What is Fasting and why it is observed?
Abstaining from food or at least from some kinds of food items is referred to as Fasting. It does have its own physical benefits as it provides the much needed rest to the digestive organs and gives respite to the other over-worked systems. But the benefits of fasting on the spiritual side can be said to be much more profound.
Though fasting, also known as Upavas or Vrat, is undertaken at times for the fulfillment of some vows and also for physical gains, its true purpose remains less material and substantially spiritual. Our consciousness often gets corrupted over time by accumulation of impurities, and it is fasting that helps significantly in its purification.
What is the importance of the individual week days?
Each of the 7 week days actually represents a planet and these are named only after them, as per the Hindu system. Thus, Monday represents the Moon; Tuesday, Mars; Wednesday, Mercury; Thursday, Jupiter; Friday, Venus; Saturday, Saturn; and Sunday, the Sun. This apart, the weekdays are also dedicated to different specific Gods and it is strongly believed that offering prayers to that particular deity on his or her special week day, will please the deity and get his or her blessings in abundance.
Thursday, also known as Guruvar or Brihaspativar, is the day of Guru or Brihaspati or Jupiter. Brihaspati is an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, who blessed him and made him the preceptor of the Devas. He signifies a wide variety of attributes like character, seriousness, meditation, prayer, success, honor, and fortune, karma acquired in previous birth, wealth, character and health. The presiding deity is Lord Dhakshinamoorthy, an aspect of Lord Shiva and a great preceptor and hence, Thursdays are dedicated to him.
What is the associated mythology?
One of the stories about the Guruvar Vrat or Thursday Fasting relates to the happenings in heaven. Once, Lord Indra remained disrespectful to Lord Brihaspati and though he repented later, Brihaspati took offence and disappeared from the scene. Denied the sane counsel and blessings of the Devaguru Brihaspathi, Indra became weak and the situation was exploited by a demon called Vrishvarsha, who inflicted heavy defeats on Indra.
On Lord Brahma’s advice, Indra made one Vishwaroopa as his priest, performed a powerful yagya, got back his strength and conquered the demon. But Indra wanted to get more powerful and on his request Vishwaroopa began doing a bigger sacrifice. Sensing trouble, the Asuras enticed the priest to ensure that part of the benefits of the bigger yagya come to them also. Vishwaroopa obliged and began acting accordingly. But Indra, getting wind of his treachery, got wild and beheaded Vishwaroopa immediately. But Vishwaroopa was a learned Brahmin and the great sin of killing him engulfed Indra, whose body got deformed.
Lord Brahma once again came to Indra’s rescue, convinced Brihaspati out of his self imposed exile and with his help, started taking remedial measures. On Brihaspati’s advice, Vishwaroopa’s body was cut to 4 pieces and were given out to the earth, trees, women and water, thus relieving Indra of his lethal sin. Indra bowed to Brihaspati with reference for this great blessing.
How Fasting is observed on Thursdays?
Brihaspativar Vrat or Thursday Fasting begins before sunrise in the morning on that day, and continues till evening. Some take a single meal during the day that includes Chana Dal (Chick pea) and ghee. Devotees spend the day in prayers to Lord Dhakshinamoorthy and Guru or Brihaspati. Since yellow is the favorite color of Brihaspati, devotees wear yellow colored dress, and perform puja offering him yellow flowers, gram Dal, yellow sandalwood, turmeric, yellow rice. Some also worship the banana plant. Some offer chick pea (White Channa) mala to Guru and white Channa as prasad as an effective form of worship. During the Vrat, devotees chant mantras and slokas in praise of the Lord. Guruvar Vrat Kathas, that is, the stories related to worship of Lord Brihaspati are also read and heard. Many devotees observing this fast begin it on the first Thursday of Shukla Paksha, the Waxing Moon Phase of any month and some continue it for the next 16 successive Thursdays. Some observe this ritual regularly for a period of 3 years also.
Some people dedicate this Vrat to Lord Vishnu, worship him on these days and recite the holy Bagavadh Puran. Other saints like Dattatreya, Raghavendra Swami and Shirdi Sai Baba, who are universal Gurus are also worshipped on the day.
What benefits accrue on undertaking Fasting on Thursdays?
Worshipping Lords Dhakshinamoorthy and Brihaspati on Thursdays enables the devotees to gain their abundant blessings, and help them to have good health, wealth, prosperity and a happy married life. Young women who observe the Brihaspativar Vrat can overcome problems of inordinate delays in their marriages.