Upvaas (Religious Vows) this Sanskrit word is really made up of 2 elements ‘Up’ meaning near and ‘Vaas’ meaning staying or residing. This means that staying near to god or rather experiencing continuously beatitude of God is known as Upvaas. One has to practice severe austerities while observing these vows. They are control over taking (speech), control over the body and control over the mind. Simultaneously it is important that others are not troubled because of our actions. It is important for the person who takes such a vow to constantly meditate and contemplate on god throughout the stipulated period.
Rules and regulations devised by our scriptures are known as vows to be followed and this itself is penance. Some important rules to be followed by the person who observes vows are as follows. Firstly the person should perform prayers (Sandhya) thrice a day and should also bathe thrice a day. He should have total control over his senses and should sleep on the floor. He should avoid talking to women and people of impure unmoral nature. It is important that sanctity is maintained and he should perform Yagna (religious sacrifices) everyday.
The person observing vows should not shave his head. If he does so he should repeat the same vow again. He should avoid eating of horse-beans, lentil, grams, kodo (a type of grain eaten by poor), alcohol and spinach like vegetables. He should avoid taking food in copper vessel and should also avoid food attended by others. Usage of flowers, ornaments, new clothes, incense perfumes, toothpaste and collyrium applied to eyes is not recommended. After taking Panchgavya (cow dung, cows milk, cows urine, curd and ghee) only should one observe such vows.
Eating more than once a day, eating of Paan (petal nut leaf), sleeping throughout the day and sex should be strictly avoided. Indulgence in either of above activity defeats the basic purpose of a religious vow. The ten common rules that apply to all religious vows are forgiveness, truthfulness, pity, offerings/donations, cleanliness/purity, control over sense, regular worshipping of god, religious sacrifices offered to the fire god (Yagya), contentment and abstinence from steady. Food taken once a day at the time of seeing the constellation is known as ‘Nakta Vrata (Vow)’, Food taken at night is not known as Nakta Vrata. Whilst observing the vow if women face problem of periods (menstruation) this does not lead to the dissolution of vow. In such cases women should get the worship of gods done or donation accomplished through someone else.
The greatness of religious vow lies in charity and alms giving and without charity never is a vow ever accomplished. After a vow is observed depending upon ones financial situations one should donate generously. In human life one should definitely donate their things i.e. gold, land and cows. Gold and land can never be destroyed, that is why it is beneficial. The greatness of a ‘cow’ is even the beyond the above two. A person who donates these three things is considered to be the donor of three worlds (Trailokya). As a result a person can be liberated from the cycle of life and death, and attains the highest level ‘Moksha’. Our scriptures also speak of the greatness of offering of food as charity.
In this manner a person observing religious vows, fasting and charity attains the highest sublime stage and enjoys tremendous happiness for crores of year after which he takes a birth in a very noble clan and attains Moksha. According to scientific point of view for the efficient working of the body mechanism it is imperative that one fasts at least once a week. Rules conduct devised by our scriptures are known as Vows to be observed. Religious vows are basically brief forms or expressions of penance. Usually the main purpose of these vows are, attainment of mental and spiritual energy, purity of mind and soul, improving one’s will, development of devotion and faith, cleaning or purity of ambience, sublimity of thought, purification of the same and finally improving one’s physical health.