Hindu fasts are a way for Hindus to deny their body in order to sharpen their minds. It is widely believed in the Hindu community that fasting brings you closer to God(s) and allows you to free your mind from earthly needs in order to achieve enlightenment. Because faith is something that requires great introspection and is free from the bonds of earthly needs; it is a means to eliminate the haze generated by the physical requirements of the body that clouds the mind. There is scientific basis for this. While you are hungry your mind works harder in order to allow you to think clearly; so while you may believe that Hindu fasting is just depriving oneself of life it is in fact allow the mind work harder.
While fasting, a Hindu will go through a great period of introspection in order to gain wisdom about the way that they are living their lives. The mind becomes lazy when the stomach is full; this quote is paraphrased from Luqman, the wise. There are different reasons for fasting. Hindus are typically required to fast during Purnima (the full moon) and Ekadasi (the eleventh of each fortnight). It is also highly dependent on the God that one has a particular preference for – sometimes the fast is just no eating a specific type of food. It may also be for health reasons. For example, someone may abstain from a food that makes them feel unwell or foods that cause hypertension.
Phalahar is another form of fasting. This form of fasting requires the faster to only eat fruits. Gandhi experimented with this form of fasting extensively. It requires the person undertaking the fast to not eat any cereals – strictly fruit only. Fasting is also a means to flush the system of the build up of toxins that come from the ingestion of certain foods. It is also a means of lowering the acidic fluids prevalent in the human body and this in turn can cure tenseness, irritability and violent behaviour.
Certain festivals also require Hindus to fast. One such festival (Navaratri) requires the Hindu participants to fast for nine days (the duration of the festival). Lemon juice is often consumed on such long fasts to give the body some nutrients and reduce the flatulence associated with long fasts. Hindu fasts have a wide variety of uses. Hindu fasts are also not limited to just not eating at all as well.