Vaikuntha Ekadashi to be observed on January 2, 2023•
Posted on December 13 2022
Vaikuntha Ekadashi is considered to be the most significant Ekadashi among all the Ekadashis in the Vedic calendar. Ekadashi refers to the 11th lunar day and is said to be the most preferred day of Lord Krishna. Vaikuntha Ekadashi, also known as Mukkoti Ekadashi, is an important day for Vaishnavites who profess the Vaishnavism faith. According to the Gregorian calendar, this date always occurs between the 16th of December and 13th of January. The festival is celebrated on a grand scale in all 108 Vishnu temples across the country.
Legend Behind Vaikuntha Ekadashi
There is an interesting legend behind Vaikuntha Ekadashi. According to this story, there was a powerful demon Murasura who once indulged in a spree of harassing the devas. This upset the gods and they sought refuge in Lord Vishnu who promised His assistance to fight against the demons. Unfortunately, the demon proved to be too powerful for the lord and Lord Vishnu could not defeat the demon even after several days.
The exhausted and exasperated Lord Vishnu decided to take shelter in a cave. The demon made his way to the cave and decided to attack the lord while He was asleep. Just as he reached Lord Vishnu, a female divine power who was none other than the Shakti within Vishnu emerged from His body and burnt the demon completely to ashes with just a single glance.
Lord Vishnu who witnessed the entire scene and granted her a boon. However, Shakti had only one request and that was the lord had to free the people who undertook a fast on that day in her honour on that day from the sins committed by them. This day happened to be Ekadashi in the Margazhi month of the Hindu calendar. Lord Vishnu gladly agreed to her wish and named her Ekadashi.
Vaikuntha Ekadashi Rituals
There are some specific rituals that Hindus follow on Vaikuntha Ekadashi. They wake up early in the morning and commence a full or partial fast after a bath with a few drops of Gangajal in the water. If at all the devotees decide to consume food, they have only fruits, water and milk. They offer the obeisance to Lord Vishnu in the form of mantra chants in dedication to the lord and read scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita, Vishnu Ashtotthara and Vishnu Sahasranama in His honour.
Followers also visit Vishnu temples and enter the premises of the shrines through the gateway like structure at the northern entrance to perform meditation and poojas. It is believed that the gateway represents the entrance to Lord Vishnu’s very own Vaikuntha abode.
Devotees observing a fast end this only on Dwadashi tithi, the next day after sunrise and after Hari Varasara. It is important not to break the fast during the Madhyahna period. Hence, if it is not possible to break the fast during the stipulated period, it should be done so only after Madhyahna. This fast break is called parana. The fast is supposed to cleanse the human mind and body and make the mind pure for meditation to become closer to the Almighty. Some worshippers also stay awake the whole night.
Celebrations in Vishnu Temples
Although there are celebrations in all Vishnu temples, the ones in Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam and the Tirumala Venkateshwara Temple, Tirupati take place with full pomp and show and are worth mentioning. The same celebrations are observed every year and witnessed by devotees from various parts of the country.
The celebrations in the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple take place over a span of 20 days and is divided into the morning part of 10 days known as pagal pathu and the evening part of 10 days called ira pathu. On all these days, the lord takes the form of Ranganatha dressed in an armour of pearls known as Muthangi and blesses His devotees. On the day just before Vaikuntha Ekadashi, the processional idol of Lord Vishnu is represented as Namperumal and devotees gain blessings from the Almighty in His Mohini form.
On Vaikuntha Ekadashi, at the break of dawn, Namperumal is dressed in an armour of gems and diamonds and blesses His devotees. The idol is then taken from the sanctum sanctorum via the Paramapada Vasal or the northern gate to the hall with a thousand pillars. This northern gate represents the gate to Vaikuntha and is kept open for the devotees only on Vaikuntha Ekadashi day to pass through it and attain salvation. This is why the northern gate is also called Swarga Vasal.
The celebrations in the Tirumala Venkateshwara temple are more or less similar to those mentioned above. However, the lord is not represented in different forms in this shrine. The temple has a distinct entrance known as Vaikuntha Dwaram around its sanctum sanctorum that is opened only on the day of Vaikuntha Ekadashi for people to go through it and gain moksha.
It is believed that one should take a dip on the two days of Vaikuntha Ekadashi and Dwadashi in a pond in a Vishnu temple. This dip is considered to be equivalent to taking a dip in the holy tirthas or rivers of the universe.
Written by - Deepthi K