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How to Fast on Ekadasi

Ekadasi (sometimes spelt Ekadashi) is a fast observed by both Hare Krishna devotees and Hindus on the eleventh day of the waxing moon. There are many rules regarding foods that can be consumed and differ depending on the strictness of the fast. A Vaishnava calendar should be consulted so individuals can fast on the correct day.

Rules for Observing Ekadasi Fast

Full fasting on Ekadasi is good practice in restraining the senses, though the main reason for observing the fast is to remember Krishna. The needs of the body are simplified on this day and it is advised to sleep less to concentrate on devotional service, read scriptures and chant.

The fast begins at sunrise and lasts until the next sunrise so if one eats grains during this period the fast is broken. It is not advised to eat in the pre-dawn hours in Vedic teachings, and especially not on ekadasi. Fasting should be followed from the time of waking on the ekadasi day. If the fast is accidentally broken, it should be followed for the rest of the day and the following day too.

Individuals whom are participating in a strict fast may not eat anything after sunset on the previous night to ensure there is no undigested food left in the stomach on Ekadasi. Many avoid eating any prasadam from an offering that includes grains. Vedic literature teaches that sin (papa-purusha) takes shelter in grains on Ekadasi, and therefore should be avoided in all forms (even if offered to Krishna). Ekadasi grain prasadam should be stored until the next day or can be distributed to persons not strictly following these regulations or to animals.

How to Break Ekadasi Fast

If a nirjala (complete fast without water) is observed then the fast does not have to be broken with grains on the following day. The fast can be broken with caranamrita (water from bathing Krishna’s feet), milk or fruit at the prescribed time outlined on the vaishnava calendar. This time will vary according to your location. If a partial Ekadasi fast is observed with fruit, vegetables, nuts etc. then it is necessary to break it with grains.

Foods That can be Eaten When Fasting on Ekadasi

Srila Prabhupada never imposed complete fasts for devotees and advised to eat simply on Ekadasi and concentrating on chanting and devotional service. The following foods and spices can be eaten when observing this fast:

  • All fruits (fresh and dried);
  • All nuts and nut oils;
  • All types of sugar;
  • Buckwheat;
  • Potatoes, cassava and sweet potatoes;
  • Coconut;
  • Olives;
  • Milk;
  • Fresh ginger;
  • Black pepper; and
  • Rock salt.

Restricted foods on Ekadasi

If even one grain is ingested, even accidentally, the Ekadasi fast is considered to be broken. Therefore great care is taken when cooking and spices are taken from a brand new package untouched by grains. The following foods must not be consumed on ekadasi:

  • All grains (e.g. millet, barley, farina, rice and urad dahl flour) and products derived from these ingredients;
  • Peas, chickpeas, dahl and all types of beans, including derived products such as tofu;
  • Salt, baking soda, baking powder, custard and many sweets are avoided as they are often mixed with rice powder;
  • Sesame seeds (except on Sat-tila Ekadasi, when sesame seeds may be offered as well as eaten); and
  • Spices such as asafetida, cloves, fenugreek, mustard, tamarind, fennel, cardamom and nutmeg.

Fasting on ekadasi is an important austerity followed by devotees of Krishna and is undertaken to increase spiritual development. It is better to eat a little of the allowed foods rather than fast completely and become too weak to fulfill your duties and devotional service.

- by Priya Chauhan

5 comments

  1. Please accept my Humble obeisances
    Hare Krishna Prabhuji
    PAMHO

    I really like this website and its really helpful in my service to Lord and Vaisnavas. Thanx for bestowing your mercy freely on ignorant people like me. I have bookmarked this wonderful devotional website. And would recommend it to many of my friends.
    Here in this blog on “Ekadashi”, I found one content which is confusing. I.e. ‘Carrot should not be taken on Ekadshi’. Please kindly provide me with reference to ISKCON founder Acarya: Srila Prabhupada’s statement regarding this. As far as my observation is concerned, we are not restricted Tomato nor carrot in our ISKCON centres. May be I am wrong. Please enlighten.

    Please tolerate my shortcomings in writing this. Your servant.
    Awaiting your reply.
    Hare Krishna

  2. I edited “carrot” from article. Thanks for pointing it. Here is one reference which give clear idea in regard to have it …

    In the Mahabharata it is said:

    astaitanya-vrataghnani apo mulam phalam payah
    to havir bráhmana-kamya ca guror vacanam ausadham
    ————– Mahabharata, Udyoga stack

    Meaning:
    “Following the eight things do not destroy the Ekadasi: Water, roots, fruits, milk, ghee, the request/desire of a brahmana, the order of a spiritual master and medicine do not wane one’s fast.

  3. thank you gaur gadaghar das prabhuji for sharing this link on iskocndesiretree.net
    This is a very wonderful website and all the articles are very enlighteening

    thank you

  4. Prabhuji
    Today I took a vow that I will take fast foods only once in a day but it is becoming unbearable so can I take it twice & then continue chanting
    Please give me a reply

    • Dear Rahul,
      Hare Krishna.
      Yes, you can do. Go slow and steady as you got into habit of it and your mind does not support you much.
      And please chant more so as your heart becomes more pure all unwanted habit will automatically disappear.
      Hare Krishna.