In order to please Durga Maa and pursue her divine blessings, the devotees of Goddess Durga observe fast during the nine day Durga Puja celebrations. They observe the fast sincerely and faithfully every year and since it has been continued for ages, it has become an essential custom of the Durga Puja festival.
Purpose of Durga Puja Fast:
Having high respect for Goddess Durga, all Hindus consider her as their Mother. For the Hindu devotees, Fast is a system by which they deny the physical needs of their body and achieve spiritual gains as well as divine blessings of Goddess Durga. As per their sincere belief, fasting helps them to maintain a wonderful harmonization between their body and soul. It is a proven fact that fasting is good for the body because it gives some rest to the digestive organs and cleanse the toxic materials from the body, thus keeping the body in healthy condition.
Rituals of Durga Puja Fast:
Observing Fast during Durga Puja is prevalent in many parts of the country, particularly in Northern India. In Punjab, people observe Durga Puja fast for seven days. Out of nine days of the Festival, they break the fast only on ashtami and Navmi day. Devotees of Durga Ma observe fast in different ways. Some of them consume only milk while some consume only fruits. Some of them observe ‘Ekana’, which means they eat one full meal during the day. It is mandatory to avoid non-vegetarian food, drugs or any other entertainment while observing fast. Men do not shave during fasting days. People prefer to keep themselves away from all comforts and luxuries and many of them sleep on the ground.
Durga Puja fast is also popular in West Bengal and many states of Southern India. After finishing the fast, the devotees give food for beggars and some people worship little girls as mother goddess.
At some places people sow barley seeds during the period of Durga Puja fast. They prepare a little container with a small bed of mud and sow seeds in it. It is safely kept in the Puja room and at the end of the fasting period when the shoots reach few inches long, they are removed and given to devotees as a kind of blessings.
Fasting Trends of Present Generation:
Though it is a delight to see that the present generation continues the tradition of Durga Puja fast, only a few of them observe fast in its real sense, while some others modify it to suit to their comfort. In the stalls of the cities it is a common sight of people crowded to consume ‘vrat ki namkeen’ and ‘vrat ki chaat’. Even many of the restaurants offer special snack items meant for those observing Durga Puja fast. Though some people view this changing trend with suspicion, many others believe that such a trend will have less significance as long as people retain their innocent faith in goddess Durga.
Foodstuff, Sweets Offered to Durga:
Luchi / Puri