What is Nirjala Ekadashi?
Once Bhimasena, the younger brother of Maharaja Yudhisthira, asked the great
sage Sri Vyasadeva, if it is possible to return to the spiritual world
without having observed all the rules and regulations of the Ekadasi fasts.
Bhimasena said, "0 greatly intelligent maharishi, my brother Yudhisthira, my
dear mother Kunti, and my beloved wife Draupadi, as well as Arjuna, Nakula,
and Sahadeva, fast completely on Ekadasi and strictly follow all the rules
and regulations of that sacred day. Being very religious, they always tell
me that I should also fast on that day. But, O grandfather, I tell them that
I cannot live without eating, because hunger is unbearable to me. I give
widely in charity and worship Sri Ke§ava properly, but I cannot fast on
Ekadasi Please tell me how I can obtain the same result without fasting."
Hearing these words, Sri Vyasadeva replied, "If you want to go to the
heavenly planets and avoid the hellish planets, you should indeed observe a
fast on both the light and dark Ekadasis."
Bhima said, "O greatly intelligent maharishi, please listen to my plea. 0
greatest of munis, since I cannot live if I eat only once in a day, how can
I possibly live if I fast completely? Within my stomach burns a special fire
named vrka, the fire of digestion.' Only when I eat to my full satisfaction
does the fire in my stomach become satisfied. 0 great sage, I might possibly
be able to fast only once, so I beg you to tell me of an Ekadasi that
includes all other Ekadasis. I shall faithfully observe that fast and
hopefully still become eligible for liberation."
Sri Vyasadeva replied, "O king, you have heard from me about the various
kinds of occupational duties, such as elaborate Vedic ceremonies. In the
Kali-yuga, however, no one will be able to observe all these occupational
duties properly. I shall therefore tell you how, at practically no expense,
one can endure some small austerity and achieve the greatest benefit and
resultant happiness. The essence of what is written in the Vedic literatures
known as the Puranas is that one should not eat on either the dark- or
light-fortnight Ekadasis. One who fasts on Ekadasi is saved from going to
the hellish planets."
Hearing Vyasadeva's words, Bhimasena, the strongest of all warriors, became
frightened and began to shake like a leaf on a banyan tree in a strong wind.
The frightened Bhimasena said, "0 grandfather -- Maharishi, what should I
do? I am completely unable to fast twice a month throughout the year! Please
tell me of the one fasting day that will bestow the greatest benefit upon
Vyasadeva replied, "Without drinking even water, you should fast on the
Ekadasi that occurs during the light fortnight of the month of Jyestha, when
the sun travels in the sign of Gemini and Taurus. According to learned
personalities, on this day one may bathe and perform acamana for
purification. But while performing acamana one may drink only that amount of
water equal to a drop of gold, or that amount which a single mustard seed
can be immersed in. Only this amount of water should be placed in the palm,
which one should form to resemble a cow's ear. If one drinks more water than
this, he might as well have drunk wine.
"One must certainly not eat anything, for if he does so he breaks his fast.
This rigid fast is in effect from sunrise on Ekadasi to sunrise on Dvadasi.
If a person endeavors to observe this great fast very strictly, he easily
achieves the results of observing all twenty-four Ekadasi fasts throughout
the entire year.
"On Dvadasi. the devotee should bathe early in the morning. Then, according
to the prescribed rules and regulations, and depending on his ability, he
should give some gold and water to worthy brdhmanas. Finally, he should
cheerfully honor prasadam with a brahmana.
"0 Bhimasena, one who can fast on this special Ekadasi in this way reaps the
benefit of having fasted on every Ekadasi during the year. There is no doubt
of this. O Bhima, now hear the specific merit one gets by fasting on this
Ekadasi. The Supreme Lord Kesava, who holds a conch, disc, club, and lotus,
personally told me, 'Everyone should take shelter of Me and follow My
instructions.' Then He told me that one who fasts on this Ekadasi. without
drinking water or eating, becomes free of all sinful reactions, and that one
who observes the difficult nirjala fast on Jyestha-sukla Ekadasi. truly
reaps the benefit of all other Ekadasi fasts.
"0 Bhimasena, in the Kali-yuga, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy, when all
the principles of the Vedas will have been destroyed or greatly minimized,
and when there will be no proper charity or observance of the ancient Vedic
principles and ceremonies, how will there be any means of purifying the
self? But there is the opportunity to fast on Ekadasi and become free of all
one's past sins.
"0 son of Vayu, what more can I say to you? You should not eat during the
dark and light Ekadasis, and you should even give up drinking water on the
particularly auspicious day of Jyestha-sukla Ekadasi. 0 Vrkodara, whoever
fasts on this Ekadasi receives the merits of bathing in all the places of
pilgrimage, giving all kinds of charities, and fasting on all the dark and
light Ekadasis, Of this there is no doubt. 0 tiger among men, whoever fasts
on this Ekadasi. truly becomes a great person and achieves all wealth,
grains, strength, and health. And at the fearful moment of death, the
terrible Yamadutas, whose complexions are yellow and black and who brandish
huge clubs and twirl mystic pass ropes in the air, will refuse to approach
him. Rather, such a faithful soul will at once be taken to the supreme abode
of Lord Visnu by the Visnudutas, whose transcendentally beautiful forms are
clothed in gorgeous yellowish garments and who each hold a disk, club,
conch, and lotus in their four hands. It is to gain all these benefits that
one should certainly fast on this very important Ekadasi, even from water."
When the other Pandavas heard about the benefits to be gained by following
Jyestha-sukla Ekadasi. they resolved to observe it exactly as Sri Vyasadeva
had explained it to their brother, Bhimasena. All the Pandavas observed it
by refraining from eating or drinking anything, and thus this day is known
as Pandavanirjala Dvadagi.
Sri Vyasadeva continued, "0 Bhima, therefore you should observe this
important fast to remove all your past sinful reactions. You should pray to
the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna, in this way: '0 Lord of
all the demigods, 0 Supreme Personality of Godhead, today I shall observe
Ekadasi without taking any water. 0 unlimited Ananta, I shall break fast on
the next day, Dvadasi.' Thereafter, to remove all his sins, the devotee
should honor this Ekadasi fast with full faith in the Lord and with full
control of his senses. Whether his sins are equal in volume to Mount Sumeru
or to Mandaracala Hill, if he or she observes this Ekadasi, the sins all
become nullified and are burned to ashes. Such is the great power of this
"0 best of human beings, although a person should also give water and cows
in charity during this Ekadasi if for some reason or other he cannot, then
he should give a qualified brBJzmana some cloth or a pot filled with water.
Indeed, the merit achieved by giving water alone equals that gained by
giving gold ten million times a day.
"0 Bhima, Lord Sri Krsna has said that whoever observes this Ekadasi should
take a holy bath, give charity to a worthy person, chant the Lord's holy
names on a japa-mala, and perform some kind of recommended sacrifice, for by
doing these things on this day one receives imperishable benefits. There is
no need to perform any other kind of religious duty. Observance of this
Ekadasi fast alone promotes one to the supreme abode of Sri Visnu. 0 best of
the Kurus, if one donates gold, cloth, or anything else on this day, the
merit one obtains is imperishable.
"Remember, whoever eats any grains on Ekadasi becomes contaminated by sin
and verily eats only sin. In effect, he has already become a dogeater, and
after death he suffers a hellish existence. But he who observes this sacred
Jyestha-sukla Ekadasi and gives something in charity certainly achieves
liberation from the cycle of repeated birth and death and attains to the
supreme abode. Observing this Ekadasi, which is merged with Dvadasi, frees
one from the horrible sin of killing a brahmana, drinking liquor and wine,
becoming envious of one's spiritual master and ignoring his instructions,
and continually telling lies.
"Furthermore, O best of beings, any man or woman who observes this fast
properly and worships the Supreme Lord Jalasayi [He who sleeps on the
water], and who on the next day satisfies a qualified brahmana with nice
sweets and a donation of cows and money-such a person certainly pleases the
Supreme Lord Vasudeva, so much so that one hundred previous generations in
his family undoubtedly go to the Supreme Lord's abode, even though they
might have been very sinful, of bad character, and guilty of suicide.
Indeed, one who observes this Ekadasi rides on a glorious celestial airplane
[vimana] to that abode.
"One who on this day gives a brahmana a waterpot, an umbrella, or shoes
surely goes to heaven. Indeed, he who simply hears these glories also
attains to the transcendental abode of the Supreme Lord, Sri Visnu. Whoever
performs the sraddha ceremony to the forefathers on the darkmoon day called
amavasya, particularly if it occurs at the time of a solar eclipse,
undoubtedly achieves great merit. But this same merit is achieved by him who
simply hears this sacred narration-so powerful and so dear to the Lord is
"One should clean his teeth properly and, without eating or drinking,
observe this Ekadasi to please the Supreme Lord, Kesava. On the day after
Ekadasi one should worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His form as
Trivikrama by offering Him water, flowers, incense, and a brightly burning
lamp. Then the devotee should pray from the heart: '0 God of gods, 0
deliverer of everyone, 0 Hrsikesa, master of the senses, kindly bestow upon
me the gift of liberation, though I can offer you nothing greater than this
humble pot filled with water.' Then the devotee should donate the waterpot
to a brahmana.
"0 Bhimasena, after observing this Ekadasi fast and donating the recommended
items according to his ability, the devotee should feed brahmanas and
thereafter honor prasadam silently."
Sri Vyasadeva concluded, "I strongly urge you to fast on this auspicious,
purifying, sin-devouring Dvadasi in just the way I have outlined. Thus you
will be completely freed of all sins and reach the supreme abode."
Ekadasi (From Vaisnava text)
The importance of Ekadasi for worshippers of Sriman Narayana cannot be emphasized enough. Ekadasi is also called "Hari-Vasara" (Lord Hari's day).
All our elders have steadfastly observed the Ekadasi-Dwadasi vratam or "Upavasam" on this sacred day. Upa means near and Vasam means stay. Stay close to Hari contemplating on His kalyana gunas. This is the summum bonum of Ekadasi vratam.
Do we need to fast on Ekadasi
Since upavasam does not (directly) connote fasting, a question may be asked as to the need to fast on Ekadasi. Shastras give unequivocal answers. The following quotes from our shastras should clear any doubts in this regard:
ekAdashyAM tu yo bhuN^kte mohenAvR^itachetasaH |
shuklAyAmatha kR^ishhNAyAM nirayaM yAti sa dhruvam.h
One who eats on ekAdashI on account of an intellect clouded by delusion; be it the shukla- or the kR^ishhNa-paxa, (s) he goes to hell, this is certain.
ashhTavarshhAdhiko yastu ashItirnahi pUryate
yo bhuN^kte mAnavaH pApo vishhNorahani chAgate
One who is greater than eight years of age, but has indeed not completed eighty; the human who eats when Vishnu's day arrives, consumes verily sin itself.
In addition, several scientific findings go to prove the benefits of fasting on one's health. This should further reinforce one's determination to fast.
How to break your fast on Dwadasi
Timely breaking of the fast on Dwadasi is as important as observing the fast on Ekadasi. Normally, the fast must be broken before trayOdasi arrives. If there is insufficient time, the fasting can be broken with water. From the ShastrAs we find:
pArayitvodakenApi bhuJNjano naiva dushhyati |
ashitAnashitA yasmAdApo vidvadbhirIritAH |
aMbhasA kevalenaiva karishhye vratapAraNam.h
[If there is insufficient time] there is no flaw if water is consumed for pAraNe; for it is stated by the learned that water has the property that when consumed, it is still as if one has not consumed; thus, with only water, do I perform the ceremonial paraNe. If there is not enough time for a proper pAraNe, then the fast may be broken merely by sipping water; there is no flaw of multiple pAraNe-s on this account, as the wise have decreed that such a procedure does not count as multiple pAraNe-s. Having performed the ceremonial pAraNe in this manner, one may have a proper meal later, although the time later may not be appropriate for pAraNe itself.
dvAdashI na pramoktavyA yAvadAyuH pravartate |
archanIyo hR^ishhIkesho vishuddhenAntarAtmanA
The dvAdashI is not to be neglected, as long as life goes on; Hrshikesha is to be worshipped [for so long] with a clean psyche. Concerning the food for Dwadasi pAranE, one should avoid using anything related to plantains (vazhai kaay, ilai etc.), also avoid chilies and tamarind. One can substitute pepper for chilies and lemon or dry mango powder for tamarind. Include sundaikaay , nellikaay, and akathik keerai.
An Instance from the Life of Swami Desika
Swami Desikan, who we all know lived a full veda prayam, in his old age was observing Ekadasi vratam. The head priest of the Sri Ranganatha temple seeing swami in a very weak condition offered him the koil prasadam and told Swami that Lord Ranganatha Himself had ordered him to offer the prasadam. To this Swami replied that the Lord would not have said that and politely refused to partake the prasadam. Such was the steadfastness of our Acharya in observing the sastraic codes.
Ekadasi – Supreme of all Vratas
There is a saying that: " Na DwadasyAt param Vratam". Therefore observing the Ekadasi vratam is equivalent to performing many Yagnyas. Most of us are familiar with the story of Ambarisha. What's more, one becomes dear to our Lord Narayana.
ekAdashIsamutthena vahninA pAtakendhanam.h |
bhasmIbhavati rAjendra api janmashatodbhavam.h
With the ekAdashI as fire, and sin as fuel; [the latter] gets incinerated, O King, even if it be obtained of hundreds of lifetimes (From Bhaghavatam). Therefore, while other actions can bring some benefits, none of them quite matches up to the power of an ekAdashI in terms of removing the accumulation of sins, which brings one misery.
To find out dates for Nirjala Ekadasi please visit Hindu festivals dates for different cities in the world
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