Last Updated: January 14, 2017

Definition - What does Vrata mean?

Vrata is a Sanskrit term that means “holy practice,” “custom,” “religious vow” and “pious observance.” In the context of yoga, vrata is the vow a yogi makes to strive to live in a state of samadhi, or oneness with the higher Self. In dualistic and ritualistic terms, vrata typically refers to an act of devotion, a duty or the following of a code of conduct to please or honor a deity.

The term comes from the Sanskrit root vr, meaning “rule,” “conduct” and “restraint,” and rta, which translates as “order” and “oath.”

Yogapedia explains Vrata

In Hinduism, a vrata is often a vow to abstain from eating, which is an especially popular custom among women. Although vratas are most commonly performed by married women, men and unmarried women do practice them as part of religious rites.

In Jainism, the vratas are divided into three categories:

  • Anu vratas – Also referred to as the “small vows” - these consist of ahimsa (non-harming), satya (truth), asteya (non-theft), brahmacharya (celibacy) and parigraha parimana (non-attachment to worldly possessions).
  • Guna vratas – Known as the “strengthening vows.”
  • Siksa vratas – These include the disciplinary vows and the vow of fasting.

The guna vratas and siksa vratas vary by tradition, so there is no single comprehensive list.

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