navratri literally means nine nights. during navratri festival, 9 forms of mother goddess or shakti or devi are worshiped through out india and nepal. the tenth day is celebrated as vijayadashami or dussehra.
there are four navratri in a year. however, only two navratri are celebrated by most people or householders. first ‘chaitra navratri‘ celebration is when summer is starting (march-april) and second ‘sharad navratri’ when winter is starting (oct-nov). rest two navratri are gupt (secret) and are ideal for sadhaks who are into tantra and occult science or want to master any spiritual sadhana. however all the four navratri periods are best for spiritual growth.
this year chaitra navratri falls on 8th april, 2016 and ends on 16th april, 2016.
why its good to fast during navratri – the two navratri periods start when the season is changing. e.g. winter to summer during chaitra navratri and then summer to winter for sharad navratri. this duration of time when the seasons are changing affects you energetically at physical, mental and spiritual level. at physical level, your body becomes more prone to sickness. so best to give it rest by eating fasting food which is light and easy to digest. from a spiritual point of view, it is best time to deepen your sadhana and get connected with mother goddess.
you can also refer to this post on navratri vrat and pooja vidhi.
food allowed in navratri vrat:
1. flours and grains – kuttu ka atta (buckwheat flour), singhare ka atta (water chestnut flour), rajgira ka atta (amaranth flour), rajgira (amaranth), sama ke chawal ka atta (barnyard millet flour), vrat ke chawal (barnyard millet) and arrowroot flour or paniphal flour.
2. vegetables – potatoes, sweet potato (shakarkandi), arbi (colocasia taro roots), kachalu, suran/jimkand/yam (regular yam as well as purple yam) and raw banana, raw or semi ripe papaya.
*some people also eat tomatoes, spinach (palak), bottle gourd (lauki), cucumber (kheera) and carrots (gajar) but some people don’t eat them during navratri fast. this varies from family to family.
3. all fruits and dry fruits can be eaten during fast. some sadhakas just take fruits and milk during navratri fast.
4. all milk products like paneer (cottage cheese), dahi/curd, cream, white butter, malai, ghee, khoya and condensed milk can be consumed during navratri fast. however people who observe lot of purity in fasting they make paneer at home (for this you can use lemon juice or curd for curdling the milk).
5. spices and herbs – cumin or cumin powder (jeera or jeera powder), black pepper powder and rock salt/ sendha namak (you cannot use normal salt during navratri fasting), green cardamom (chotti elaichi), cloves (lavang), black peppercorns (sabut kali mirch), dry pomegranate seeds (anardana), cinnamon (dal-chini), ajwain (carom seeds) and nutmeg (jaiphal).
* some people also eat coriander (dhania), curry leaves (kadi patta), mint leaves (pudina), black salt (kala namak), red chili powder, dry mango powder (amchur powder) and chaat masala and some people don’t eat them during navratri fasting. it again varies from family to family. so best to consult your family elders or pandits in this regard.
6. other popular food eaten during fasting are sabudana (tapioca pearls), makhana (phool makhana), coconut, coconut milk, cucmber, sugar, jaggery, honey, ginger, green chilli, lemons, tamarind (imli), lemon juice, kokum, melon seeds (magaz), peanuts and groundnut oil.
7. you can consume tea or fresh fruits.
8. for frying only use peanut oil or ghee. avoid using any seed based oil.
9. homemade ice cream is allowed. but in outside ice cream they may add lot of preservatives so better not to buy store bought ice cream during fasting.
food not allowed in navratri vrat:
1. onions and garlic are strictly not eaten. this is true for ganesh chaturthi fast also.
2. no lentils, legumes, rice, rice flour, whole wheat flour (atta), all purpose flour (maida), besan (gram flour or chickpea flour), sooji (semolina or rava) etc are not allowed.
3. turmeric (haldi), asafoetida (hing), mustard (sarson or rai), fenugreek seeds (methi dana), garam masala and dhania powder (coriander powder) are not allowed.
4. common salt is not used in the food. you can use rock salt (sendha namak ). it is also called as upvaas ka namak.
5. alcohol, non-vegetarian food, smoking, aerated drinks and eggs are strictly not allowed.
6. coffee, soya refined oil, flaxseeds, oats, corn, corn flour, corn starch are not allowed.
mental and spiritual state during navratri fast:
1. take bath every day before sitting for sadhana. keep your house also clean. many people clean the pooja room and the house before the navratri.
2. its best time to remember goddess and invoke her shakti within you. you can chant her mantra or read durga saptashati or sri lalita sahasranama. you can also sing her bhajan or remember her all the time while doing household work.
3. keep your thoughts clean. avoid cinema or watching TV. avoid sexuality physically as well as in your thoughts.
4. many people also light akhand jyoti (diya or lamp) which keeps on burning continuously for nine days. you can also do special pooja or havan at home.
5. be honest, humble and sincere in your conduct. do your work yourself.
6. you can visit the goddess temple in your city and pray to her.
7. many people grow ‘khetri‘ or barley seeds during this period and then on 8th or 9th day they do kanjak pooja.
faq about navratri vrat:
1. some people keep the fast on all nine days. but some people keep fast on 1st and last day only. if you want to keep fast for few days then best to include first and last day fast in your schedule. another practice is to keep fast on last two days than on first and last day. back home, my mother keep fast on first and last day and rest of the family members keep fast on other days. so that someone in the family has kept fast on all 9 days.
2. you cannot drink aerated beverages during fasting.
3. some sadhaks do not wear slippers. they sleep on mat on floor or on wooden bed. this austerity and discipline helps them internally in their sadhana.
4. don’t get angry or think negative or criticize any body. stay calm, centered and peaceful. otherwise the spiritual energy will get wasted in negativity.
5. if unknowingly you make any mistake then don’t feel guilty. the most important thing in religious fast is the purity of your heart and your devotion. mother always loves her child unconditionally. sri ramakrishna paramhansa and bamakhepa are two of the greatest devotees of mother goddess. but they never followed rituals correctly but their heart was always focused on remembering goddess. because of their devotion maa (goddess) always treated them as her own sons.
6. my mother strictly does not used onions and garlic at home, irrespective of the fact that other members are keeping fast or not. infact due care is taken that they get over before the navratri fast.