The Significance of Fasting on Mahashivaratri

In India, it is traditional during Mahashivaratri to observe a fast and to eat foods that are appropriate for fasting. The Shiva Purana, an ancient Indian text dedicated to Lord Shiva, says that if a devotee observes a fast on Mahashivaratri with sincerity, devotion, and love, he will be blessed with the divine grace of Lord Shiva.

This is a tradition also observed on the Siddha Yoga path. Fasting foods are those considered to be sattvic or pure—simple foods that are easy for most people to digest. When digestion is steady, the body’s energy becomes tranquil; this supports a seeker’s efforts to direct their focus within and to still the mind. It is with the intention to worship Lord Shiva that we eat simple foods on Mahashivaratri, and that we eat these foods frugally. We are treating our bodies and minds with great care, as we would a temple—a place for worship.

Fasting foods include milk and yogurt; tapioca and amaranth; pumpkin, beets, and cucumber; all fruits; almonds, peanuts, and cashews; honey and ginger. Some heavier foods, like potatoes, can also be eaten during a fast. The heavier foods provide added sustenance to support us in remaining grounded in our spiritual practices.

Whether you choose to eat lighter or heavier food, it is important to be mindful of how much you are eating and to eat only the amount of food that your body can digest easily. If you have a medical condition that requires you to eat specific foods, please follow the instructions from your medical practitioner and your own knowledge of your body’s needs.