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Symbolism and Meaning of Vrat in Hinduism

Today, vrat in Hinduism is religious fasting. It is performed for desire fulfillment. The desire can be materialistic or spiritual. Some perform it for early marriage, some for a job, some for the cure of a life-threatening disease, some to beget healthy children. There are numerous reasons today for performing vrat and majority of them are meant to achieve happiness by external means.

Today, two terms Vrat and Upvaas have the same meaning. They are used to mean the same thing.

Symbolically vrat is more of preparation. Various methods are adopted by a devotee to purify his mind and body. So that the devotee is ready and prepared to accept the higher knowledge.

This higher knowledge is within us. But we are not able to access it because it is covered with ignorance. There are layers of ignorance and we have to remove them to see the light of knowledge. Vrat is this removal of ignorance.

Vrat is also following Dharma. All forms of disorder and confusion are shed. Senses are kept in total control. The outward-looking mind is disciplined and taught to look inward.

Vrata is derived from the verbal root vr, meaning ‘to choose.’ There is a freedom in Vrata. It is for the devotee to decide which path is to be chosen.

Mukti is the goal of Vrata – mukti is liberation from the cycle of birth and death. This can happen only when ignorance is weeded out. Knowledge of self-realization is to be planted in the mind and tended. Thus, vrata is planting and growing knowledge essential for liberation.

Vrat is also the resolve to follow a particular path and the greatest among them is to follow the path of truth. Next is to follow the path of non-violence. This non-violence include both physical and mental. All forms of non-violent thoughts are rejected.

Thus Vrat is any method that a person uses to attain self-realization.

Vrat is the various methods used by a devotee to remove all that is standing between the devotee and self-realization.