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Introduction to Vrat

What is Vrat?

Vrat may mean
--fasting - not eating food;
--to take a vow of any kind for that day or some days, week or weeks, month or months, or a year etc. This vow can be for anything -

(1) Not to eat food the whole day - which is the most common meaning of this word. In this people do  not eat anything for the whole day.
(2) To eat only one thing - such as eating only fruits or milk, or yogurt or roots or juice, or eating yellow things like in Brihaspati Var Vrat.
(3) To eat only some special thing along with other things - such as eating sesame seeds in Sakat Chauth Vrat, Chivadaa (beaten rice) and rice Kheer in Sharad Poornimaa Vrat etc.
(4) To abstain from some one food - such no salt in Mangal Vaar Vrat, or no grains and salt in mony Vrat like Ekaadashee, Shiv Raatri, Krishn Janmaashtamee etc.
(5) To abstain from any bad habit (like to take vow not to smoke, or not to eat meat, or not to drink liquor etc) or speaking (Maun Vrat) etc - this is also a kind of Vrat.
(6) To develop good habits - like to take vow to speak truth, or to donate something everyday, or to serve any institution for a month or so.

When to do Vrat?
See also   Agni Puraan, 19

Hindu calendar has 12 lunar months - Chaitra, Vaishaakh, Jyeshth, Aashaadh, Shraavan, Bhaadrapad (Bhaadon), Aashwin (Kuaar, or Asauj), Kaartik, Maargsheersh (Agahan), Paush (Poos), Maagh (Maah), and Phaalgun (Phagun).

And two fortnights in each month - first fortnight is called Krishn Paksh; and the second one is called Shukla Paksh. Krishn Paksh has Amaavasyaa on its 15th day, and Shukla Paksh has Poornimaa (Poornmaasee) on its 15th day. All other 14 days are called Tithi like this - Pratipadaa (Padavaa), Doyaj, Teej, Chauth, Panchamee, Shashthee (Chhat), Saptamee, Ashtamee, Navamee, Dashamee, Ekaadashee, Dwaadashee, Trayodashee, Chaturdashee.

And there are 27 Nakshatra -
1. Ashwinee, 2. Bharanee, 3. Krittikaa, 4. Rohinee, 5. Mrigshiraa, 6. Aardraa, 7. Punarvasu
8. Pushya, 9. Aashleshaa, 10. Maghaa, 11. Poorvaa Phaalgunee 12. Uttaraa Phaalgunee 13. Hast, 14. Chitraa,  15. Swaati,
16. Vishaakhaa, 17. Anuraadhaa,  18. Jyeshthaa,  19. Mool, 20. Poorv Aashaadh, 21. Uttar Aashaadh, 22. Shravan,
23. Dhanishthaa, 24. Shatabhishaa, 25. Poorv Bhadraa, 26. Uttar Bhadraa, and 27. Revatee

All Vrat and fasts and all festivals fall in the above mentioned months, Tithis and under their Nakshatra. So it is necessary to have the idea of these months, Tithi, and Nakshatra. All these Vrat, and fasts are given alphabetically with bare information about them.

Why do We Keep Vrat?

Why do we keep Vrat or fast, or take vow? The bottom line of doing any of them is to gain material gains, whether money, comfort, wife, children, husband, family life, prosperity, fame, learning, defeating enemies, pleasing any planet etc etc.

How to do Vrat?

Since the point of a fast (and of all other Upaaya) is to make things better, not worse, in one's life, you should select a fast according to your capacity and circumstances. Although the best fast is to abstain from everything, including water, but if your physical condition does not permit this, do not try it. Next best is to live on water only, and the next on fruits only. Thereafter we enter the realm of mono-diets - such as eating only one kind of grain, or one type of thing (such as only rice or wheat, barley etc); some of these are inclusive (such as "milk only"), while others are exclusive (such as "no salt"). Another type of fast is to abstain a certain food for some number of weeks or months.

Most commonly Vrat are kept without taking water for whole the day. If it is not possible, then take water once or twice. One can eat fruits also (means no grains and no salt) in the daytime, if one cannot live without food the whole day. Eat only in the evening (before or after sunset) once only. Sometimes, a mother-to-be or a mother of a newborn child, may be given milk once or twice in the day time. Or children can eat some fruits in the day time. But almost all fasts abstain grains and salt twice a day

Vrat Kathaa
Read some Vrat Kathaa here

Most fasts are completed by telling Vrat Kathaa (story) describing the importance and glory of that Deity or day or planet; such as all day fasts have their Kathaa to tell or listen to; all planets fasts also have their Kathaa to tell or listen to at the end of the fast.

Sometimes it is done vice versa - people make Vrat Kathaa in a more formal way, either fasting completely, or eating only once (avoiding salt and Anna - grains) on that day, and trying to observe total purity of mind, speech, and action all day long. After thoroughly cleaning the place where the ritual will be performed (maybe under Peepal or Vat tree or in the home temple), the image of that specific Deity's or Graha's image is installed. Today people use printed image of the Graha. The devotee invites the Deity or Graha to descend to Earth to be worshipped. Once he arrives, he is ritually worshipped and is requested to stay there till the tale is finished. After the worship is over, the final offering is made which is held in the hand or placed near the image to remain there till the Kathaa is over. Thus the fast is completed. The ritual worship tunes the mind of the worshipper to focus more efficiently on the purpose of the event.

After the story is finished, a gift is offered to the storyteller and Prasaad is distributed to all listeners. Prasaad is normally one of the foods ruled by the Graha in question or specific to the Deity, but the poor people can use whatever they get, including roasted Chanaa and sugar or jaggery. This process is repeated whenever the fast is kept.

Vrat Kathaa stories may be extracted from Ved or Puraan, or they can be folktales handed down within a family, or the combination of the two. Some of the vow's focus has been totally changed, for example, before Friday vows were once done for the Planet Venus, but he seems to have disappeared completely and is replaced by Devee worship (Santoshee Maa Vrat). She was practically unheard about 50 years ago whose cult developed as a result of the dramatic success of a Hindi film dedicated to her.

Many Vrat Kathaa focus on the getting or keeping of a husband, particularly Monday vows which lasts at least for 16 Mondays. In one account, each time one woman succeeds another asks her how did she do it, and hearing about 16 Mondays she also does the same and succeeds. An alternate Monday version is used for childless women to obtain or to protect a child. The Moon is covered by the modern versions of the Monday vows involving worship of Shiv and Paarvatee.

When to Eat Food on Vrat Day?

Although every particular fast has its own timing of worship and eating food, but in normal cases there are three types of fasts --
(1) Nakt Vrat - In this type of Vrat people take food only once, in the night, after the sunset and do not eat the whole night. After that they eat only next day after the sunrise.
(2) Ek-Bhukt Vrat - In this type of Vrat people take food only once a day, before sunset, preferably between 4-6 pm, and do not eat the whole night. They eat only next day after the sunrise.
(4) A-Yaachit Vrat - In this kind of fasting the food is not asked for, but the fast keeper accepts whatever is given to him. "A" means "no" and "Yaachit" means "that is asked for"; so "A-Yaachit" means "that is not asked for".

What Food Should be Eaten During Fasts?

Every fast has its own instructions, but normally when it is prescribed "take food only once", one can eat normal food - wheat flour, vegetables, sweets, yogurt (yogurt and other sour things like lemon, pickles, are prohibited in Friday Vrat) etc. But when it is prescribed "no food, only fruits", one eats either fruits, milk and yogurt; or there is one grain named "buckwheat" which is not counted as grain can be eaten. Its flour can be used to make Paraathaa or Pooree. These Paraathaa or Pooree can be eaten with the vegetables of potato, yam, and pumpkin.

In any kind of Vrat, people do not prefer to eat Chapaatee (Rotee, or Phulkaa), Daal, boiled rice, or even fried rice, this is a common practice in the western UP. They would eat Paraathaa, Pooree, potato, yam, pumpkin (Kaddoo, or Kumhadaa), yogurt, rock salt and black pepper. Green vegetables, such as spinach, green beans, Laukee (white gourd), Karelaa (bitter gourd), Bengan (Brinjal or eggplant), ginger, green coriander leaves etc, too many spices are not eaten in this diet. People do not eat oil also, they eat Ghee.

They can eat Kheer (rice pudding) and Halavaa in those Vrat where they do not have to restrict for Phalaahaar and they can eat normal food, such as Tuesday fast for Hanumaan Jee. In Tuesday's fast one does not need to restrict for Phalaahaar, but thy have a restriction of eating salt. So people eat Paraathaa or Pooree with sugar mixed yogurt, or sweet pancake (wheat flour sweet Cheelaa), or any sweets and milk.

--If there is any Nakshatra like - Krittikaa, Bharanee or Rohinee falling on any Saturday, Sunday or Thursday respectively, it is good for Pushkar Snaan.
--If Sun is on Vishaakhaa Nakshatra and Moon is on Krittikaa Nakshatra, this Yog is called Padmak Yog and is very rare. Who takes bath in Pushkar in this Yog, he goes to good Lok.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 09/29/13