the season when water is aplenty and this helps plants and animals naturally thrive and breed. This is evident not only in the huge increase in vegetation and wild plants but also in the increase in water levels of water bodies. So, during Sawan, fishes breed and plants grow more—and fasting during this time can help these natural beings grow without human consumption. 

Easier Digestion 

During fasting periods like Sawan, people often consume lighter meals to facilitate easier digestion. Non-vegetarian food can be heavier on the digestive system, and thus, avoiding it during the fasting period may help maintain a sense of lightness and well-being. This is especially important during monsoon when the digestive system can get overtaxed. Fasting during the monsoon season may help in maintaining a balanced digestive system, as the body tends to feel lighter and more active when consuming lighter meals. 

Ayurvedic Benefits 

Ayurveda, the traditional Indian system of medicine, is being increasingly validated by Western science, especially when it comes to dietary practices. The Ayurvedic perspective for Sawan fasting emphasizes aligning our lifestyle with the changing seasons to maintain harmony with nature. According to Ayurveda, fasting during the monsoon season helps balance the doshas in the body, particularly the Pitta dosha, which can be aggravated during this season. 

Natural Detox 

Fasting during Sawan is considered a time of spiritual cleansing and purification. Alcohol and non-vegetarian food are often believed to be impure or tamasic and promoting lethargy and inertia. By avoiding these items, individuals seek to maintain a higher level of purity and spiritual awareness during the fasting period while also detoxing the body naturally of all tamasic elements. 

Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases 

Research indicates that excessive alcohol consumption is associated with various health issues, including liver disease, cardiovascular problems, and certain cancers. Many studies also show that eating excessive red meat can cause heart diseases. Avoiding alcohol and red meat during the fasting period of Sawan may therefore reduce the risk of chronic health problems and diseases. 

Spiritual And Mental Discipline 

The Sawan fast is not just about physical benefits but also carries spiritual significance for devotees. Fasting is seen as a way to express devotion, self-control, and dedication to the deities. It also provides an opportunity for introspection, meditation, and focusing on spiritual practices. By avoiding alcohol and non-vegetarian food during this time, your mental resolve and dietary discipline can improve. 

Environmental Impact 

Historically, India's agrarian and livestock rearing society had strong connections to the monsoon season, which was crucial for the success of crops and livestock. So, during Sawan, avoiding meat and fish while consuming select crops only has a positive environmental impact. Livestock farming contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and water pollution. Choosing a vegetarian diet during fasting periods could align with environmentally conscious practices.