Updated: Sep 13
“Ashadhi Ekadashi” is a festival celebrated on the eleventh lunar day (Ekadashi) of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) of the Hindu month of Ashadha. Devotees fast during the day and sing the glory of Lord Vishnu during the night.
Read Phani Sarvani’s folklore to know one of the tales that is believed to have led devotees to the practice of fasting on this prominent day.
As per the Hindu calendar, days are counted as Ekam for the first day, Dwitiya for the second day, Tritiya for the third day up to Chaturdashi for the fourteenth day. Then comes either Purnima i.e. the full moon day or Amavasya i.e. the no moon day.
The days from Amavasya to Purnima or no moon day to full moon day are Shukla Paksha and the days from Purnima to Amavasya or full moon day to no moon day are Krishna Paksha. Between these 15 days, Ekadashi is the eleventh day either after Purnima or Amavasya. Like any other calendar, the Hindu calendar also has different names for different months. These months start from Chaitra and end with Phalguna.
Aashaadha is the fourth month in the Hindu calendar and on the Shukla Paksha Ekadashi of this month i.e. the 11th day from the no moon day to full moon day period, Lord Vishnu goes to sleep on his snake bed formed by Sheshanaga, the King of all Nagas. According to the puranas, Lord Vishnu rests for four months i.e. until the Kartika Shukla Ekadashi and it is said that after these four months, new life starts.
Traditionally, many people don’t perform auspicious rituals during these four months where the Gods are invoked. Rituals like thread ceremony, marriages and housewarming events are skipped but prayers for good health and wellbeing of the society are frequently held. During these four months, while most of India experiences the rainy season, starting from Aashaadha Ekadashi, festivals namely Guru Purnima, Vinayaka Chaviti and Dusserha are celebrated. Goddess Lakshmi and Gauri, Lord Shiva and Ganapati are all worshiped for the prosperity of the society.
On Aashaadha Ekadashi as Lord Vishnu goes into his divine slumber referred to as DeShayani Ekadashi or Toli Ekadashi or Prabhodani Ekadashi, devotees fast during the day and sing the glory of the Lord during the night. One tale about the origin of this fasting practice on this auspicious day is told in the Bhavishyottara Purana by Lord Krishna to Yudhishtira.
Once upon a time, it is said that King Mandatta, an Ikshvaku king well known for his benevolence and generosity, was deeply troubled that his people were suffering due to drought. For three years there was no rain and the whole kingdom was suffering from a famine. Hoping to find a solution, King Mandatta went to the ashram of Rishi Angirasa in the forest along with his ministers. Bowing to the Rishi, the pious King told him about the agony his people were suffering. The Rishi heard the King’s plea and told him that in the Satya Yuga or the age in which they were living, only Brahmins had the right to chant Vedas. At that same time, in King Mandatta’s kingdom, a Shudra was chanting the Vedas and the Rishi said that because of him, the people in the kingdom were suffering. So the Rishi instructed the King to kill the man who was violating the norm and save his people from further suffering. Thinking about it, King Mandatta confessed that he cannot kill a person who is chanting the Vedas. He pleaded with the Rishi to please suggest another way out. Respecting the request, Rishi Angirasa told him that by fasting on the Ekadashi with full devotion and steadfastness, his people will be relieved of their troubles. Obeying the sage, King Mandatta and his people fasted on Ekadashi and worshiped Lord Vishnu. Pleased with their devotion, Lord Vishnu blessed their kingdom and in no time there were good rains and the kingdom flourished in prosperity.
Thus concluding the tale, Lord Krishna told Yudhishthira before asking Yudhishthira to do the same to get the grace of Lord Vishnu in their moment of need. Following this, people started the Chaturmas Diksha i.e. fasting and offering prayers for four months on Ekadashi.
In Maharashtra, alongside fasting, many people go to Pandharpur by foot. These people are called Warkari and the procession is called Wari. During this procession, the padukas or the footwear made of wood or silver of the saints from different temples are taken to Pandharpur in palanquins. This practice has been followed since Saint Gyaneshwar’s son took the Paduka or footwear of his father to Pandharpur.
In recent times, these paduka are taken from Alandi where Shri Gyaneshwar Maharaj had been taken to Vaikuntha with his mortal body. Even to this day, the gopuram or the uppermost portion of the temple moves slightly when the palanquin of Dnyaneshwar Maharaj paduka are to be taken to Pandharpur. Unless the gopuram moves slightly, the palanquin will not move. It is said that the movement of the gopuram is the signal for the devotees that Dnyaneshwar Maharaj has arrived and is ready to go for Wari.
The warkaris who go to Pandharpur are fed and given shelter by the villagers or citizens who come across in their route. The warkaris come from different parts of Maharashtra and the whole Pandharpur is awakened by the lakhs of devotees chanting the name of Lord Vitthal.
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