Vaikunta Ekadasi (Telugu: వైకుంట ఏకాదశి | Tamil: வைகுண்ட ஏகாதசி, | Hindi: पुत्रदा एकादसी) is on of the major Hindu festival in South India. It is also called as Mukkoti Ekadasi.
Vaikunta Ekadasi is an auspicious day which is observed in the name of Lord Vishnu , this falls on the 11th waxing Moon in the Tamil month of Margazhi or Telugu month of Dhanurmasam. In North India it is called as Putrada Ekadasi.
It is eternally the mythical abode of Maha Vishnu. He lives in a planet where trees, birds, flowers and other inhabitants live in harmony and in complete bliss. Everything there is beautiful and happiness is in the air. There is no discord among inhabitants; peace and kindness prevails among all. Only a spiritual soul on Earth can experience it. When your pure soul is united with your body you begin to walk the path to salvation. It is commonly believed that by praying to Vishnu on this day; you reserve a place in heaven.
Fasting on Vaikunta Ekadasi is equivalent to fasting on 23 Ekadasi’s of the Hindu Calendar.
During twilight hours in Heaven, Gods are in a pleasant mood: Margazhi month is a divine and highly spiritual time when the mind is prone to acquire divinity. This month falls in the end of Winter Solstice or Dakshinayana and in the beginning of Summer Solstice or Uttarayana, the twilight hours for Gods. During these hours, spiritual beings devote themselves to realization of God within. Therefore, religious practices like chanting mantras and performing fire sacrifice are sacred efforts toward realization of God.
Legends associated with Vaikunta Ekadasi
A common belief that those who fast on Vaikunta Ekadasi, chant and observe japa in the name of Lord Vishnu, will definitely be freed from the continuous cycle of birth and death. According to belief, when a bead of sweat dropped from Lord Brahma’s forehead, it turned into a demon and asked the Lord where it could stay. Lord Brahma told the demon to live in rice, and to get converted into worm in the stomachs of people who ate rice during Vaikunta Ekadasi.
The second legend is associated with this day is that the great devotee Nammalwar, entered Lord Vishnu’s abode on this day and that the Lord Himself was waiting to greet His devotee. Hence, it is commonly believed that those who cross the Swarga (the gateway to heaven) will be directly greeted by the Lord himself when they die.
The third legend associated with this day talks about a demon Mura, who harassed both devas and mortals, when devas approached Lord Shiva, who directed them to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu agreed to help them and a battle began between the demon and Lord Vishnu. When lord Vishnu was taking rest inside a cave called ‘Himavati’ in Badrikashrama. Mura decided to slay the lord. But the female energy emerged from Vishnu’s body and vanquished Mura. Lord Vishnu was pleased by the maiden named her Ekadasi and granted her a boon. Ekadasi requested the lord that whoever observes a fast on this day should be redeemed of their sins. The Lord thus declared that people who observed a fast on that day and worshiped Ekadasi, would attain Vaikunta.
The fourth legend associated with this day talks about King Ambarisha, who observed a strict fast for 3 days and was just about to break his fast when Sage Durvasa visited him. When the king offered food to the sage, he went to the river to bathe before eating. Though the king patiently waited for the sage to return, he was worried about not breaking the fast because if he did not break the fast before sunset, his fast would not count and if he broke his fast without the sage’s presence, it would be immensely disrespectful to the sage. So, the king had a little water in an attempt to pacify both.
The sage, on returning, figured out what happened and he furiously threw a blade of his hair in an attempt to kill the king. Lord Vishnu sent his sudarshan chakra, thus destroying the hair’s power, and it started following Durvasa himself. Sage Durvasa realized his mistake and asked for forgiveness from the Lord who told him to apologize to the king. The Lord told him that He was dependent on His devotees and that He would not tolerate any injustice towards them.
The fifth legend is associated with King Suketu, who is the ruler of the city of Bhadravati. Shaivya is his wife. The couple are childless. Unhappy and sad with this, the couple decided to leave their kingdom and go into the forests. The royal couple hands over the affairs of the kingdom to a trusted minister and leaves to the forest. At one point of time, they even consider committing suicide but they withdraws back thinking it to be a cowardice act. One day, the couple hears vedic chants and moves towards the direction. They see few sages praying to Lord Vishnu on the bank of a lotus pond. After the recital, the couple gets to know about the Putrada Ekadashi fast and upon observing it with utmost devotion, they are blessed with a son.
How is Vaikunta Ekadasi Celebrated?
Ekadasi Fasting is an important aspect of this day. People fast the whole day and keep vigil. Special prayers are offered to Lord Vishnu and devotees engage in Japa (Chanting of the Lord’s name) and Dhyana (Meditation). On ‘Dasami’, the previous day of the observance, devotees who take up Vaikunta Ekadasi fasting are to take only lunch. On Ekadasi, the next day, they have to maintain a complete fast and engage in prayers and meditation of the Lord. They are strictly prohibited from taking rice. That night, people keep vigil the whole night and visit the temple of Lord Vishnu, mostly in the wee hours of the morning. On this day, the Vaikunta Dwaram or the Swarga Vaasal, ‘The Gates of Heaven’ are believed to be kept open. The area encircling the sanctum is referred to Swarga Vaasal and devotees throng to gain entry into the temple, to seek the Lord. In all Vaishnava temples, the northern doors remains open on this day and it is on this day, devotees visit the Lord through this northern entrance.
Ekadasi is celebrated at Srirangam for 21 days. Ten Days before Ekadasi is called Pagal Patthu (festival day time) and Ten Days after are called Ira Patthu (festival in nights). On Vaikuntha Ekadasi day Lord Ranganatha Moolavar is clothed in armour of pearls and Tiruvaranga Utsavar wearing a diamond coat will be taken to 1000 pillar hall through northern gate. This gate is believed as gate to Vaikuntham and opens only on Vaikuntha Ekadasi. Lord Vishnu holds divine darbar along with all Alwars and Nalayaram Divya Prabandham is recited. While the deity goes on procession each Alwar accompanies him. First Nammalwar is called, followed by Thirumangai Alwar, Ramanuja and so on.. All these procedures followed here are introduced from time of saint Ramanuja and followed even today.
In Tirupathi, Lord Venkateswara Temple this day is celebrated with pomp and devotees visit to see Lords divine blessings though entering Vaikunta Dwaram.