By Suma Varughese November 1997 Undertake to fast for purification, to propitiate the gods, to unleash inner power, for a socio-religious event. Or for the simple joy of partaking of special fasting foods. Sample fasting food recipes listed below ON THE FAST TRACKNature Cure Recommends • A fast once a week can be your way to rid yourself of body toxins, boost immunity, accelerate weight loss, improve concentration and get a glow on your skin and hair. • The evening before you go for a fast, eat an easily digestible, light meal. Similarly, break the fast with fruit or vegetable juice and not with a heavy meal. The longer a fast, the longer you should take to come back to a normal diet. • Drink eight to 10 glasses of lukewarm water during the fast to help flush out body toxins. • Do enema in the morning on fast days. • During a fast, engage in light activities only—meditate, read, take a stroll. Avoid jogging or exercising. • To settle hunger pangs, drink a glass of water. Occupy your mind so that you do not think of food. • Don’t fast if you have a serious medical condition. • If you have never fasted before take one on fruit and vegetable juices. • You might notice slight nausea, change in urine color, coating of the tongue during fasting. These are all signs of toxins being eliminated. And when Jesus… was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing.—St Luke, IV, 1:2 Like the two wings of a bird, both fasting and positive dieting are equally essential for the maintenance of health and for its recovery when lost. — K. Lakshman Sarma, quoted by S. Swaminathan in Speaking of Nature Cure Whether for religious and spiritual reasons, or as a means to good health, fasting has been an inextricable part of all traditions through the ages. Many take recourse to fasting in their pursuit of self-realization. Like Jesus, Moses too fasted 40 days and 40 nights, en route to enlightenment. The Buddha also practiced severe austerities, until he renounced it in favor of moderation. Whether used as a means to overcome bodily desire and develop self-control or as an instrument to transcend body and accentuate spirit, there are few practices more popular than fasting. ‘No one can be said to have subjugated one of the senses, if he has not conquered all the other four; if he has conquered the sense of taste, he has conquered all,’ says the Bhagavad Purana, an ancient Indian text. Fasting plays an equally important role in the restoration of health. Many therapies, like ayurveda and homeopath, acknowledge the importance of diet in the treatment of illnesses, and impose restrictions on beverages such as tea and coffee, and some non-vegetarian items. Nature cure, or naturopathy, is virtually founded on the food principle, and considers fasting an imperative in the cure of chronic ailments. Mahatma Gandhi used the concept of the fast in an altogether novel manner: as a powerful political weapon for the disfranchised political motive apart, he also used fasting to unleash the inner power. For him, fasting was not just a mute protest against the injustice of slavery but a route to self-discipline and will power, to push his body to the limit of its endurance. Fasting, then, is a means of cleansing the self, physically, mentally and spiritually, and of restoring the body’s balance. Such self-induced fasts are still few and far between. Fasts are commonly undertaken for socio-religious purposes, and may be observed for the sake of custom or punya (good karma). But even here, the actual cause of the fast remains the purification of the self, an obeisance to God, and a source of self-discipline. For the Catholics, only two days of fasting are mandatory in a year-Good Friday and Ash Wednesday. Both these are associated with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. However, every Friday, and Lent, the period of 40 days before Easter, are observed as days of abstinence, during which consumption of meats, alcohol or other indulgences is forbidden. For the Christian, fasting is an acknowledgment of the Creator, a source of deeper spiritual renewal and a way of combating the darker forces of life. Fasting in Islam, observed during the holy month of Ramazan, is far more rigorous. During this 40-day period, taking even a drop of water between sunrise and sunset is forbidden. At sunset, the fast is broken with the consumption of dates and other fruits. By fasting, the believer proclaims the nobility of the Most High, prostrates before Him and asks forgiveness for sins. It is a process of purification, physical, emotional and mental, and is accompanied by pursuing good thoughts, good words and good deeds. In India, fasting has always had deep spiritual and religious overtones. Almost every festival involves some sort of fasting, while spiritual adepts of all traditions abide by the code of moderate or no eating. For Indians, fasting is also prompted by the seasons and time of day, the solar and lunar cycles. In this regard, fasting encourages the maintenance of the body’s equilibrium with that of the larger forces of life. Among the Jains it is customary to eat lightly in the morning and reserve their main meal for noontime, for it is believed that the biological clock works best with the sun. For the same reason, they have their evening meal before sunset. The 8th and 14th day of the lunar moon, when the gravitational effects of the sun and moon are at their peak, are also observed as fast days. The Jains also observe a four-month fast, Chaturmas, during which the use of tamasic (non-vegetarian, deep fried, stale, hot etc) foods like garlic and onion, and even certain vegetables are disallowed. Both in the South and in Maharashtra, in India, Ekadashi, the 11th day of the lunar moon, is observed as a fast day. In Maharashtra, the Chaturthi, 4th day of the lunar moon, is also a fast day. However, fasting among Hindus and Jains, unlike in Islam or Christianity, does not always mean zero consumption. Often it takes the form of abstinence, when certain foods are forbidden, and only a restricted variety permissible. Fasts connected with the festivals of certain deities, such as Gokulashtami (for Lord Krishna) and Mahashivratri (for Lord Shiva), are broken with revelry and feasting in the evening. Fasting, by abstaining from non-vegetarian or tamasic foods, is also observed during the month of Shravan (the peak of the rainy season) because digestion is considered sluggish during the rains. Because of the dietary restrictions imposed by fasts and their frequency, a whole cuisine of fasting food has emerged, particularly in the Indian state of Maharashtra, employing the use of items like varai, sago, potatoes, peanuts and rajgeera. Cereals are strictly forbidden, but the sumptuous delicacies offered in their place (for some reason, most fasting foods are rich and redolent with clarified butter, milk, etc) actually makes the fast a feast! Try the recipes given below, and remember, you don’t have to wait for a fasting day to tuck into them. But if you do, so much the better. PEANUT CURRYWhat you need:1-2 cups finely ground, roasted peanuts2 green chiliestamarind or kokum to tasteghee (clarified butter)3-4 cups water For paste:cumin seedscorianderfresh coconut2 sticks of cinnamon2 clovesjaggerysalt to tasteWhat you do:Boil water, add ground peanuts and ground paste of cumin seeds, green chilies, cloves, cinnamon, salt and jaggery .Add kokum or tamarind pulp to it according to taste. After the curry is well cooked, garnish with coriander leaves and coconut. STUFFED BANANAS What you need:6 ripe, peeled rajali bananas1/2 cup sugar1/2 cup fresh coconutgreen cardamomghee for fryingWhat you do:Cut banana into 3-inch pieces. Cook sugar and coconut with cardamom seeds on slow fire, until sugar melts and the mixture thickens. Slit each banana piece, and fill in coconut mixture. Hold together with a toothpick. Fry in ghee over medium flame till golden brown. SABUDANA KHICHDI What you need:2 cups sago (sabudana)1 cup roasted, coarsely pounded peanuts1 tsp. cumin seeds6 green chilies4 tbs. ghee1/2 lemon finely choppedfresh coriander for garnishing1/2 cup freshly scraped coconut What you do:Wash sago, drain and set aside for one hour. Heat ghee. Add cumin seeds. Then add green chilies, letting it fry briefly. Mix in sago, peanuts, salt and sugar to taste. Keep covered and cook on slow flame for 5-10 minutes. You can add small cubes of boiled or fried potatoes. Garnish with coconut and coriander leaves. Serve hot. SWEET POTATOES KHEER What you need:1 cup grated sweet potatoes (ratali)1/4 cup sugar1/2 cup fresh coconut scraped5 cardamoms, ground4 cups full cream milk What you do:Wash, peel and grate sweet potatoes. Cook in milk till it turns soft and the mixture thickens. Then add sugar, cardamom powder and coconut and cook for a few minutes. Serve hot or cold. This kheer looks like vermicelli kheer and tastes excellent. SWEET POTATOES KAP What you need:1 kg sweet potatoes250 gm sugarghee for fryingcardamom powder What you do:Wash and remove skin of sweet potatoes. Cut into round thin slices and fry in ghee. Take sugar (1/4 in equivalent volume of the slices) and make sugar syrup of one thread consistency. Add cardamom powder to it. Place fried sweet potato slices in syrup and stir lightly. Keep for some time and then remove. They will turn crisp. VARAI KHICHDI What you need:2 cups varai1 cup roasted, coarsely pounded peanutssalt and jaggery to taste4 green chilies1 tsp. cumin seeds2 cloves and 2 pieces cinnamon, powdered finelychopped fresh coriander leaves1/2 cup fresh coconut2 tbs. ghee What you do:Heat ghee. Add cumin seeds and green chilies. Then add varai and roast for a while. Put 4 cups of hot water in the varaialong with salt
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