Navratri is celebrated in the holy month of Ashwin and is also known as Maha Navaratri. Devotees worship the nine forms of Durga also called the Nav-Durga during this period with plenty of offerings, prasad and bhog.Hindus observe special fasts for 9 days to seek navdurga’s blessings on the 10th day. It is believed that during these 9 days, Goddess Durga descends from heaven to take shelter among-st her beloved devotees and bless them with strength, power, and prosperity. During the Navratri fasts, people follow a strict vegetarian diet and refrain from consuming certain foods like cereals, grains, non-vegetarian food, regular salt, and alcohol. Hindus prepare their daily meals with navratri diet/Vrat ingredients like Singhara Atta, buckwheat flour, Sabudana, fresh fruits, Sendha Namak and Sama ke Chaawal. People who do not observe these fasts also refrain from consuming onion, garlic, non-vegetarian food, and alcohol during the nine days of Navratri. But, do you know why you are told to avoid onion and garlic even though they are categorized as vegetarian foods?
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You may know that onions and garlic are botanical members of the alliaceous family (alliums) – along with leeks, chives, and shallots.According to Hindu and ancient Ayurvedic understanding, foods can be divided into three categories, depending upon their nature and the response they trigger in the body after consumption. These three categories are as follows :
Rajasic food – राजसिक – helps to create Lazy Thoughts.
Tamasic food – तामसिक – that helps to create Bad or Negative Thoughts.
Saatvik food – सात्विक – that helps to generate Good Thoughts.
Satva are the qualities comprising of tranquility, restraint, purity, and peace of mind.
‘Rajas are the passion and pleasure-seeking attributes of Maya.
Tamas are the evil qualities that lead one to become angry, resentful, arrogant and destructive.
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While fasting for Navratri, people opt to go for sattvic food in their navaratri diet. Besides, the religious aspect, there is a scientific reason for this too.
Sharad-Navratri falls around the months of October-November which usually marks the transition period from autumn to winter. During this time of seasonal change, our immunity tends to decline and therefore, it is better to eat light Saatvik food that does not burden your digestive system. It may also help in staying away from toxins that may breed in a greasy,heavy or unhealthy food, and thus, cleanses your body of all impurities.
The word Saatvik comes from the word, Sattva – which means the one that is pure, natural, vital, energetic, clean and conscious. Saatvik foods include most of your navratri diet/Vrat ingredients like fresh fruits, cooling curd, pure rock salt, seasonal vegetables like pumpkin and Lauki and subtle spices like cumin, coriander, and black pepper.
On the other hand, the words ‘Rajas’ and ‘Tamas’ refer to something that is destructive, resentful, unripe and weak. During the period of Navratri fasting, you are supposed to denounce worldly pleasures and adopt a simple and pure state of life to show your devotion. Raajasic and Taamasic food may distract your mental focus.
Onion and garlic are categorized as Taamasic in nature and have been linked to invoke carnal energies in the body. Therefore, they are avoided during the Navratri fasts. Onion along with garlic is also known as Rajogini that refers to substances that makes you lose grip over your instincts, making it difficult to distinguish between your desires and priorities.Thus Onion and garlic are not a part of the navratri diet.
Ancient Vedic texts also state that salty, spicy, strong and pungent foods, take away one’s focus from the devotion of Lord/god almighty. According to Vaishnav tradition, people are weary of eating anything that grows underground and therefore, Vaishnav-Hindus particularly refrain from eating onions. Along with onion and garlic, there are a couple of spices that are avoided during Navratri fastings and are not included in the navratri diet like
- Turmeric (Haldi)
- Asafoetida (Hing)
- Mustard (Sarson or rai)
- Fenugreek seeds (methi dana)
- Garam masala
You can use Cumin (jeera), green chilies, black pepper and ajwain instead, to flavor your food.
Saatvik Food: Satvik food brings calmness, purity and promotes longevity, intelligence, strength, health, happiness, and delight. The examples of Satvik food items are fruits, vegetables, leaves, grains, cereals, milk, honey, etc. These items can be consumed as they are. It is also said that one can live throughout their life on Satvik food.This is the reason why satvik food is preferred as navratri diet during the fastings.
The foods grouped under Satvik are:
- Vegetarian food without Onion & Garlic
- Non-refined cereals
- Milk and its derivatives
- Fruits and Juices
Consumption of the above-mentioned helps in guarding our mind in the state of restful alertness, hence leading to improved concentration and reduced lethargy.
Rajasic Food: It is a mixture of hot, spicy and salty food items with a pungent taste. Rajasic food is said to promote/increase negativity, passion, restlessness, High Blood pressure etc.
The foods grouped under Rajsik are;
- Hot & Spicy Food
- Refined Cereals
- Fried & Junk Food
- Meat and non-vegetarian food
Consumption of the above-mentioned foods lead to cholesterol, hypertension, irritability and mood swings. These foods create sensuality, sexuality, greed, jealousy, anger, delusion, fantasies, egotism and irreligious feelings.
Tamsik Food: Consumption of Tamsik food leads to lack of concentration, sleep disorders, anger outbursts and acidity. Tamsik food promotes dullness and ignorance because it takes time for digestion. A person who eats Tamasik food has insecurity and is unable to deal with others in a balanced way. They have very little regard for the welfare of others and tend to be self-centered. Their nervous system and heart do not function optimally and such individuals age fast. They usually suffer from conditions like cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, arthritis, and chronic fatigue.
The foods grouped under Tamsik are:
- Meat & other non-vegetarian food
- Tea, Coffee and other caffeinated beverages
- Alcohol & Tobacco
- Stale Food
So, according to Hindu Ayurveda texts, every food item falls in one of the three categories mentioned above.
Thus Foods that you must avoid while fasting during Navratri and should not be a part of your navratri diet are :
- Non-Vegetarian Food: Chicken, mutton, fish, lamb, eggs and all animal products are strictly avoided during this time. These fall under the category of Rajasic foods. Devotees who aren’t fasting also try to refrain from having non-vegetarian food.
- Onion and Garlic: During navratris,It is advised to prepare meals without the use of onion and garlic. According to Ayurveda, garlic and onion should be avoided during seasonal change as they are Tamasic in nature and they tend to heat up your body from within.
- Lentils and legumes: Devotees also avoid consuming legumes and lentils while fasting. Vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, Arbi, Suran, carrots, cucumber and bottle gourd (Lauki) are permissible as a part of your navratri diet.
- Table salt: You cannot consume regular processed salt for preparing your meal.Instead you can opt for pure rock salt (Sendha Namak).
- Spices: There are certain spices which are commonly avoided during the Navratri fasts. These include turmeric (Haldi), asafoetida (Hing), mustard (Sarson or rai), fenugreek seeds (methi dana) and garam masala. Cumin (jeera), green chilies, black pepper, and ajwain can be used instead to flavor your food.
- Regular Flour: Several types of flours including cornflour, rice flour, all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, gram flour, and semolina are avoided during fasting. You can use buckwheat flour (kuttu) or water chestnut flour (singhare ka atta) instead.
- Regular Rice: You cannot have your regular rice during the Navratri fasts. You can use the special Vvrat ke Chaawal, popularly known as Samak ke Chawal for your daily meals.
- Aerated beverages and alcohol: If you are fasting, you are also required to steer clear of aerated beverages and alcohol. Many devotees who aren’t fasting also keep away from drinking alcohol and smoking as a mark of devotion to the Goddess.
During Navratri, it is advised to avoid the Rajasic and Tamasicc foods as they symbolize worldly desires and only satvik food is allowed.