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Mahashivratri fast: who observes a fast?

As the Mahashivratri festival is approaching, it is the right time to observe a one-day fast – the Shivratri fast or Shivratri vrat seeking the blessings of Lord Shiva. All through India, many devotees observe the Shivratri fast. They gather in Shiva temples around the Shivalinga with their offerings. They pray, chant, meditate and fast all day and night. The fast or vrat is at the heart of the celebration and many follow it earnestly to increase the solemnity of their vows and intentions.

This vrat is different from those followed during other Hindu festivals, where devotees eat food after performing the puja of the deity. On this great night of Lord Shiva, the vrat continues through the day, and night.

Let’s find out what motivates people to undertake this amazing fast.

What is the significance of the shivratri vrat?

  1. Fasting detoxifies the body and purifies the mind.

Your body feels lighter and your mind feels more relaxed as the restlessness reduces. At the same time, the mind becomes more alert. When that happens, it is more prepared for prayer, and meditation, which is the central aspect of Mahashivratri celebration.

2. Increasing the power of your prayers

When both your mind and body are detoxified, there is greater strength in your intentions and prayers. When you combine the Shivratri fast with meditation, you increase the possibility of your desires getting manifested. It is said that Lord Shiva’s grace is bestowed upon you when you observe the Shivratri vrat with sincerity and devotion; your wishes are fulfilled!

3. Focusing on meditation

Since Mahashivratri is the day that mediation is a hundred times more effective than other days, devotees solely focus on meditating on this auspicious day. Fasting enables you to control the body’s natural processes, so you are not distracted from being one with your Self.

4. Absolving you of sins

Fasting frees the mind of negative emotions like greed, lust, anger, and anxiety. It is believed that when you fast, and chant the Lord’s names, you are absolved of all your sins. Some people survive on very little easily-digestible food or simply water and milk. You can read some tips on healthy fasting on Mahashivratri here.

There is also a legend behind why people fast during Mahashivratri.

Story behind the mahashivratri fast

The devas (Gods) and asuras (demons) were always at war with each other. However, in a rare show of solidarity, on the advice of Lord Vishnu, they churned the Ocean of Milk together for amrita, the nectar of immortality. As they used Vasuki, the serpent king, who sits on Lord Shiva’s neck, as a rope, the first thing that came out of it was the poison. The devas and asuras prayed to Lord Shiva requesting his help. The Lord drank all the poison and saved them.

His consort, Goddess Parvati, was worried that the poison would enter the Lord’s body and cause him pain. So, she held His throat to stop the poison from spreading, for one day and one night, which is why he turned blue (and earning the name Neelakantha). Since Parvati fasted the entire day and night at this time, it has become an age-old tradition to fast and stay awake all night during Mahashivratri.