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My experience of ‘Nirjala Vrata’- full day & night fasting without water

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Nirjala fasting is one of the toughest fasts in Hinduism. Nirjala consists of two words Nir=Without , Jala= Water. This means that fasting is to be done without any food or water . A regular fasting duration is from sunrise on one day to sunrise on next day. Yet this does not mean that you can eat just before Sunrise and start your fast (which is the case of Roajas kept in half day -only day time-12 hours, without water fasting in muslims during Ramadans).

When do we keep Nirjala vrata : Nirjala vrata-without water fasting is usually kept on Nirjala Ekadashi, Mahashivratri, Vaikunth Ekadashi, Dev shayani & Dev prabodhini ekadashi, Navaratri, Krishna Janmashtami, Ram Navami etc. and on any other vrata can be carried out while keeping Nirjala-without water fasting. Usually people who want to get more merits from their vratas observe Nirjala vrata fasts. There is no restrcition on who can keep it only your faith and physical condition is the determining factor for keeping complete dry fasting. Some people do it for their health benefit as well. However I am sharing my experience here from a Hindu religious vrata point of view.

How to start Nirjala Vrata fast: Nirjala fasting in Hindus is to be started with an empty stomach, which means that you should have taken your last light meals several hours before sunrise of fasting day. Typically a 10-12 hours gap between the last meal and sunrise on fasting day should be good. Scriptures even go to extent to suggest to have last meal before the sunset a day before and eating only once on that day as well. However a 10-12 hour gap between last meal and fast start is well accepted practice as well. This way the food restriction in Nirjala fasting is observed a minimum of full 34-36 hours duration usually .

Last Water Intake: However the last water intake could be done before ‘Brahmamuhurta’ in the early morning before Sunrise of fast starting. This means you can have water till 3 -4 am in morning before sunrise. This is also the time when you take vow(Sankalpa) to carry out the fast. After taking vow you are not supposed to drink or eat anything at all. Now its a full rigorous fasting till the sunrise of next day after fast.

Example: For example if you take vow for fast(‘Sankalpa’) on at 4 am on 1st of July 2020 then your fast will end at the Sunrise of 6am on on 2nd July. This means you last meal should have been at around 8pm on 30 of June and last water intake should have been before 4 am(before the vow) on 1 July 2020 .

During Nirjala Vrata your body is under process of rejuvenation
During Nirjala Vrata your body is under process of rejuvenation

How our body reacts during Nirjala fasting :

Access excretion of fuild: During Nirjala fasting your body is first will not know to what challenge is coming ahead. So if you have taken too much of water before your vow(sankalpa), the body will keep on getting rid of it asap. So during first half of the day you might pass on a lot of fluid (It did in my case). By afternoon body seems to get a sense of what is happening and water outflow will cease or minimize to lowest level.

Headache: You have not taken food or water and done your Ishta’s worship in morning itself. By late afternoon you are largely on the faith and power of your devotion. You might have a mild headache by now or severe one by evening if you are habitual to this kind of fasting.In my case I still used to have headaches when I have exhausted myself with too much of work or exposure to Sun during the day. On normal Nirjala fasting headaches do not occur in that severity or at times I do not have them.

Exhaustion by day end : Day time is still bearable and may not bother much if you are accustomed to fasting. If you have exposed yourself to hard work during day time and not taken due care by evening you might feel completely exhausted. Even lifting a finger may seems like an achievement to you.

Bath will Help: A bath from cold water might help you a bit in this situation. Bath in every ‘prahara'(that is one fourth of the day or night ) is recommended in Nirjala fasting by scriptures. Therefore if you are feeling exhausted you can a bath to ease down a bit.

Will Power: However remember form here on you will power is the only thing which carry you on. So do rely primarily on your will power and devotion of your Ishta. Remembering ‘Ishta’ all the time is the key objective of fasting. So focus on that only and things will seems a bit better for you.

By 10 pm at night, many people will find difficult to stay awake and will go to their beds. However in Ekadashi fasting the Vrata observer is supposed to stay awake whole night. Writing names of your Ishta(Shri Ram, Krishna, Vishnu etc) will be good to keep you from dozing off.

Uneasy Sleep: However the sleep will also not be easy as the hunger pangs and dehydration will give you very uneasy times and will wake you up many time at night.

Stay Awake Challenge: To stay awake you can hear or sing devotional songs (Bhajanas), hear Sundarkand, Ramayana, Kirshn leela etc. Also you need to perform pooja one more time at night as well so taking bath before that would be good idea. It will give brief rejuvenation to your body, at least for few minutes. If you feel like you can have bath more number of times as well. take precaution that water does not enter your mouth in any way.

Staying awake without food and water is more natural than sleeping during Nirjala fast. The night passes and the next day sunrise comes. Now you can against take bath and perform pooja. Offer your Vrata vow to your Ishta and end your fast now.

How do we feel inside:

Although the nirjala vrata may cause a lot of physical discomfort, there is a bright side to it. Internally your spirit feels elevated and it experiences a lot different things. Remember your body is in under a rejuvenation process. First you you feel this in your spirit. In my case I was experiencing long forgotten feelings of my early childhood when there was no trace of social evils and no burden of societal trivias weighed on our shoulders. Very subtle feelings experienced in happy encounters resurfaced and it left me in a state of hope and happiness again. I could feel that there is a lot which I can do and how life can improve further. The negative feelings diminished and I could feel the real happiness again.

I am not sure how it feels to those who have drugs but for me the vrata gives a different kind of high which if free from any kind of hangover. You need to experience it to find yourself how it really feels. I could even experience the exact feeling on my childhood when I used to sit near river banks and rediscover the unique flower smells which were long forgotten. It actually felt that I was at more subtle level surely.

How to break your Nirjala vrata-Dry fast :

However do not indulge in binge eating immediately it may cause severe reflux at times. Start by taking some pure water first.

Break Fast with lots of water & fruits
Break Fast with lots of water & fruits

Start with water & fruits: In my experience the juice or sugar water do not fare at par with plain simple pure water after Nirjala fast. Have two-three glasses of pure water and give 15 minutes to your body to adjust to it.

Immediate intake of grains and heavy food backfires: Some people eat heavy oily food after the fast which can backfire and defeats the purpose of fasting too.

Try eating some fruits and give some rest for some time around an hours for body to adjust. Do not rush to intake grains in a hurry. Let the fruits and water sync in with the body. Then the rest of the day you can manage your meals as per your wish.

Nirajala Fast is done without water or food for full day and night
Nirjala Vrat is without water fast

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