Vrata is a Sanskrit word that means "vow, resolve, devotion",and refers to pious observances such as fasting and pilgrimage. This is particularly common among women, and typically accompanied with prayers seeking health, wealth, happiness, fertility, long life for her loved ones and self.
Rotation is the inherent nature of the earth. This rotation constantly brings about changes. For example, day and night are caused due to rotation of the earth about itself. Its revolution around the sun is responsible for the various seasons. Vrata have thus been recommended to help the body and mind to adapt to these changes.
Merely to observe the regulations regarding fasting is not a Vrat but proper conduct, love, disciplines, honesty, good manners, non-stealing, truth, non-violence, unselfishness etc and with firmness of purpose to take a vow to practice these virtues, is also called a Vrat. The greatest Vrat is with resoluteness of purpose, to eliminate from our lives demoniac tendencies and to acquire devine qualities.
Vrat bestows all kinds of advantage at the physical and spiritual levels. During the observance of Vrat, one either completely abstains from food, or partly abstains from food and this gives physiological rest to the digestive apparatus, which in turn awakens and increases the digestive power, leading to ease of digestion and purification of the mind. The basis of all these is depend on healthy digestive apparatus and purity of mind. The physical body of a person who regularly observes Vrat remains free of disease. Vrat helps to prepare the proper mental ground work for contemplation and meditation. The preceptors of our religion have woven stories and morals around Vrat that inspire us and help us make our lives full of strength, confidence and virtues.
Today, unfortunately, people listen to the stories for their entertainment values and do not attempt to understand the significance that lies buried within the stories and also do not apply their teachings in their lives.
People keep fast on Sundays in the name of God Surya (Aditya). It is believed that a fast on a Sunday saves one from skin diseases like leprosy, ringworm, and eyesores. Devotees usually observes fast on the day only take a meal at once in a day. Foods that contains oil and salt will be avoided.
Fast on Monday is observed to please Lord Shiva. In Monday fast, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati are worshipped. Vrat is good in Medam, Edavam, Chingam, Vrichikam months. Panchakshara chanting, take food only once a day. People who is facing obstacles in married life or facing delays in marriage can observe Monday Vrat. Fasting on Mondays is also beneficial for accomplishing the wish of getting a desired partner, Good for husband and for getting male child.
Tuesday is dedicated to many deities like Lord Ganesha, Murugan, Goddess Durga, Kali and Lord Hanuman. Peoples on Vrat go to the respective temple and have food without salt in the evening.
Thursday is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and his incarnations. Pujas can be done by using milk, ghee etc. You can take a meal at once in a day. Reading Bhagavat Geetha on that day is highly rewarded.
Friday is dedicated to Mother Goddess Mahalakshmi, Annapuraneshwari and Durga. Peoples fast on this day either fully or fast one time (do not skip evening food) and reads Ashtalakshmi stotram, Gayatri mantra etc and go to temples. Distributing sweets to others on that day is a good thing.
Saturday is dedicated to Shani Deva Sastha. People fasts and visit to Sastha (Ayyappa) temple or Shani temple or Navagraha temples. Persons affected with ashtama sani and 71/2 years shani fasts to Lord Shani. Must practice one meal only that day.
Thiruvathira is a festival falling in the winter month of Dhanu. The 'Thiruvathira Star' of the month 'Dhanu' is believed as the 'Birth Star' of Lord Shiva and considered very sacred in all Shiva temples and by the devotees. Thiruvathira is a festival of importance to the women. The ladies believe that by observing the Thiruvathira Vrat those who are not married will get a good husband and the husbands of those who are married will acquire good habits. It is a day and night festival for the ladies. On the Thiruvathira day the women of Kerala do a kind of semi fast (or in some cases they may fast completely) not take food made out of rice.
Ekadasi occurs twice in a month one of the 11th day of shukla paksha and another one on the 11th day of krishna paksha. Hence there are twenty five Ekadasis in a year. Ekadashi day is meant for fasting and people observe a complete fast on this day, to please Lord Maha Vishnu. Observing Ekadasi Vratham enhances spiritual development.
Take a single meal on the Dasami day, the day before Ekadasi. Ekadashi fast begins on the day before the Ekadasi, on the Dashami, continues on the day of Ekadasi and ends on the Dvadasi, the day after Ekadasi. We could Visit Vishnu temple. Then complete fasting/Upavasam on the day is the main observance. If complete fasting is not possible due to health condition even partial fasting could be done. One should avoid consuming grains, beans, cereals, certain vegetables and spices on the day. Foods allowed when partial fasting on Ekadasi include fruits, milk, nuts and root vegetables.
On Ekadasi day avoid day time nap/sleep. Ekadasi involves some strict regulations on food and sleep. The person should engage himself/herself in chanting, hearing and reading and discussing the stories/history of the Lord and involve in other spiritual services.