Fasting In Jainism

This article covers fasting in Jainism.

Fasting is very common among Jains and as a part of Jain festivals. Most Jains fast at special times, during festivals, and on holy days. Paryushan is the most prominent festival, lasting eight days in Svetambara Jain tradition and ten days in Digambara Jain tradition during the monsoon. The monsoon is a time of fasting. However, a Jain may fast at any time, especially if he or she feels some error has been committed. Variations in fasts encourage Jains to do whatever they can to maintain whatever self control is possible for the individual.



Aims for fasting

Fasting can be done to purify both the body and the mind but fasts are also done as a penance.


The word Proşadha refers to the holy days in the lunar month. It means giving up the four kinds of food. Proşadhopavāsa is fasting on the eighth and fourteenth days of the lunar cycle. According to Jain text, Puruşārthasiddhyupāya:

For the sake of strengthening the performance of daily mediatation (sāmāyika) , one must undertake fasting twice each lunar fortnight (Proşadhopavāsa).

— Puruşārthasiddhyupāya (151)

Free from all routine activities, and giving up attachment to own body etc., one should commence fasting from mid-day prior to the day of fasting (the eighth and the fourteenth day of each lunar fortnight).

— Puruşārthasiddhyupāya (152)

The fasting householder discards bodily adornments such as bath, perfume, garlands, and ornaments, and spends his time in a sacred place like the abode of a saint or a temple or in his lonely fasting apartment contemplating on pure thoughts by listening to or making others listen to the scriptures and refraining from injury.

Types of fasting

There are several types of fasts:

  • Santhara or “complete fasting”: To give up food and water This leads to death and is undertaken by someone who has finished all his/her duties and wishes to leave this world peacefully. It gives control over when one dies so everything may be completed and a person may leave of his or her own free will.
  • Partial fasting (anodar): Eating less than you desire and to simply avoid hunger.
  • Vruti Sankshep: Limiting the number of items eaten.
  • Rasa Parityag: Giving up favourite foods.
  • Great fasts: Some monks fast for months at a time, following Mahavir, who fasted for over 6 months.
  • Varsitap: To eat on alternate days, and Upvas on the rest, for a whole year. Thus this fast is very rigorous since it entails a whole year of “tap” with eating no food on alternate days and eating food on rest of the days, while following the prescribed rules like not eating in the evening after sunset, not eating root vegetables (like potatoes, onions, ginger), and various other rules. In Swetamber Varsitap they do Ekasanu as mentioned below alternet days and Upavas on the rest days.
  • Chauvihar Upvas: To give up food and water after the sunsets till the sunrises the following day.
  • Upvas: To give up only food for the whole day.
  • Digambar Upvas: One may drink water only once a day, before sunset.
  • Shvetamber Upvas: One may drink boiled and cooled water after Porsi, provided this is done before sunset.
  • Tivihar Upvas: One may drink boiled water between sunrise and sunset.
  • Ekasanu: To eat one meal a day at one sitting and drink boiled water as desired between sunrise and sunset.
  • Beasanu: To eat two meals a day in two sittings and drink boiled water anytime between sunrise and sunset.
  • Ayambil: Eating food once in one sitting. The food contains only cereals and pulses not sprouted and it is spice free and boiled or cooked, without milk, curds, ghee, oil, oil seeds, or green/raw vegetables, fruits and sugar and its products.
  • Bela/ Chhath: To give up both food and water or only food continuously for two days.
  • Tela / Aththam: To give up food and water or only food continuously for three days.
  • Aththai: To give up food and water or only food continuously for eight days.
  • Navai: To give up food and water or only food continuously for nine days.
  • Masakshaman: To give up food and water or only food continuously for a whole month.
  • Navkarsi: Food and water is consumed a minimum forty-eight (48) minutes after sunrise. Devout Jains brush their teeth and rinse their mouths only after sunrise.
  • Porsi: Taking food and water three hours after sunrise.
  • Sadh-porsi: Taking food and water four hours and thirty minutes after sunrise.
  • Purimuddh: Taking food and water six hours after sunrise.
  • Avadhdh: Taking food and water eight hours after sunrise.
  • Tivihar: After sunset no food or juice shall be taken, but one may drink water. Many Jains practise this daily.
  • Navapad Oli: During every year for 9 days starting from the 6/7th day in the bright fortnight until the full moon day in Ashwin and Chaitra months, one does Ayambil. This is repeated for the next four and half years. Ayambils may be restricted to one kind of grain per day.


Main article: Sallekhana

Sallekhanā is the last vow prescribed by the Jain ethical code of conduct. The vow of sallekhanā is observed by the Jain ascetics and lay votaries at the end of their life by gradually reducing the intake of food and liquids. This practice has been subject to ongoing debate by human rights experts.

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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