The monthly Hindu calendar is divided into two phases the Waxing Moon phase or Shukla Paksha and the Waning Moon Phase or Krishna Paksha. On the eleventh (11th) day of the Krishna Paksha as well as the Shukla Paksha is known as Ekadashi. Therefore, there are 24 Ekadashis in a year, which have different names. Observing fast on the day of Ekadashi is a common practice among the people of India and more so for all the devotees of Lord Vishnu. As is well known, Lord Vishnu is one of the Divine Trinity and is the preserver and protector of the Universe and He manifested in 10(ten) different avatars, among which Lord Sri Krishna and Lord Rama are very popular. Ekadashi fasting is supposed to be a favourite of Lord Vishnu and so His devotees observe fast on the days of Ekadashi every month.
It is said that fasting on Ekadashi, by following the rules meticulously is so powerful that it extricates the devotee of all the sins and earn a place at Lord Vishnu’s Lotus feet in His abode.
The merits of Ekadashi has been narrated by Lord Sri Krishna, Himself,in the Puranas (ancient Hindu texts) and He has mentioned that observing fast in Ekadashi is much greater than the AshwamedhYajna(Horse sacrifice), charity of cows or charity of food/food grains or any of the best of deeds or religious rituals one can perform. Lord Krishna also has specified that even reading or hearing about the Ekadashis, the stories leading to each Ekadashi, the merits etc, can eradicate sins.
The Devshayani Ekadashi has special significance among all the Ekadashis for the devotees of Lord Vishnu. Devshayani Ekadashi falls on the eleventh lunar day (Ekadashi) of the Shukla Paksha (bright fortnight) in the month of Ashadha (as per Hindu calendar) which coincides with the month of (June –July). Dev means God and ‘shayani’ implies sleeping. On this Ekadashi Lord Vishnu, is believed to go to sleep in the cosmicocean of milk ’Ksheersagar’ on His serpent ‘Shesh Naga’ for the 4 months, which are monsoon season of India and wakes up from His on Prabodhini Ekadashi/ DevotthaniEkadashiwhich falls in the Hindu month of Kartik(October-November). The four months of Lord Hari’s sleep is known as ‘Chaturmas’ and as a rule, no auspicious ceremonies, like wedding or other such things can be performed during this period, since with the Lord and Devas or Demi Gods sleep at this time, they cannot be invoked for ceremonies.
Devshayani Ekadashi is also called Padma Ekadashi, HariShayaniEkadashi, Prathama Ekadashi, DevShayani Ekadashi, Devpodhi Ekadashi, Maha Ekadashi and VaishnavaEkadashi. The Vaishnav community regard Devshayani Ekadashi very highly and religiously follow the fasting and other rules.
- Purifies all sins and bestows perfection
- Destroys all obstacles from life
- Blesses with good health
- Makes devotee fearless by removing fears of untimely death and accidents
- Instils sense of responsibility in individual
- Blesses with salvation
Story of Padma Ekadashi/ Devshayani Ekadashi:-
Once there was a Suryavanshi King called Mandhata who was truthful, pure in heart and mind, religious, caring and a good King. Because of his qualities he was fortunate to have been blessed with a kingdom bereft of disease, drought etc and citizens of his kingdom were quite wealthy.
But once King Mandata’s kingdom faced a severe drought of three years. The citizens in their misery approached the King and told them about having no food grains and nothing to even perform a sacrifice ritual to bring in the rains. So the King in order to find a solution to the plight of his subjects wandered the forests for a wise Sage who would give him a solution. Finally he met the sage Angira Rishi and told him that inspite of walking on the path of Dharma his kingdom was suffering a drought and asked for a solution. The great sage Angira informedthe King that there is a Sudra(uninitiated people) who is performing some penance which is the cause of the drought, and asked the King to find him out and kill the Sudra. But the King refused to do that as the person was not in fault. King Mandata asked for a spiritual solution. The sage then advised him to observe fast on DehvshayaniEkadsi/ Padma Ekadashi and not only him. Angira Muni also asked King Mandata that his citizens of the kingdom should also observe the fast and the rules of the fast on Padma Ekadashi and then rain will come.
Happy to get a solution, King Mandata returned to his kingdom and announced that everyone will have to observe a fast strictly. On Padma Ekadashi/ Devshayani Ekadashi, The King and all the citizens observed the fast meticulously. As was predicted by Angira Rishi, the rains came and soon there was an abundance of crops and the kingdom flourished once more by the grace of Lord Vishnu.
What to do on Devshayani Ekadashi
On Devshayani Ekadashi the devotees bathe in the morning and start the fast and abstain from eating or drinking anything till the next morning, which is Dwadasi(12th. day).
Staying awake at night on Ekadsi is a must. Chanting of Lord Vishnu’s name and singing Bhajans (devotional hymns or songs) through the night of the Lord is also a part of observing the Devshayani Ekadashi.
Idols of Lord Vishnu is bathed with Panchamrit which is a mixture of milk, curd, honey, ghee and water(preferably Gangajal).
Flowers, incense, Tulsi leaves, Kumkum/Roli, sandalwood paste, a hand-fan and sweets and other ‘Naivedyam’ are offered to Lord Hari.
Devotees also visit temples of Lord Vishnu to pay their obeisance and also donate food and clothes to the Brahmans.
Charity to the needy in Devshayani Ekadashi holds its own importance too.
As a rule, abstinence from sex, gambling, drinking alcohol, speaking ill of others etc. is followed. No grains, beans, meat, onion, garlic to be eaten. Sleeping during the day is prohibited too.
The Vaishnavs who worship only Lord Vishnu consider the Devshayani Ekadashi very significant and observe the fast and rules, after all it is the day when the Chaturmas starts and the Lord will be sleeping for four months.