What is Shayana Ekadashi / Sayana Ekadasi?
The saintly king Yudhishthira Maharaj said, "Oh Keshava, what is the name of
that EkAdasii that occurs during the light fortnight of the month of AshADha
(June – July)? Who is the worshippable Deity for the auspicious day, and
what is the process for observing this event?"
Lord Sri Krishna replied, "Oh caretaker of this Earthly planet, I shall
gladly tell you a wonderful historical event that the deva lord BrahmA once
narrated to his son NArad Muni.
One day NArad Muni asked his father, 'What is the name of the EkAdasii
that comes during the light part of the month of AshADha', much as you did?
'Kindly tell me how I should observe this EkAdasii and thus please the
Supreme Lord, Sri Vishnu.'
Lord BrahmA replied, 'Oh great saintly orator, O best of all sages, Oh
purest devotee of Lord Vishnu, your question is as usual excellent for all
mankind. There is nothing better than EkAdasii, the day of Lord Sri Hari, in
this or any other world. It nullifies even the worst sins if observed
properly. For this reason I shall tell you about this AshADha-shukla
'Fasting on this EkAdasii purifies one of all sins and fulfills all ones
desires. Therefore, whoever neglects to observe this sacred fast day is a
good candidate for entering into hell. AshADha-shukla EkAdasii is also
famous as PadmA EkAdasii. Just to please the Supreme Lord Hrishikesha, the
master of the senses, one should fast on this day. Listen carefully, Oh
NArad, as I relate to you a wonderful historical event that was recorded in
the scriptures regarding this EkAdasii. Just hearing this account destroys
all kinds of sins, along with all obstacles on the path to spiritual
'Oh son, there was once a saintly king in the Surya Vamsha (Sun dynasty)
whose name was MAndhAtA. Because he always stood up for the truth, he was
appointed emperor. He took care of his subjects as though they were his very
own family members and children. On account of his piety and great
religiosity, there was no pestilence, drought, or disease of any kind in his
entire kingdom. All his subjects were not only free of all kinds of
disturbances but also were very wealthy. The king's own treasury was free of
any ill-gotten moneys, and thus he ruled happily for many years.
'Once, however, because of some sin in his kingdom, there was a drought
for three years. The subjects found themselves beset by famine also. The
lack of food grains made it impossible for them to perform the prescribed
Vedik sacrifices, offer oblations of grita (ghee) to their forefathers and
to the devas, engage in any ritualistic worship, or even study the Vedik
literatures. Finally, they all came before their beloved king in a great
assembly and addressed him thus, 'Oh king, you always see to our welfare, so
we humbly beg your assistance now. Everyone and everything in this world
needs water. Without water, almost everything is rendered useless or dead.
The Vedas call water nAra, and because the Supreme Personality of Godhead
sleeps upon water, His another name is NArAyana. God makes His own abode on
water and takes His rest there.
It is said that three things cannot exist without water; pearls, human
beings, and flour. The essential quality of a pearl is its luster, and that
is due to water. The essence of a man is his semen, whose main constituent
is water. And without water, flour cannot be made into dough and then be
cooked into various forms of bread, offered and eaten. Sometimes water is
called jala-nArAyaNa, the Supreme Lord in the form of this life sustaining
substance – water.
In His form as the clouds, the Supreme Lord is present throughout the sky
and pours forth rains, from which grow the grains that maintain every living
Oh king, the severe drought has caused a great lack of valuable grains;
thus we are all miserable, and the population is decreasing as people die
off or leave your kingdom. Oh best ruler on Earth, please find some
solutions to this problem and bring us to peace and prosperity once again.
The king replied, "You speak the truth, for grains are like Brahman, the
Absolute Truth, who lives within grains and thereby sustains all beings.
Indeed, it is because of grains that the entire world lives. Now, why is
there a terrible drought in our kingdom? The Holy Scriptures discuss this
subject very thoroughly. If a king (or head of the country) is irreligious,
both he and his subjects suffer. I have meditated upon the cause of our
problem for a long time, but after searching my past and present character I
can honestly say that I find no sin. Still, for the good of all your
subjects, I shall try to remedy the situation.
Thinking in this way, King MAndhAtA assembled his army and entourage. Paid
his obeisances to me, and then entered the forest. He wandered here and
there, seeking great sages in their Ashrams and inquiring about how to
resolve the crisis in his kingdom. At last he came upon the ashram of one of
my other sons, AngirA Muni, whose effulgence lit up all directions. Seated
in his hermitage, AngirA looked like a second BrahmA. King MAndhAtA was very
pleased to see that exalted sages, whose senses were completely under
The king immediately dismounted his horse and offered his respectful
obeisances at the lotus feet of AngirA Muni. Then the king joined his palms
and prayed for the Muni's blessings. That saintly person reciprocated by
blessing the king with sacred mantras; then he asked him about the welfare
of the seven limbs of his kingdom. The seven limbs of a king's domain are
the king himself; the ministers; his treasury; his military forces; his
allies; the brahmins; the sacrificial performances performed in the kingdom
and the needs of the subjects under his care.
After telling the sage how the seven limbs of his kingdom were situated,
King MAndhAtA asked the sage about his own situation, and if he was happy.
Then AngirA Muni asked the king why he had undertaken such a difficult
journey into the forest, and the king told him of the affliction his kingdom
was suffering. The king said, "Oh great sage, I am ruling and maintaining my
kingdom while following the Vedik injunctions, and thus I do not know the
reason for the drought. To solve this mystery, I have approached you for
help. Please help me relieve the suffering of my subjects.
ANgira Rishi said tot he king, 'The present age, Satya yuga, is the best
of all ages, for in this age Dharma stands on all four legs (Truthfulness,
Austerity, Mercy, and Cleanliness). In this age everyone respects Brahmins
as the topmost members of society. Also, everyone fulfills his occupational
duties, and only twice-born Brahmins are allowed to perform Vedik
austerities and penances. Although this is a standard, Oh lion among kings,
there is one shudra (uninitiated, untrained person) who is thus unlawfully
performing the rites of austerity and penance in your kingdom. This is why
there is no rain in your land. You should therefore punish this labourer
with death, for by so doing you will remove the contamination inflicted by
his actions and restore peace to your subjects.
The king then replied, "How can I kill an offenseless performer of
austerity and sacrifice? Please give me some spiritual solution."
The great sage ANgirA Muni then said, "Oh king, you should observe a fast
on the EkAdasii that occurs during the light fortnight of the month of
AshADha. This auspicious day is named PadmA EkAdasii, and by its influence
plentiful rains and thus grains and other foodstuffs will surely return to
your kingdom. This EkAdasii bestows perfection upon its faithful observers,
removes all kinds of bad elements, and destroys all obstacles on the path to
perfection. Oh king, you, your relatives, and your subjects should all
observe this sacred EkAdasii fast. Then everything in your kingdom will
undoubtedly return to normal.
Upon hearing these words, the king offered his obeisances and then
returned to his palace. When the PadmA EkAdasii arrived, King MAndhAtA
assembled all the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and shudras in his kingdom
and instructed them to strictly observe this important fast day. After they
had observed it, the rains fell, just as the sage had predicted, and in due
course of time there were abundant crops and a rich harvest of grain. By the
mercy of the Supreme Lord Hrishikesha, the master of the senses, all the
subjects of King MAndhAtA became extremely happy and prosperous.
Therefore, Oh Narada, everyone should observe this EkAdasii fast very
strictly, for it bestows all kinds of happiness, as well as ultimate
liberation, upon the faithful devotee'
Lord Sri Krishna concluded, "My dear Yudhishthira, PadmA Ekadasi is so
powerful that one who simply reads or hears its glories becomes completely
sinless. Oh PANDava, one who wishes to please Me should strictly observe
this EkAdasii, which is also known as Deva-sayani EkAdasii
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.
When is Shayana Ekadashi / Sayana Ekadasi in 2008?
USA / Canada (Hawali, Alaska, Pacific Time Zones): Smarta and Vaishnava: July 13th 2008
USA / Canada (Mountain, Central, Eastern Time Zones):Smarta and Vaishnava: July 13th 2008
West Indies:Smarta and Vaishnava: July 13th 2008
Europe: Smarta and Vaishnava: July 13th 2008
Gulf Countries: Smarta and Vaishnava: July 13th 2008
India: Smarta and Vaishnava: July 13th 2008
India (Eastern States): Smarta: July 13th 2008, and Vaishnava: July 14th 2008
Bangla Desh / Burma/ Singapore: Smarta: July 13th 2008, and Vaishnava: July 14th 2008
Malayasia, China, Australia, Japan: Smarta and Vaishnava: July 14th 2008
Fiji: Smarta June 29th and Vaishnava: July 14th 2008
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