Fasting in Jainism

Fasting is very common among Jains and as a part of 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 Digambar 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. According to Jain texts, abstaining from the pleasures of the five senses such as sounds and dwelling in the self in deep concentration is fasting (upavāsa).[1]

Aims for fasting

Fasting can be done to purify both the body and the mind but fasts are also done as a penance.[2]


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)[3]

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)[3]

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.[4]

Types of fasting

There are several types of fasts:[5][6]

  • Upvas:[7] To give up only food for the whole day (starting from previous sunset to 2nd day sunrise - approximately 36 hours).
  • Chauvihar: No food or water after sunset till at least Navkarsi next day. Many Jains practise this daily. Many Jains leave food or water before forty-eight (48) minutes of sunset.
  • Partial fasting (unodar): 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 are fasts for months at a time.[2] Masakshaman: To give up food and water or only food continuously for a whole month.


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.[8][9] [2] This practice has been subject to ongoing debate by human rights experts.[2]



See also

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