Navratri Fasting: Tracing Its Ancient Roots and Spiritual Significance

Fasting, integral and deeply rooted in human history, evolved from survival necessity to spiritual practice and now to a protocol for health and longevity.

Aditi Nag
New Update

Exploring fasting from scientific, spiritual, and health perspectives unveils its historical significance and origins.

During ancient times, fasting was prevalent among members of the Animalia kingdom, who were known as 'prolific fasters.' It was commonly observed during hibernation, where animals would undergo remarkable feats of fasting, spending the entire winter season in a dormant state. This practice was believed to accelerate their lifespan and improve various health conditions.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, fasting was used to treat a range of conditions such as arthritis, asthma, chronic fatigue, high blood pressure, lupus, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, paralysis, and many others. Nowadays, fasting is widely accepted and practiced as a routine, with many people opting for intermittent fasting—eating during specific time windows and fasting for 15 to 16 hours—or even fasting for extended periods, such as weeks, for health benefits.

In religious contexts, fasting is practiced for soul purification, devotion, and discipline. Historical records indicate that fasting was practiced by ancient civilizations such as the Babylonians and Egyptians as a form of penance. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, holds particular significance in Judaism as the most prominent fast day according to the Hebrew Bible. Similarly, Christians observe fasting during Lent, a period of forty days leading up to Easter, to commemorate the suffering, sacrifice, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Islam, fasting during Ramadan is considered one of the Five Pillars and commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. Fasting is also present in other religions and cultures, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, where it is incorporated into spiritual practices. Across different societies, fasting has evolved and adapted while retaining its significance for various purposes.


The upcoming Navratri festival also observes fasting as a spiritual practice. Navratri, derived from Sanskrit, means 'Nav' (nine) and 'Ratri' (nights), celebrated for nine days and dedicated to Goddess Durga and her nine avatars. In the Hindu religion, Navratri occurs twice a year; Chaitra Navratri is observed during the month of March-April. It is believed that Goddess Durga arrives on Earth to stay with her devotees during this time, making it an auspicious period.

Fasting during these nine days offers inner purification in the form of mental and emotional clarity, focus, self-discipline, self-reflection, and devotion to the divine energy of Maa Durga, while also honoring the festival's significance. People, especially from northern parts of India, particularly the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, celebrate this festival by practicing fasting and performing a ritual called Ghatasthapana. Chaitra Navratri is also known as Vasanta Navratri because it occurs during spring, or Ram Navratri, as Shri Ram was born on the ninth day of Navratri, celebrated as Ram Navami.


Fasting offers numerous benefits, not only rooted in culture and religion but also in promoting one's health. The food consumed during Navratri constitutes a rich source of carbohydrates and protein, providing essential energy and nourishment. The diet typically includes potatoes, sabudana or sago, rajgira flour, kuttu flour, singhara or water chestnut flour, sweets, fruits, dry fruits, and dairy products.

However, excessive consumption of such foods can lead to weight gain and various health issues, adversely affecting one's well-being. According to dieticians and health experts, maintaining a balanced diet that includes all necessary nutrients in the correct proportions is crucial.

As Navratri approaches, millions around the world will embark on this journey of fasting and devotion, honoring ancient traditions while seeking inner transformation. Whether viewed through the lens of spirituality, health, or cultural heritage, fasting during Navratri serves as a reminder of the enduring power of faith and the timeless quest for transcendence.

Ram Navmi Vasanta Navratri Chaitra Navratri Ram Navratri historical origin and significance of fasting