Navratri is one of the most important festivals of Hindus, celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement all across the country. Traditionally associated with Goddess Durga and worshiping her nine incarnations, the festival holds significance in north India, West Bengal, as well as the central and western regions of the country. While some strictly believe in holding fast for all nine days, most people fast only on the first and the last days, and a few just abstain from consuming alcohol, onion, garlic or non-vegetarian items. Interestingly, the festival chalks out a strict list of food items that one can consume while fasting. It is during Navratras that a few ingredients, which otherwise get a convenient skip in a regular Indian kitchen - resume utmost importance. So, why is it that a set of food items are strictly prohibited during the festival? What difference does rock salt consumption has over the regular table salt?
Also Read:Navratri: What Vegetables to Eat and What to Avoid While Fasting
We got our thinking caps on and tried to reason the above and many other similar questions associated with Navratri:
The concept of observing a fast has many connotations. On religious grounds, fasting is a way to get closer to the almighty. Many cultures believe that abstinence facilitates spiritual purification leading to a stronger willpower. It is also seen as a way to emulate and inculcate in oneself, virtues like self-discipline and stoicism. Those who fast therefore give up on their regular food and switch to lighter food items as a way to practice abstinence and move closer to God. Many people also restrict themselves from consuming water on the days of fasting. This no-food-no-water fast is known as Nirjala Vrat.
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Navratri 2018: Fasting is a way to get closer to the almighty
For those of you who scoff at the idea of religion and science going hand in hand, here we bring you the logic behind shunning a few food items and embracing certain others during fasts. Though, traditionally in Hinduism, the consumption of alcohol and non-vegetarian food is considered inauspicious and unholy, there is solid science behind it.
Navratri is celebrated twice a year and if you have noticed, every time it falls during the change of season. From an Ayurvedic perspective, eating foods like meat, grains, alcohol, onion, garlic etc. attract and absorb negative energies and should be avoided during a seasonal change when our bodies tend to have low immunity and are more susceptible to fall sick.
(Also Read: Navratri: Fasting, Feasting the Healthy Way)
Foods that make it to the table
Fasting is also seen as a way to give the body a much needed break from the regular dietary routine. This explains the choice of food items that are light on the stomach, easy on digestion but are full of nutrients. Grains, especially whole grains like millets, wheat, etc. slow down the process of digestion, that's why these are eliminated. Much importance is given to the consumption of daily products, fruits, juices and light vegetables.
Many see fasting as an opportunity to merge devotion with practicing a lifestyle that can help one detox. The idea is to stay away or avoid processed food items as much as possible; this supports the choice of natural, unprocessed rock salt - sendha namak - over the regular, iodized, table salt.
Since breads form a crucial part of a regular Indian diet, a few food items like buckwheat (kuttu), water caltrop(singhada) and tapioca pearls (sabudana) go into the making of variety of flours, which could easily fill in the space created by the absence of millet and grain based breads.
Navratri 2018: Grain based breads are replaced with dishes made from tapioca pearls or sabudana
Health expert and nutritionist Dr. Ritika Samaddar, stresses on the nutritional efficacy of these food items. She explains how these food items strategically meet the nutritional requirement of our body and at the same time are light on our digestion. "Buckwheat is gluten-free at the same time is extremely nutritious. It is enriched with fibre, protein, Vitamin B, magnesium and phosphorus. It serves as a great option during fasts," noted Dr. Samaddar.
Another ingredient that attains great importance during Navratris and has now become one of the newest superfoods is ramdana, popularly known as amaranth. It's gluten free, low on glycemic load, enriched with antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals. Popular for its laddoos and chikki, this goes into some of the most mouth-watering preparations tailor-made for the fasting lot.
(Also Read: Gluten-Free Amaranth: Why is it a Superfood?)
With the science all crystal clear, we hope that this Navratri is even more joyous and fulfilling for you. Just in case you want some inspiration or Navratri vrat recipes with a spin of creativity, we have our best recipes hand-picked for you.
10 Best Navratri Vrat Recipes