Ekadashi Tithi Begins = 00:16 on 29/Dec/2017
Ekadashi Tithi Ends = 21:54 on 29/Dec/2017
Vaikuntha Ekadashi is one of the important and auspicious days for Hindus of South India. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. As per the Hindu calendar, Vaikuntha Ekadashi is the shukla paksha Ekadashi that occurs during the Dhanu month in the (between December and January).
Vaishnavism culture believes that ‘Vaikuntha Dwaram’ or ‘the gate to Lord’s inner sanctum’ is opened today. The Margashirsha shukla paksha Ekadashi in the lunar calendar is known as ‘Mokshada Ekadashi’. It is believed that fasting on this day liberates one from the cycle of birth and death.
What must you do on this day?
Fasting on Vaikuntha Ekadashi is equivalent to fasting on the remaining 23 Ekadashi. Devotees who observe the Vaikuntha Ekadashi fast should have only lunch on the ‘Dashami’ (previous day of Ekadashi). On Ekadashi, they should maintain a complete fast and engage in prayers and meditation of Vishnu. They should not have rice on this day. People should remain awake and keep vigil the whole night and visit the temple of Lord Vishnu.
The significance of Vaikuntha Ekadashi is also mentioned in the Padma Purana. The legend says that the Devas (Lords), unable to bear the tyranny of ‘Muran’ (a demon), approached Lord Shiva for help. Shiva, in turn, asked them to seek Lord Vishnu’s help. A battle ensued between Vishnu and the demon and Vishnu realized that a new weapon was needed to slay Muran. He decided to rest before creating the new weapon. Vishnu retired to a cave (cave of the goddess Haimavati in Bhadrikashrama). Muran came looking for Vishnu and found him inside the cave. As he was about to slay Lord Vishnu, who was sleeping, a female power emerged from Vishnu and burned Muran to ashes just with her glance. Vishnu was pleased and named the goddess ‘Ekadashi’ and asked her to claim a boon. Ekadashi insisted that Lord Vishnu should bless people who observe a fast on that day. Vishnu thus declared that people who observe a fast and worship on this Ekadashi would be able to get rid of all their sins and reach Vaikuntha (Vishnu’s abode). Thus came into being the first Ekadashi, which was a Dhanurmasa shukla paksha Ekadashi.
The demon Muran stands for the rajasik and tamasik qualities in people, attributed to lust, passion, inertia and arrogance. Any human being who is able to conquer these tendencies, attains the purity of mind, satva, an indispensable quality required for attaining moksha and liberation or realization of the self.
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 the merging of the mind with the self. This is symbolic of the mind automatically being absorbed in the sight of Lord Vishnu after the arduous fast and vigil. The reason for not having rice on this day is the belief that Muran dwells in it and 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.
The Vaikuntha Dwaram or the Vaikuntha Vaasal, ‘The Gates of Vaikundam’ are believed to be open on this day. The area encircling the sanctum is referred to Vaikuntha Vaasal and devotees throng to gain entry into the temple, to seek blessings of Lord Vishnu.
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. It is also believed that the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna (Bhagavad Gita) before the beginning of Mahabharat war at Kurukshetra occurred on this day.
Tirumala Venkateswara Temple also has a similar concept. Thirumala 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.