Upavaasa is one of the significant rituals of the Hindu community across the world. It is also part of other religions though the methods and names differ. Upavaasa is derived from the Sanskrit words Upa and vaasa.
Upa means near and Vaasa means to stay. Upavaasa means to stay near to God mentally. However it is often associated with mere fasting. Upavaasa is not just mere fasting but fasting is one of the important aspects of Upavaasa.
Let us see how fasting helps us to stay near God. A lot of our time and energy is spent in preparing food , eating food and then digesting the food. Also certain types of food are known to increase the rajasic and tamasic qualities which are considered a hindrance to achieve a calm mind. Also our digestive system needs a rest once in a while to work at optimum level.
Hence fasting would calm down the mind and it would be easier to focus the mind on worship and meditation which would help us to stay near God. However complete abstinence from food for a long period is also not advised as the body requires energy to function. Hence not eating certain kinds of food or partial fasting is advised for the common man to help him focus on God.
Once the mind becomes tranquil, it would help to stay focused on the worship and then constant remembrance of the God would help to achieve the complete purpose of Upavaasa.