Besides its spiritual and religious significance, fasting, it is widely accepted, will improve one's self-discipline and determination that are essential ingredients to lead a successful life. Apart from it, it gives you amazingly enduring power that helps you mellow down in a tense situation in life. It is needless to say that you cultivate the art of controlling your senses and be in peace with the mind. Invariably, fasting is done for religious purpose mainly to fulfill our prayer to the deity. People also undertake fasting once their prayer is answered to express their gratitude to the deity - a way of thanks giving.
Fasting is part and parcel of the lives of Pundits or priests who are in charge of the presiding deities in the Sri Kovil or Garbagraha (Sanctum Sanctorum). For example, the Nambudri Brahmin Pundits of Kerala Hindu temples follow the fasting strictly if they happen to be the chief Tantris at temples. From 3 AM in the morning till noon, the Tantris at Guruvayur Sri Krishna temple, Ayyappan temple on Sabarimalai, etc., never take a drop of water while engaged in temple worship protocols. Further, they do prayer and worship in Sri Kovil with their dress fully drenched. To undertake such a tough religious worship in temples of Kerala, the Pundits need firm determination and self-discipline besides good training and intense devotion to God.
As far as Hinduism is concerned, during certain major Hindu festivals pious people go on a fast. The following are some of the festivals associated with fasting: Shivaratri (Lord Shiva), Chaturthi (Lord Ganesa), Ekadashi (Goddess), Kandha Shasti (Lord Subramanya or Karthkaya), Gokulastami (Lord Sri Krishna), Rama Navami (Lord Sri Rama), etc., As for the week days, some deities are associated with certain days: Monday (lord Shiva), Tuesday and Friday (Goddess such as Lakshmi, Durga, Parvathi or Mariamman), Thursday (Lord Dattaraya), Saturday (Lord Hanuman) The practice of fasting is quite common among the elderly people.
However, there are many others who fast solely for maintaining good health. Thus fasting has both religious and medical significance in India. Every part of our body works day in and day out without a break and it needs rest and overhauling. Fasting provides an opportunity for our inner parts to take the required respite and get re energized.
Some facts of Fasting:
01. In the Indian society fasting by devout people has been there for several centuries. Fasting once a day is generally practiced. Timing for fasting is from sunrise to sundown or 24 hours. A good bath in the early morning coupled with prayer is followed by fasting.
03. When fasting, do not indulge in strenuous exercise activities or work , which will result in over-exertion
04. If diabetic, one should take the advice of a doctor before going on a fast. Keeping the empty stomach for a long time may lower the BP and also blood sugar level.
05. If 24 hour fasting is undertaken, drinking plenty of water or butter milk between intervals is a must. Some people don't drink even a drop of water. This is not the right way of fasting.
06. You can end the fasting by drinking some fruit juice or porridge or Kanchi (well cooked rice plus buttermilk).
07. After a break one can take a meal. Avoid heavy meal in the late evening or night. Since you will be retiring to bed soon, it will add calories if you have a sumptuous meal to your heart's content.
08. When fasting for long hours, if you are on some doctor's medication don't skip it and take the medicine as you would normally after drinking a glass of fruit juice or soup.
09. After fasting, avoid as much as possible rich food loaded with calories and also highly carbonated, sugar-rich beverages.
10. When the Hindus do their Pithru Karyams - Thithi or Diwasam (annual remembrance day) to their parents, they go on a fast after their noon meal.
11. Bagavat Geeta recommends healthy, good food- saatvik diet and simple food - neither too much nor too little - yukta-aahaara.