Ashadhi Ekadashi Vrat- When Lord Vishnu Begins His Slumber

Ashadhi Ekadashi Vrat is the 11th Lunar night during the Shukla Paksha (waxing phase) of the Moon which falls in the month of Ashadhi (June-July as per Gregorian calendar). It is most widely celebrated in Maharashtra. It marks the period of holy Chaturmas (four-month period) according to Vedic literature. This period is spent on fasting and penance. It ends with the Prabodhini Ekadashi of Kartik month (October-November). 

Significance of Ashadhi Ekadashi Vrat

Also called the Devshayani Ekadashi, this period marks the commencement of Lord Vishnu’s slumber which continues for four months. At this time, Lord Vishnu leans back on the Shesha Naga he is lying upon and closes his eyes as it floats through the cosmic ocean of Ksheer Sagar (Ocean of Milk). This period is referred to as Chaturmas in Vedic culture. Usually, auspicious activities are avoided during this time. There would be no celebration in temples and marriage ceremonies are rare. The period ends four months later on the Prabodhini Ekadashi or Dev Uthani Ekadashi during the Kartik month when Lord Vishnu opens his eyes.

Though considered unsuitable for auspicious activities, the devotees see this as a very auspicious occasion and pay their deep respect and devotion to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi. People observe fast and pray to wash off their sins, and move nearer to attaining Moksha. 

When is Ashadi Ekadashi 2021?

The Ashadi Ekadashi 2021 falls on July 20, Tuesday, 2021

Tithi and Puja Muhurat for Ashadhi Ekadashi 2021

Sunrise 20 July 2021 05:56 AM.
Sunset 20 July 2021 07:10 PM.
Ekadashi Tithi Begins 19 July 2021 10:00 PM.
Ekadashi Tithi Ends 20 July 2021 07:17 PM.
Hari Vasara End Moment 21 July 2021 12:35 AM.
Dwadashi End Moment 21 July 2021 04:26 PM.
Parana Time July 21, 05:56 AM – July 21, 08:35 AM

The rituals of Ashadi Ekadashi Vrat 

  • Devotees observing the Ekadashi vrat wake up early in the morning and take a bath while uttering morning prayer.
  • Ancestors long gone are remembered and homage is paid to them through rituals.
  • An altar is set up to perform puja rituals to the idol of Lord Vishnu placed in the pooja room or corner. 
  • It is customary to use yellow clothes to adorn the idol of Lord Vishnu.
  • Betel leaf (Paan), Betel nut (Supari), yellow flowers, sandalwood, etc. are offered to Lord Vishnu.
  • While observing the vrat, devotees limit themselves to one meal during the day.
  • The vrat is ended during the Parana period the next day by consuming food.

The legend associated with Ashadhi Ekadashi Vrat

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Once upon a time, there lived a king named Mandhata. During his reign, prosperity flourished in his kingdom. His subjects led a happy and content life under his rule. Then ill omens started to appear. Rains ceased and crops were ruined. The kingdom reeled under the grip of drought and famine. As the best of his ministers failed to come up with a solution, King Mandhata himself took up the task. He toured the land of Bharath to find a way to mitigate the suffering of his people. He gained an audience with Sage Angira who advised him to have his subjects observe fast on the Ekadashi of the month of Ashada, and involve themselves in the worship of Lord Vishnu all through the day.

King Mandhata returned to his land and told his people to follow the words of Sage Angira. The whole kingdom observed the Vrat and prayed to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu is the one who sustains creation. Rains followed. Plants started to sprout and life returned to the Kingdom. Within four months, the subjects were back to leading happy lives. It was all achieved due to the devotion shown by the people to Lord Vishnu. Since then, Ashadi Ekadashi Vrat is considered one of the most venerable days in the year to devote oneself to the worship of Lord Vishnu.

Mahabali Gets One Back on Lord Vishnu

Another legend associated with this vrat goes all the way back to the Satyuga and involves one of the greatest emperors of ancient times – Emperor Mahabali. Mahabali was the grandson of Prahlad. Lord Vishnu took the Narasimha avatar to save Prahlad from his father, the evil king Hiranyakashipu. Being the grandson of the ultimate Vishnu devotee Prahlad, Mahabali also took his duty to Lord Vishnu seriously. He ensured his subjects had enough of everything. No one was ill-treated or left wanting during his reign. If anyone needed anything, all they had to do was ask the king. Consequently, the people became lazy. They stopped worshipping Lord Vishnu as their King took better care of them. The lethargic mindset of the subjects started to affect the system of attaining Moksha. Lord Vishnu decided something had to be done.  He took the Vamana Avatar and approached Mahabali.

The Vamana met Mahabali at the conclusion of the Ashwamedha Yagna the emperor was overseeing to ensure the prosperity of his Kingdom. It was customary to give token gifts to the Brahmins involved in the Yagna, at its conclusion. It was at this time that Vamana appeared before Mahabali. He felt elated seeing the pious Brahmin before him. Mahabali bowed before the Vamana and enquired the reason for his arrival. Vamana relayed his wish to have three paces of land to do Agnihotra. Mahabali laughed. Three paces! – he said – go ahead and take it from wherever you want.

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Mahabali’s Guru Shukracharya sensed something wrong. He warned the king to take back his word. It was unfathomable for the proud Mahabali. He requested the Vamana to proceed. The Vamana grew tall. With one step he covered Earth and with the second he measured the sky.  No place was left for the third. Mahabali smiled. He understood how he had let his pride get the better of him. But he remained a devotee on the inside. He took off his crown and showed his head for the Vamana to step foot on. Vamana was stunned by this noble act of Mahabali. He granted Mahabali a boon to get himself out of the situation. But Mahabali instead requested Vamana to stay with him at Patalaloka where he was being exiled and Vamana agreed. 

Lord Vishnu’s absence at Vaikuntha worried the Devas and Goddess Lakshmi. She reached Patalaloka and stood before Mahabali as a normal woman. She tied a rakhi to the hand of Mahabali. Then, with folded hands, as his sister, Lekshmi asked Mahabali to send Lord Vishnu, who was staying with him as Vamana, with her. Mahabali agreed. But Lord Vishnu wanted to honor his word. So he told Mahabali that he would stay with him in Patalaloka for four months every year. This stay of Lord Vishnu happens during the Chaturmas

Pandharpur Yatra

On the day of Ashadhi Ekadashi, a huge procession of pilgrims known as Pandharpur Ashadi Ekadasi Vrat Yatra culminates at Pandharpur, in Solapur district in south Maharashtra, situated on the banks of the Chandrabhaga River. Pandharpur is the main center of worship of the deity Vithoba, a local form of Vishnu. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims used to come to Pandharpur on this day, from different parts of Maharashtra, before the pandemic struck.  Some of them carried palanquins with the images of the saints of Maharashtra. These pilgrims are called Warkaris meaning ‘one who venerates the Vithoba’.

The saints are believed to have started the ritual of walking to Pandharpur every year, during the Ashadha and Kartik months, to worship Vithoba, around 800 years ago. The saints whose images are carried in Palanquins are Dnyaneshwar from Alandi, Namdev from Narsi Namdev, Tukaram from Dehu, Eknath from Paithan, Nivruttinath from Trimbakeshwar, Muktabai from Muktainagar, Sopan from Saswad and Gajanan Maharaj from Shegaon.

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