Amalaka Ekadashi

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Amalaka Ekadashi
Phyllanthus officinalis.jpg
The amla tree
Also called Amalaki Ekadashi
Observed by Hindus
Type Hindu
Significance Vishnu, Lakshmi, Damodara (Krishna) and Radha said to reside near the tree
Observances Prayers and religious rituals, including puja to the amla tree
Date Decided by the lunar calendar
2016 date 19 March[1]
2017 date 8 March[2]
Frequency annual

Amalaka Ekadashi or Amalaki Ekadashi is a Hindu holy day, celebrated on the 11th day (Ekadashi) of the waxing moon, in the lunar month of Phalgun (February–March). It is a celebration of the amalaka or amla tree (Phyllanthus emblica), known as the Indian gooseberry.

The god Vishnu, for whom ekadashis are sacred, is believed to reside in the tree. The amla tree is ritually worshiped on this day to get the grace of the deity. The day marks the beginning of the main celebrations of the festival of Holi, the Hindu festival of colours.

Significance[edit]

Indian gooseberry, or aamla (Phyllanthus emblica)

Tree worship is an integral part of Hinduism, which believes the Universal Spirit or Omnipresent God resides in everything.[4][5] Trees are important in agrarian societies like India.[5]

The veneration of the amla tree in particular is due to the belief that the god Vishnu resides in and near the tree, particularly on Amalaka Ekadashi.[4][6] In some traditions, his wife Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is said to dwell in the tree. It is believed that Vishnu's avatar Krishna and his consort Radha reside near the tree.[7]

Another reason for the worship are its medicinal qualities. Every part of the tree is useful and the fruit in particular is used in Ayurvedic medicinal preparations and is rich in Vitamin C.[6]

Legend[edit]

The legend of a ritual fast is also called a Vrata katha (tale of the vrata religious vow).

According to the legend narrated for the occasion, King Chitrasena and his subjects observed the vrata of Amalaka Ekadashi. During one of his hunting trips, Chitrasena lost his way in the forest and was captured by the wild tribals or rakshasas (demons) who attacked him with weapons. Though he remained physically unharmed, the king fell unconscious as more tribals or demons surrounded him. A divine power in the form of a light emerged from his body and destroyed his attackers and then vanished. On regaining consciousness, Chitrasena was stunned to see all the attackers killed. A divine voice (Akasavani) announced that this was due to the observance of the Ekadashi vrata. Following this incident, the vrata became popular in the kingdom, which led to peace and harmony.[7]

A variant of this tale is found in the Brahmanda Purana as narrated by the sage Vasishtha. King Chaitraratha of Vaidisa and his subjects were blessed with riches due to the worship of Vishnu. Once, on Amalaki Ekadashi, Chaitraratha and his subjects worshiped Vishnu and the amla tree near the Vishnu temple, on a riverbank. He also worshiped Parashurama, a sage-avatar of Vishnu. The devotees fasted and remained awake the whole night, singing bhajans (devotional songs) in praise of Vishnu. A hungry hunter joined the group and followed the Amalaka Ekadashi vrata. As a result, after his death he was reborn as King Vasurath. Vasurath is described as undergoing a similar experience to King Chitrasena from the earlier tale. The main difference is that Vasurath does not perform the vrata in this life but in his previous life. The moral of the tale is told to be that the performance of Amalaka Ekadashi vrata, without any desire and just pure devotion, results in the grace of Vishnu, in this and next lives.[8][9]

Practices[edit]

The observer of the vrata should have a ritual bath in the morning. The devotee or priests ceremonially bathe and water the tree and then worship it with a puja ritual. Devotees fast on this day and gifts are offered to Brahmin priests praying for prosperity, wealth and health.[6][4][5] Devotees also listen to the vrata katha of Amalaka Ekadashi.[8] Offering of food and charity is prescribed on this day; the virtue is equated to the performance of a vajapeya, a somayajna sacrifice.[7]

Though the festival of Holi begins on Vasant Panchami, it is on Amalaka Ekadashi that the main festivities begin. The day marks the beginning of the climax of Holi, culminating on four lunar days later on the full moon. From this day, people start playing with colours.[4][5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.festivalsofindia.in/Amalaki-Ekadashi/
  2. ^ "2017 Marathi Calendar Panchang". Retrieved 12 October 2016. 
  3. ^ "Panchang, Panchangam for Bhubaneshwar, Orissa, India". drikpanchang.com. 2013. Retrieved 27 March 2013. Ekadashi, Phalguna, Shukla Paksha, 2070 Vikram Samvat 
  4. ^ a b c d Annual Holidays. (2004). Chapter 12: Hinduism in Religious Holidays & Calendars. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/ogirholidays/annual_holidays, Publisher:Omnigraphics, Inc.
  5. ^ a b c d Sehgal, Sunil (1999). Encyclopaedia of Hinduism: C-G, Volume 2. Sarup & Sons. p. 529. ISBN 9788176250641. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c Melton, J. Gordon (2011). Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations. ABC-CLIO. pp. 27–28. ISBN 9781598842050. Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c Garg, Gaṅgā Rām (1992). Encyclopaedia of the Hindu World: Ak-Aq. Concept Publishing Company. p. 357. ISBN 9788170223757. Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Amalaki Ekadashi, dedicated to the priceless Amla Tree
  9. ^ Glories of Amalaki Ekadasi