Ekadasi Fastings: Medical & Religious significance.
Why not other days ? Why only on Ekadasi ? Significance of Ekadasi
by TRS IYENGAR
From time immemorial, Srivaishnavites have been observing fasts twice a month on Ekadasi days. This fasting is, in general, for everyone. Ekadasi is the 11th day in the moon cycle, i.e. from the new moon day and also from the full moon day.
It is a proven scientific matter, that the air pressure in the atmosphere rapidly changes in the surroundings on a full moon day or on the new moon day. The Sun-Moon-Earth combinations in the orbital path, when distances itself at every particular interval (i.e. every 24 hours of for every full circle the Earth rotates). When it occurs, accordingly the pressure in the atmosphere too changes drastically and varies from day to day.
One can observe this from the increasing high tidal waves in the ocean. On any given New Moon day or Amavasya the pressure increases in the ocean and the tidal waves are very rough and high. But from the immediate next day onwards, the pressure recedes gradually thus improving that the atmospheric pressure too reduces. So, particularly on the 11th day from New Moon or Full Moon days, the pressure is some what very light or nil.
If one has to go with an empty stomach on any other day, the atmospheric pressures will put on him or her more strain wherein on the Ekadasi day, the problem is minimal or nil. So the body never takes the pain while we cleanse the bowel system and thus refreshing the whole body mechanism – specifically the liver/stomach/bowel and the system movements.
But on the immediate next day (called as Dwadasi or Dvadasi – i.e. 12th day from Full Moon/New Moon), to avoid any pressure on the body system, Srivaishnavites used to eat food in the morning as early as possible. Thus avoiding any system trouble or collapse. This breaking fast on the 12th day is known as ParaNai amongst Srivaishnavas. So it is advisable to observe fasting only on the Ekadashi day and to give scope for refreshing the body mechanism; this fasting day is also very conducive to concentrate onf meditation and prayers. But one must eat food immediately in the next early morning to avoid any complications. As the atmospheric pressure builds up faster and doubles on the 12th day from Amavasya / Poornima days, it is strongly recommended to consume food on the Dwadasi day in the early morning.
Nowadays, people also fast these days for health reasons; because fasting helps in the detoxification of the body. Everyone wants to look good and fit these days. As such, you will find many youngsters in India fasting. In medical context, fasting refers to the state achieved after digestion of a meal. A number of metabolic adjustments occur during fasting and many medical diagnostic tests for blood sugar, cholesterol levels are standardized to fasting conditions. Thus fasting has medical reasons coated with religious significance in India.
Those who observe Fasting on Ekadasi days are keeping fittest health, cleansing their bowel system and mostly free from frequent ailments. Also, those who are the Bhakta’s of Lord Krishna, observing fasting on Ekadasi days, have lot more mental peace, by way of self realization and inner soul! That reflects them to more and more devote to the spiritual path! Yes, this sort of penance also give them a more stronger feeling towards spirituality, thus making them pure in body and mind.
Now, let us see the other scientific facts concerning the 11th day from Full Moon & New Moon. In the Indian Vedic system, there are different methods to calculate a month. Once such is counting from the new moon day known as Amavasya. The well knownFrom the new moon day till the Full moon day it is called as Sukla Paksham or waxing moon; from the full moon day till next Amavasya/new moon day, it is known as Krishna Paksham or the waning moon. In the celestial phenomena, the Earth as well as moon raises and settles at the same time on Amavasya and from the next day to Amavasya, moon is moving about 12 degree distance from the solar path; on the Ekadasi day, i.e. 11th day from full moon the Moon stays at a distance of about 135 degrees in the solar path that causes lesser grativation force and thus causing lesser atmospheric pressure. Thus fasting on an Ekadasi day will not affect the body system as also hungry feelings too minimum to some extent.
न गायथ्रिया पर मन्थर; ना मात् पर दैवथम् ।
न गङ्कास्य परमम् थीर्तम् , ना ऎकादस्या: समम् व्रतम् ॥
Na GaayathryA para manthra: Na MAthu para dhaivatham
Na GangAsyA: paramam theertham Na EkAdasyA : samam vratham.
The rough translation is: There is no mantra superior to the Gayatri mantra, There is no god superior to the Mother, There is no water more purifying or superior than River Ganges. And finally, there is
no fast/ austerities (vradham) more sacred or superior than the Ekadasi.
There is an interesting story in the Narada Purana involving the Mohini, the Manasa puthri (desired daughter of) Brahma with King Rugmangatha. It is an interesting one which
Ekadasi day for Sri Vaisnava tradition differs from other Sections. (You can view the exact Srivaishnava Ekadasi days at: the Festival & Important days Chart given in another page). Though normally it is on the eleventh day of both the waxing and waning moon, i.e..11th day from Amavasya and Poornima (Amavasai & Pournami) which falls twice in a month. The very purpose of the fast being to minimize bodily activities and increase in activities of devotion, prayer and peace, observers either abstain from food completely but only to intake Milk, fruits, water and some milk product or avoid all grains and beans from their meals on that day of Ekadasi Fasting. Light meals of fruits, milk products, vegetables, nuts and various non-cereal flours, fruits like banana, are eaten by those not undertaking a total fast. On Ekadasi, Srivaishnava meals usually include wide varieties of tasty but without delivering the heavy bog-down feeling experienced after eating the same size meals cooked with grains and pulses. Apart from cleansing one’s body bi-monthly, this is an opportunity to become more absorbed in glorifying the Supreme Lord, Sriman Narayana. Ekadasi is also an excellent time to purify the body, mind and thoughts!.
In general, no onion & Garlic are consumed by Srivaishnava. In addition, they avoid using cream, and heavy fat items on their fasting days of Eakadasi. Different varieties of tasty items are prepared, depending on their individual taste. But none of the items contain any heavy stuff to make you heavy or bulgy. In case of persons unable to fast whole day, they are recommended to take Idli, Dosa but they take it only half of their quota to avoid heaviness in their body.
Following are the items best recommended to consume on the Fasting day of Ekadasi that includes light refreshments, beverage, milk products, vegetables, fruits: Lemon, Banana, Grape, Pineapple, range, all varieties of Dry fruits, Buttermilk, Milk, cereals, Broken rice, Rava, & Yogurt.
Born on Makara Uthiradam star, native of Mukkur and brought up in Ladavaram village near Arcot and now well settled in Mumbai for over five decades. Presently, at 70, trying to run this website without any commercial expectations or profit motive, just for the sake of our future generations to understand about Sanatana Dharma & Srivaishnavam sampradayam.Within my limited knowledge that I put it here, what I learnt from the world.