Food was, and always will be the central theme of any celebration in Indian festivals. No festival in India is complete without an array of food items synonymous with that particular festival.
Alongside the restrictions defined by the fasting rules, Sharad Navratri is more about eating than fasting as it marks the onset of the festive season in India. It is the time that marks the beginning of winters, and one can afford to add a little extra indulgence to the diet without considerable adverse effects.
All over India, we celebrate Navrati with different cultural aspects ranging from the Dandiya nights of Gujrat to the Puja pandals of Kolkata. Whatever be the format, across all the locations, food plays a very central role. Most of the people, visiting these events’ venues, look as much forward to the food, as they do, to the divine blessings.
Easy tips for a healthy celebration:
1. Any kind of fasting aims to give the body a break from the regular food and cleanse it by having light, simple, and easy to digest meals. All the food components used in this fast are light and healthy. But we tend to increase the calorie count by deep-frying them, adding cream or even sugar to the food preparations.
2. The need is to find a balance in your food intake by having one main meal throughout the day and making the other smaller meals a combination of fruits, milk, and nuts. It helps to maintain a perfect balance of food intake for the body.
3. The foods associated with Navratri fasting like singhara(water chestnut) and makhana(Fox nuts) are very healthy and nutritious. It is only wrong cooking methods or recipes that turn them into slightly indulgent foods. By doing this, not only are we impairing their ethical nutritive values, but we are also defeating the whole purpose of fasting.
4. Even potato and sweet potato, in themselves, are not harmful foods, it is when we coat them in flour, and deep fry them, they become challenging for our health. The trick is to eat them as close to their natural form as possible with a suitable means of cooking like boiling and/or steaming.
5. One can always add spices & condiments to any recipe to enhance the flavor without adding any extra calories.
6. Even during pandal hopping, one can easily eat the special Navratri thali and enjoy it; only it should be eaten during the day to allow the ample body time to digest it. This should then be followed by a light evening meal of fruit chaat or salads.
In fact, if one was to observe carefully, all these special Thalis always contain lots of fruits, salads, and curd, this is done to balance out the richness of the heavy food like puris, etc.
There is no harm in eating food and enjoying, but one should always use one’s own wisdom to decide the amount and frequency of such meals so that the body is not punished in any way.
The whole ambiance during these days is that of festivities and is abounding with the divine presence. So, given added divine presence during these days, one can try to set a goal and try to achieve it with will power. This goal can be pertaining to any aspect of life, not only food intake; this is the time to bring about a complete positive change in the body and the mind.
It is a matter of faith that one needs to balance, with the temptation of delicious fried food. We can think of any objective and start working towards it diligently with the blessings of the goddess.