By Ektaa, Gaigongmai, Shilpi, and Helen
Modern India has made strides in the field of science and technology. However all this takes a back seat when the festivities start. Navratras the nine day Hindu festival of fasting will see many observe the fasting without really knowing its implication on their health.
Navratras come twice in a year, the biggest in September/October, called Sharad Navratras, and the Vasanta Navratras in March/April. This festival sees the worshipping of goddess Durga, in her nine avatars. Navratras is a traditional festival of Hindus and it is today a well practised event.
These nine days see devotees observing fast for nine days continuously, and following a strict diet. It’s widely believed that these nine days of fasting will help the devotees to lead a pure life.
“The Navratras are a way of cleansing ones soul; also they make it possible for the people to get closer to the divine power”. Says Manoj Jha, a priest at the “Mata ka Mandir” New friends’ Colony New Delhi.
Millions of Hindus in India observe this fast religiously. Traditionally allowed only one meal a day, they carry on with their daily work without any complaint. They believe faith gives them the power to fast for such a long time. A special diet is prescribed for the people who fast, a diet consisting of fruits, milk and non-grain, non-cereal products.
However many people are not aware that not eating for such long hours, and not eating regular normal food can also have an adverse effect on the health of those observing this fast. While devotees keep on praising the positive effects of fasting, voices are being raised in the medical spheres. The Navratras diet itself is not completely harmless for the body. Certain persons are more exposed to the side effects of this fast than others.
Charu Dua a dietician at Pushpanjali Crosslay Hospital New Delhi says “I won’t advice my patients to follow Navratras, especially to those who are suffering from diabetes, heart problems, or who want to lose or just maintain their weight.”
Navratras diet is “a rich food”, full of carbohydrates, which are basically sugar fats. For example, potatoes and the kuttu flour, especially used during this festival, are rich in these nutrients.
For people in sane health, Navratras can also create troubles. After 9 days of fasting, they may lack vitamins, sodium, potassium and proteins. All these vitamin deficit results in weakness and dizziness. Regarding the proteins, Charu Dua explains that during the festival people eat half of the amount of proteins they normally need.
Nevertheless, Charu Dua adds that “there are healthier ways to fast”. She recommends lots of fruits, milk, and curd and sago products. For her, “100% fasting is not recommended. People should at least take two proper meals a day”.
But facing tradition, religion and superstition, scientific advice is falling on deaf ears. As people insist on fasting the normal way .