The Best Food For Fasting Days (Navratri, Vrat, Upvas)
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Fasting is an integral part of Hinduism. As a practice, fasting is just as old as Hinduism itself. Fasting is not required in Hinduism, but it is a deliberate abstention from eating for a set period of time. Many Hindu scriptures explain the rationale behind fasting.  However, modern medical science has shown that fasting has many physical and mental benefits. Improving an aware consciousness, purifying the mind and body, ritual performance, improving stamina and boosting immunity and improving psychological resilience in times of hardship are some of the objectives of fasting. Fasting is also known as 'Upavasa' in Sanskrit. Even during festivals, some Hindus fast throughout the festival, while others fast for just a few days. 

One of the most important Hindu festivals is Navratri. An annual festival that honors Goddess Durga, Navratri is observed for nine nights (Nav meaning nine and ratri meaning night) and ten days. Navratri celebrations and reasons for these celebrations vary from community to community within India and abroad. Typically occurring in the months of September/October according to the Gregorian calendar, Navratri is a post-monsoon autumn festival. During Navratri, "Vratas' such as fasting or Upavasa are observed. 'Vrata' is a Sanskrit word that is synonymous with vow, resolution, and devotion and may or may not be accompanied by fasting. 

Following is a list of flours allowed during Varatas (vows involving fasting) and Upavasas (fasting). 

1.    Singhare Ka Atta- Also known as water chestnut flour, it can be used for pooris, pakodas, parathas and halwas. 

2.    Kuttu Ka Atta- Khichdis, pooris, pakodas, parathas and halwas can be made using Kuttu Ka Atta, also called buckwheat flour. 

3.    Rajgira (Amaranth) and Rajgira Ka Atta (Amaranth flour)- Using this type of flour, parathas, pooris, laddoos,  porridge, kheer, halwas and kadhis may be made. 

4.    Sama Ke Chawal Ka Atta (Barnyard Millet flour) and Vrat Ke Chawal (Barnyard Millet)- The flour may be used to make idlis, dosas, pooris and the millets themselves may be used to make khichdi, kheer, dalia and pulao. 

5.    Paniphal flour or Amaranth flour- This type of flour may be used as a thickening or binding agent. 

Some spices and herbs allowed during fasts are: 

1.    Cumin (Jeera) or its powder. 

2.    Rock Salt or Sendha Namak and Black Pepper Powder.  

3.    Green Chili or Hari Mirch. 

4.    Anardana or Dry Pomegranate Seeds- Used as a souring agent in chutneys and raita. 

5.    Lemons or Lime. 

6.    Ginger- May be added in fresh root form or dry powdered form. 

7.    Spices- Ajwain (Carom Seeds), Green Cardamom (Chchoti Elaichi), Cloves (laung), Black Peppercorns (Saboot Kali Mirch), Cinnamon (Dalchini) and Nutmeg (Jaiphal).

8.    Coriander (Dhania), Mint Leaves (Pudina), Curry Leaves (Kadi Patta), Dry Mango Powder (Amchur Powder), Chaat Masala, Red Chili Powder, and Black Salt (Kala Namak)—These may be used depending on whether they're allowed by family elders.

Following are a few vegetables allowed for consumption during a Navratri fast:

1.    Potatoes- May be used to make dishes like Jeera Aloo, Dahi Aloo, Vrat Ke Aloo and Sabzi. Snacks like aloo tikki and chaats may also be made using potatoes.

2.    Pumpkins: They can be used to make pakoras, sabzis, and halwas.

3.    Sweet Potatoes: May be used in desserts like Shakarkandi Halwa and snacks like Tikki Chaat.

4.    Colocasia (Arbi or Kachalu): Sukhi Arbu, Arbi Tikki, Dahi Arbi, and Cutlets can be made with colocasia.

5.    Yam (Suran or Jimikand): Chips and sabzis can be made with yam.

6.    Plantains or unripe bananas: Chips, fries, and sabzis can be made using plantains.

7.    Unripe or Semi-Ripe Papayas: Unripe or semi-ripe papayas can be used in salads and halwas.

8.    Tomatoes: Usually, tomatoes are added to curries and sabzis, and sauces and chutneys are also made from them. Some people don't use tomatoes.

9.    Vegetables like spinach (palak), bottle gourd (lauki), cucumber (kheera), and carrots (gajar) may be used depending on family history of usage.

Some other ingredients allowed are:

1.    Nuts and dry fruits: these may be used in milkshakes, laddoos, and halwas.

2.    All Fruits: Used in salads, chaats, juices, lassis, raitas, and milkshakes

3.    Makhana or Fox Nuts: Kheer, rotis, and sabzis can be made with makhana.

4.    Sabudana or Sago (Tapioca Pearls): A favorite during fasts, khichdis, vadas, pakodas, chaats, laddoos, tikkis, and bhel can be made with them.

5.    Sugar, honey, and jaggery may be used to sweeten certain dishes.

6.    Tamarind and Kokum- Used in dishes as souring agents. 

7.    Coconut and Coconut Milk: Laddoos and milkshakes may be made using coconut and its milk.

8.    Milk Products: All milk products sourced from cow milk are permitted.

9.    Melon seeds, peanuts, and groundnut oil are also allowed for usage.

10.    Tea: Tea drinking is allowed during the Navratri fast. 

Ingredients and foods that aren’t allowed are: 

1.    Lentils and Legumes

2.    Common Table Salt

3.    spices like fenugreek (methi), turmeric (haldi), asafoetida (hing), mustard seeds (sarson or rai), garam masala, and dhania powder (coriander powder).

4.    Coffee, alcohol, non-vegetarian food, and smoking are strictly prohibited.

5.    Onion and Garlic- To be strictly avoided. 

6.    corn and its derivatives like starch, flour, and whole corn.

7.    Certain seed oils, like sunflower oil,

8.    Whole grains like rice and wheat and their flours

9.    Maida (all-purpose flour) and besan (chickpea or gram flour)

10.    Sooji or Rava or Semolina. 

While the above foods and ingredients are allowed, some people prefer a water fast or a phalahar (fruit fast). These are people who are extremely strict about their faith and beliefs. Even if fasting is carried out, it isn't an absolute necessity to abstain from eating. Like Kosher foods and ingredients for Jews, these fasts follow a list that shows all the ingredients and foods permitted during the celebration and vrat. A mere avoidance of onions and garlic in their cooking is also an option for those who aren't able to fast.