Thursday, 8 August 2013

Religious fasting around the world

We are entering the final days of the month of Islamic fasting. Yet, religious fasting is not exclusive to Islam.

New moons signal the beginning and the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting

In ancient Biblical times, fasts were generally one day in length. Occasionally, they would last three days, seven days and on some occasions for 40 days. For example, in the Old Testament, Moses received the 10 Commandments while fasting for forty days and Elijah encountered God while doing the same. 

Today, there are two major and four minor fast days that are part of the Jewish year. The two major fasts, Yom Kippur and Tisha Bi'av, last for just over twenty four hours. They begin before sundown, when it is still light outside, and end after the next sundown when it is dark outside and three stars can be seen in the sky. This fast is absolute. The faster may not eat food, drink, brush his teeth, comb his hair, or take a bath. Minor fasts differ in their duration from a major fast. No food or drink is taken from dawn until nightfall.

Another example of fasting for 40 days is found in the Bible's New Testament in the form of Jesus who is tempted in the wilderness for this period. Similarly, Christian observance of Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, lasts 40 days (not counting Sundays) and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. One way to observe Lent is to 'deny yourself' in some way regarding food and drink (a 'partial fast' of eating less than usual, or temporarily 'giving up' desserts, meat, a meal, or whatever you may choose) and to replace this with extra time devoted to prayer and Bible reading/study, or the reading of a Christian book 

In some forms of Hinduism, different fasts can be observed throughout the week. On Sundays, fasts can be observed for the Lord Sun or Surya. It is believed that this fast helps you in fulfilling desires. People suffering from skin diseases also observe this fast for healing. 

On Mondays, fasting can be observed for Lord Shiva. On this day unmarried girls observe the fast to find an ideal husband and married women fast to pray for a prosperous married life. 

Meanwhile, on Tuesday fasts are observed for Lord Hunuman. The fast is observed by people to alleviate problems from their life. They can take a single meal on this day which is usually made of wheat and jaggery.

Wednesday fasts are observed to Lord Shiva. It is observed by married people, who pray for a happy married life. A meal is allowed in the afternoon.

Thursday fasts are observed to Lord Vishnu. People who fast on this day are said to be blessed with wealth and a happy life. 

On Fridays, fast can be dedicated to Shakti the mother goddess, who provides material wealth  and joy. The fast ends at sunset. 

Saturday fasts are observed to alleviate the ill effects of the planet Saturn. Food is generally taken after the evening prayers.

Sikhism encourages temperance and moderation in matters of food. Sikhs are taught neither to starve nor over-eat. Men engaged in meditation should only eat small quantities of simple healthy food - just enough to prevent sleep and sloth. Gluttony is considered morally reprehensible. The golden rule about fasting is: fast only when you must, in the interest of your health. @newreligionEU
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