When winter is about to come and autumn is getting ready to bid farewell, India enters into a nine day festival – Navratri, which is celebrated with vibrant spirit and unquestionable devotion to Goddess Durga.
During Navratri,the entire environment is soaked in religious fervour where the temple bells and arti echoes at the break of dawn, and the evenings are punctuated with regional dances (Garba and dandiya). Prayers are offered with religious warmth and sincerity. The festival is all about celebrating the victory of good over evil in an unwavering essence.
The one thing that remains constant with festivals in India is the tradition of keeping fasts, while practicing meditation with mindfulness. All of this is done in order to detox the body, mind, as well as the spirit.
Fasts have religious as well as scientific connotations. The religious explanation says that it’s a way to get closer to God, which also facilitates the spiritual purification. While science talks about the physiological benefits about it, fasts are a much-needed break for our digestive system. Eschewing certain food items like meat, grain and alcohol over others relieves our overloaded digestive system and helps us stay fit during the seasonal change, when our body tends to have low immunity.
The right food
Food instills life in every festival, and becomes extremely pivotal during the nine-day festival. During Navratri, observing fasts is a general practice where special care is taken over what to eat and what not to.
Wheat is not recommended during fasts as they slow down the digestion. Hence it is substituted with Singhada ka attaa (water chestnut flour)or kuttu ka attaa (buckwheat flour).Similarly, people are advised to avoid too many deep fried food items and not over indulge. Roping in fruits (seasonal fruit), vegetable and nuts in your meal plan is a healthy move. Fruit chaat, kachalo etc can be among those items, which are healthy, and at the same time, extremely delicious.
Table salt is substituted with sendhaa namak (Rock salt) to limit your chloride intake. Make sure that the substratum in which you cook i.e. the oil, is also the one that is aligned with your fasting regime, hence it is best to avoid mustard oil and use ghee instead.Cumin, black pepper, green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ajwain, nutmeg and fresh green coriander leaves are potent to add flavour to the food.
And yes, the most important point to note is to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water, as our body can work without food for a considerable time, but not without water.
Indian festivals are a mark of our plural cultured society. Participating in such occasions adds excitement and gaiety to our lives, while helping us take care of our bodies in a healthy way.
The writer is the founder and chief dietician, Nmami Life