Fasting in Hindu culture

Hindus undertake numerous vratas (fasts); some of these fasts are to fulfill a vow or to observe a special puja. For each vrata there is specific worship service. For example, married women keep the following four vratas:

(1) vat-savitri, which is worshipping the banyan tree to ensure a long life for their husbands by fastening a sacred thread around the tree;
(2) gangaur, a fast that is kept mostly by women in Rajasthan Province when they worship the goddess Gauri, consort of Lord Shiva;
(3) karva-chauth, which is kept for the welfare of their children and husbands by worshipping the family of Lord Shiva and the moon without drinking a drop of water until night, when the fast is broken after seeing the moon and greeting their husbands; and
(4) the Haritalika Teej fast, which is dedicated to the goddess Parvati (also called “Gauri”) without drinking water or eating food for twenty-four hours.

On the other hand, a fast is recommended for both men and women on at least four major occasions:

(1) Mahashivratri is when worshipers gather at Shiva temples and after worship keep a vigil during the night by chanting and group singing.
(2) Navaratri are the nine days of fasting, done twice a year, although for Bengalis, the autumn Durga puja is most important.
(3) Krishna-Janmastami (the eighth god-reincarnation) is the celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna.
(4) Rama-Navami celebrates the birth of Lord Rama.
(5) Makar-Sankranti, the only Hindu festival based on the solar calendar, celebrated each year on the fourteenth of January when the Sun enters into the zodiac sign of Capricorn commencing its northern course.

In addition, some people fast on the eleventh day of the Hindu calendar month called “Ekadashi” and on other days identified for worshiping a deity in different regions of India.