Vaikunta Ekadasi

Significance of Vaikunta Ekadasi
Vishnu Vaikunta EkadasiVaikunta Ekadasi is an important festival dedicated to Bhagvan Srihari Vishnu in the Tamil month of Margazhi (December-January). Vaikunda Ekadesi festival is of great significance at the Tirupati Balaji Temple, Srirangam Sri Ranganatha Temple and at the Bhadrachalam Temple. In Kerala, it is known as Swarga Vathil Ekadashi. Next Vaikunta Ekadasi date is December 21, 2015. In United States, Vaikunta Ekadasi is on December 21. In Australia, it is on December 22, 2015.

The significance of Vaikunta Ekadasi can be traced back to the Padma Purana. The Purana indicates that Bhagvan Vishnu took the form of ‘Ekadasi’ – female energy – to kill demon Muran. This happened during the month of Margazhi. Impressed by ‘Ekadasi,’ Vishnu told her that whoever worships him on this day will reach ‘Vaikunta’ (heaven).

Like all Ekadasi days, devotees fast on this day and observe vigil the whole night. Some people indulge in meditation, Japa and singing of Hari Kirtan. Rice is avoided during ekadashi days as it is believed that the demon Mura finds a dwelling in the rice eaten on Ekadasi day.

It is widely believed that the gates to the heaven open - the Gate of Vaikuntha - on the Vaikunta Ekadasi day. It is one of the most auspicious days in Vishnu Temples in South India. The ‘Vaikunta Dwaram’ or ‘the gate to the heaven’ is opened on this day. This is the passage encircling the innermost sanctum of the Lord. Scores of devotees queue up to pass through the Gate of Vaikunta in the temples.

Vaikunta Ekadasi occurs in December or early January. Ekadashi is mentioned in a number of Puranas. It is associated with Lord Vishnu and ‘Haribhakti Vilas’ talks in detail about its importance. Today, in Hindu religion Ekadasi has come to mean a day to fast. It falls on the 11th day of every lunar fortnight and thus there are two Ekadashi in a month. It is also known as ‘Harivasara’ and ‘Hari din.’ Several Puranas including Padma Purana and Skanda Purana detail about the significance of Ekadeshi.

How to fast on Ekadashi?
How to observe ‘Ekadashi’ is clearly mentioned in ‘Harivasara.’ In modern day, many people will find it difficult to observe it in its entire strictness. But there are a large number of people who observe it. And there are numerous observations on what food one can have? There are also regional variations to the way in which the Ekadasi is observed. The preparation starts on Dasami day – a day before Ekadashi. The person observing Ekadashi should wake up early in the morning on Dasami day and should take bath and perform other daily routines. The person should mentally prepare for the Ekadashi. He/She should only have one meal on the Dasami day and should avoid salt. Alcohol, non-vegetarian food and sex should be avoided. Some Puranas say ‘dal’ and ‘honey’ should be avoided on Dasami day.

The next day, that is the Ekadashi day, is meant for total fasting. Praying to Vishnu is the order of the day. Some people avoid sleep during Ekadashi night and they hear religious discourses and perform ‘Arati.’ But many people today will not be able to stay awake the entire night due to work pressure etc.

The next day on Dwadasi – that is the day after Ekadeshi – the same routine done on Dasami is followed. Overeating should be avoided on Dwadasi day. Puranas state that one should not take pride in observing Ekadashi. The food on Dwadasi should be cooked in one’s house.

It is good to go on fast once in a while as it recuperates the body. Ekadashi observance cleans our body and the digestive organs get much needed rest. Those people suffering from ailments and on medications should take the advice of a doctor before fasting. Never torture your body in the name of religion. There is nothing wrong in having fruits or milk. And you can bring a certain amount of flexibility in the way it is observed.

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