Vaikuntha Ekadashi

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Vaikuntha Ekadashi
Official nameवैकुण्ठ एकादशी
TypeReligious
SignificanceRedemption of sins
ObservancesFasting
Datedhanu māsa, śukla pakṣa, ekādaśī tithi
2021 dateNone in 2021(Except in Tamilnadu which is celebrated on 14 December)
2022 date13 January
FrequencyAnnual

Vaikunta Ekadashi is a special Ekādaśī. It coincides with Mokṣadā Ekādaśī or Putrada Ekādaśī. It is observed on the 11th lunar day of the waxing lunar fortnight of the solar month of Dhanu.[note 1] This falls between 16 December and 13 January in the English calendar.

The Vaishnava (Worshipers/Followers of Vishnu) sect believes that ‘Vaikunta Dwaram’ or ‘the gate to the Lord's Inner Sanctum’ is opened on this day. The Margashirsha Shukla Paksha Ekadashi in the Lunar calendar is known as a 'Mokshada Ekadashi.' Special prayers from Vedas, Divya Prabhandham, Sri Vaikuntha Gadhyam (sometimes additional Gadhyams by Ramanuja are also chanted), Vaikuntha Dwara Pooja, Prakarothsvam(Sri Veli), Oonjal Seva (swing pooja), Oonjal Prabhandham, yagnas, discourses and speeches are arranged at Vishnu temples around the world on this auspicious day.

Vaikuntha is the Supreme Abode of God Vishnu and called, the place of non-hindrance. Mortals find it in the feet of God Vishnu as Vishnupada, or Param Padam, as it is a place for God Vishnu and his devotees to reside in the suddha-sattva, or the supreme state of purity and goodness.[3]

In Vishnu temples, Vaikuntha Ekadashi is part and parcel of Dhanurmaasa (Margazhi) vratham and Pooja. Entire month is Vratha month as all days of Dhanurmaasa require control over actions and food restrictions for SriVaishnavas. The Shaiva sect observes the day as Trikoti Ekadashi, a religious observance where all the deities in the Hindu pantheon pay obeisance to Lord Sri Shiva at once.

Legend[edit]

According to the Vishnu Purana, fasting on Vaikuntha Ekadashi is equivalent to fasting on the remaining 23 Ekadashis of the (Hindu) year.[4] However, according to Vaishnava tradition fasting is mandatory on all Ekadashis of both Shukla paksha and Krishna paksha. Fasting on Ekadashi is considered holier than any other religious observation. Complete Fasting has to be observed on Ekadashi, the 11th day of the Paksha. [1 Paksha = 15 days, One month (maasa) has 2 pakshas in Hindu Lunar Calendar.) That is why the meal on Dwadashi (12th Day) is designed to be wholesome, nutritious, and filling.

Lord Vishnu opened the gate of Vaikuntham (his abode) for two asuras (demons) in spite of their being against him. They also asked for the boon that whoever listens to their story and sees the image of Vishnu coming out of the door called Vaikunth Dwar, will reach Vaikunth as well. Temples all over India make a door kind of structure on this day for devotees to walk through.

According to Padma Purana, the female energy of Vishnu slayed the demon Muran and protects the 'Devas'. This happened on the eleventh day of lunar month during the sun's journey in the Dhanu Rashi. Impressed by the act, Vishnu names her as 'Ekadashi' and gives her the boon that those who worship 'Ekadashi' on the day of her victory over Muran would reach 'Vaikunth' (His abode).[5]

Vaikuntha Ekadashi is one of the important and auspicious days for Hindus. It is dedicated to Vishnu. It occurs in the Hindu calendar, in the month of Margashirsha (between December and January). When observed, it bestows liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

Significance[edit]

The significance of Vaikuntha Ekadashi is mentioned in the Padma Purana. The legend says that the Devas, unable to bear the tyranny of 'Muran' - a demon, approached Shiva, who directed them to Vishnu. A battle ensued between Vishnu and the demon and Vishnu realized that a new weapon was needed to slay Muran. In order to take rest and create a new weapon, Vishnu retired to a cave for the goddess named Haimavati in Badarikashrama. When Muran tried to slay Vishnu, who was sleeping, the female power that emerged from Vishnu burned Muran to ashes with her glance. Vishnu, who was pleased, named the goddess 'Ekadashi' and asked her to claim a boon. Ekadashi, instead, beseeched Vishnu that people who observed a fast on that day should be redeemed of their sins. Vishnu thus declared that people who observed a fast on that day and worshipped Ekadashi, would attain Vaikuntha. Thus came into being the first Ekadashi, which was a Dhanurmasa Shukla Paksha Ekadashi.

The demon Muran stands for the Rajasic and Tamasic qualities in people, attributed to lust, passion, inertia, arrogance etc. When one conquers these tendencies, one attains the purity of mind, Satva, indispensable for attaining of moksha, the liberation or realization of the self. For realizing the self as pure awareness, purity of mind is required. Fasting helps to keep at bay tendencies which could be triggered by intake of certain foods. Keeping vigil in the night is symbolic of awareness, or being watchful of the contents of the mind. When the mind is looked at, it becomes still. To abide in the stillness is to attain freedom or peace, acquired through merging of the mind with the self. This is symbolic of the mind automatically being absorbed at the sight of Vishnu after the arduous fast and vigil.

The belief that rice is prohibited, because Muran dwells in it, symbolically signifies that the eating of rice makes one feel heavy and hampers the vigil. This signifies that entertaining negative tendencies could hamper one's progress towards awareness or consciousness. Observance of the rituals on this auspicious day even without understanding their importance is beneficial. Hence the merit accrued through observing them with piety is believed to be immeasurable. In the Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna at the beginning of Kurukshetra War is said to have occurred on this day.

Fasting on Ekadashi[edit]

Vaikuntha Ekadashi fasting is an important aspect of those associated with it. People fast the whole day and keep vigil. Special prayers are offered to Vishnu and devotees engage in Japa (chanting of Vishnu's name) and Dhyana (Meditation). On 'Dashami', the previous day of the observance, devotees who take up Vaikuntha Ekadashi fasting are to take only lunch. On Ekadashi, the next day, they have to maintain a complete fast and engage in prayers and meditation of Vishnu. They are strictly prohibited from taking rice. That night, people keep vigil the whole night and visit the temple of Vishnu, mostly in the wee hours of the morning.

On this day, the Vaikuntha Dwaram or the Vaikuntha Vaasal, 'The Gates of Vaikunta' are believed to be kept open. The area encircling the sanctum is referred to Vaikuntha Vaasal and devotees throng to gain entry into the temple, to seek Vishnu

Celebrations[edit]

Celebrations span across all Lord Venkateswara temples. The most important for this particular festival is considered to be in Srirangam which is specifically known for the Swarga Vasal opening. The next most important is considered to be in Tirupati in the Tirumala hills, which houses the most important and famous abode of Lord Venkateswara.

Srirangam[edit]

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam Vaikuntha Ekadashi celebrations in Srirangam last 20 days, divided into two parts: pagal pathu (morning part 10 days) and Ira pathu (night part 10 days). Vishnu as Lord Ranganatha Moolavar will bless devotees in 'Muthangi' an armor of Pearls on all 20 days. On the 10th day of Pagal Pathu (previous day of Vaikuntha Ekadashi) the Utsavar idol named Namperumal will bless devotees in Mohini Alankaram.

On Vaikuntha Ekadashi very early morning, Utsavar Namperumal will bless devotees in an armor of diamonds and gems (rathnaangi) and brought to the Thousand-Pillared Hall from the sanctum sanctorum through the northern gate known as Paramapada Vasal, the gate to Vaikuntha. This gate is opened once in a year, only on the Vaikuntha Ekadashi day. It is said that any one who goes through the Paramapada Vasal will reach Vaikuntha. For this reason, it is also known as the Swarga Vasal. On the 8th day of Irapathu, Namperumal will bless devotees in Golden Horse Vahanam in the evening & Thirumangai Mannan Vedupari Ritual will be held.[6]

Interestingly, the Paramapada Vasal in Srirangam temple is opened one month earlier than other Lord Venkateswara (Perumal) temples every 18-19 years timeframe in the Tamil month of Karthigai instead of the Tamil month of Margazhi. The most recent occurrence was on Dec 14th 2021 in Srirangam, whereas other Perumal temples opened their dwaram on Jan 13th 2022. This is attributed to the temple's specific guidelines wherein the Ira pathu must be completed before the Thai Punar Poosam.

Tirupati[edit]

Tirumala Venkateswara Temple also has a similar concept to celebrate Mukkoti Ekadashi, as it is known in the Telugu-speaking regions. Tirumala has a special entrance called Vaikuntha Dwaram that encircles the sanctum sanctorum. The dwaram (passage) is opened only on Vaikuntha Ekadashi and it is believed that any person who passes through this `Vaikuntha Dwaram' on this particular day attains salvation.[7] The temple witnesses heavy inflow of pilgrims and dignitaries for Vaikuntha Ekadashi. All Arjitha sevas are cancelled on this day, including VIP darshan and only Sarva Darshanam is allowed on Vaikunta Ekadashi except VVIP's. No Online Bookings are permitted on this day. Privileged darshan formats are stopped during this period.[8]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Most Hindu festivals are fixed using the lunar portion of the Hindu lunisolar calendar. This festival is an exception. It is fixed using a combination of the solar (month) and lunar (fortnight and day) portions of the Hindu calendar.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "2019 Vaikuntha Ekadashi". Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  2. ^ "2020 Vaikuntha Ekadashi". Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  3. ^ Vaikuntha
  4. ^ "Vaikuntha Ekadashi" (PDF). Retrieved 19 April 2007.
  5. ^ "Vaikuntha Ekadasi". The Hindu. 29 December 2003. Archived from the original on 25 February 2004. Retrieved 19 April 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  6. ^ K, Kandaswamy. "Srirangam Vaikunta Ekadasi - Pagal Pathu, Irapathu Schedule This Year". Live Trend. K Kandaswamy. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  7. ^ "Fervour marks Vaikuntha Ekadasi". The Hindu. 27 December 2001. Archived from the original on 12 November 2004. Retrieved 19 April 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  8. ^ "All You Should Know: Tirumala Vaikunta Ekadashi". Tirumala Tirupati Online. 16 December 2017.

See also[edit]