What to include and exclude in your Shivaratri fasting diet? A practical guide

What to include and exclude in your Shivaratri fasting diet? A practical guide
What to include and exclude in your Shivaratri fasting diet? A practical guide

Maha Shivaratri, translated as "Great Night of Shiva," is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in honour of Lord Shiva. It marks the night when Lord Shiva is believed to perform the divine dance of creation, preservation, and destruction. Shivaratri is observed in the month of Magha as per the Saka Era calendar. It falls on the midnight of ‘chaturdashi’, which is the day before new moon day. This year’s Shivaratri festival falls on Friday, March 8.

According to mythology, it was on the night of Shivaratri that Lord Shiva drank the deadly ‘Kalakooda’ poison to prevent it from falling on earth and destroying everything on the planet. Mythology says that when Devas (gods) and Asuras (demons) together churned Palazhi (divine ocean), the Kalakoodam poison emerged. As the poison could destroy the world, Lord Shiva grabbed and swallowed it. However, Shiva’s consort Parvathy Devi clasped his neck to prevent the poison from moving any further. Parvathy spent the entire night in this pose, sleepless and praying. Devotees believe that they can please Shiva by depriving themselves of sleep and offering prayers the entire night, similar to what Parvathy did.

Maha Shivaratri provides an opportunity for devotees to deepen their spiritual practice, seek blessings, and reflect on the divine qualities represented by Lord Shiva. On the auspicious day, devotees observe a day-long fast and engage in prayers, meditation, and rituals dedicated to Lord Shiva.

How to observe the Shivaratri fast:

  • Many observe a fast, either partial or full, during Maha Shivaratri as a form of penance and spiritual purification. The fast should begin on the day before Shivaratri with ‘orikkal’ or having solid food only once.
  • On Shivaratri day, devotees have to wake up early in the morning, perform their ablutions and apply sacred ash (bhasmam) on them while chanting ‘Om Namah Shivaya’. They should then pray at Shiva temple.
  • A complete fast has to be observed on Shivaratri day. Those who cannot remain without any food can take some offering from temples (nivedyam), tender coconut water or a fruit.
  • The entire night of Shivaratri has to be spent without even a wink of sleep. On the next morning, devotees can bathe, visit a temple and end the fast by accepting holy water (theertham) from the priest.

Partial fasting

Partial fasting during Shivaratri involves abstaining from certain foods while consuming lighter and sattvic (pure) items. Here's a guide for partial fasting on Shivaratri:

Allowed foods:

  • Include fruits like bananas, apples, and melons.
  • Consume dairy products like milk, yogurt, and paneer.
  • Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds are suitable.

Fluid intake:

  • Drink water, herbal teas, or infused water throughout the day.
  • Some may choose to have coconut water for added hydration.

Food to avoid:

  • Abstain from grains, lentils, non-vegetarian food, onions, garlic, and strong spices.
  • Skip caffeine and carbonated drinks.

Muthira puzhukku, Madhuracherupayar kanji, Astram, and Puzhukku are some of the special dishes that are usually cooked for Shivratri. These dishes are extremely healthy and light as they are prepared using incredibly nutritious ingredients. Click here to learn how to cook them.

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