Fasting in Navratri follows a practice of cleansing, and purifying one’s body and soul, which is believed to result in blessing a person with virtue.
During fasting in Navratri, only fruits, milk, potato and other root vegetables should be eaten. Grains are said to be avoided as it is assumed that grains absorb negative energies. Sendha namak (rock salt) is a significant ingredient used instead of common salt. Throughout the Navratri vrat (fasting), devotees evade non vegetarian food as Navratri is considered as a period of purity.
The festival of Navratri revolves around the three aspects of Goddess Shakti which are worshipped, with first three days devoted to Goddess Durga, followed by fourth, fifth and sixth days devoted to Goddess Lakshmi and last three days for Goddess Saraswati.
On the first day of the Navratras, a small bed of mud is made and barley seeds are sowed on it, and on the tenth day, the little shoots are pulled out and given to the devotees. The devotees observe fasting for seven to eight days, and break their fast on the eighth day (Ashtami) or ninth day (Navami) of the festival, by carrying out ‘Kanya Pujan’ or ‘Kanchika Pujan’. This involves worshipping and seeking blessings of nine young girls, representing the nine forms of Goddess Durga. The feet of the girls are washed, to welcome and pay reverence to the goddess. Then, the girls are offered food and gifts from the devotees.
Chanting of mantras, prayers and religious hymns (bhajans) related to the Goddess, form other religious practices and rituals of Navratri.