The Ekadashi which falls in the month of Chaitra (March-April) is called Kamada Ekadashi. The 2021 Kamada Ekadashi falls on Friday, April 23. Ekadashi happens twice during a lunar month – during the waxing phase (Shukla Paksha), and the waning phase (Krishna Paksha). Ekadashi means the 11th day of the phase. Kamada Ekadashi is the first Ekadashi (Shukla Paksha) in the Vedic calendar. Kamada means the fulfillment of desires. Observing a fast or vrat during the Kamada Ekadashi is believed to fulfill every desire of the devotee. It also purges the deadliest sins of the individual. Lord Vishnu is usually worshipped during the Ekadashi days. On Kamada Ekadashi, Lord Krishna is also worshipped. Childless couples who observe the Kamada Ekadashi vrat are blessed with children. Kamada Ekadashi is celebrated all over India, particularly in regions of South India like Bengaluru. 

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How Kamada Ekadashi is observed

Those observing Kamada Ekadashi vrat should get up early in the morning, preferably during the Brahma muhurta (4 AM). After taking bath by rubbing soil on their skin, they offer prayers to Lord Krishna or Vishnu. Sandalwood paste is applied to the idol of the deity. Fruits and flowers are offered, and incense sticks are lighted and kept in front of the idol. Fasting begins from the previous day of the Ekadashi, on the Dashami day. Devotees should eat before sunset on Dashami day. The vrat period lasts for 24 hours and begins with the sunrise on Ekadashi day. One must refrain from eating anything at all during this period. If health conditions do not permit so, then only satvik food, like fruits and milk-based food, must be consumed.

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On the next morning, the vrat is completed with the donation of food, clothes, or other essentials to a pious Brahmin. Sacred mantras and hymns are recited in the adulation of the deity. People also read Vishnu Shastranamam to seek the blessings of Lord Vishnu. Observing the Kamada Ekadashi vrat removes all sins and evil forces from the life and family of the individual. It bestows health, happiness, and prosperity on the individual. It helps him or she attain moksha from the never-ending cycle of life and death. Childless couples are blessed with progeny by observing the Kamada Ekadashi.  

The story behind Kamada Ekadashi

According to Hindu astrology, Lord Krishna narrated the legend of Kamada Ekadashi to King Yudhishthira. The story goes thus:

Once upon a time, there lived a husband and wife named Lalit and Lalita. Lalit was a Gandharva while Lalita was an apsara. They were performers in the court of King Pundarika in Ratnapura. There were other Gandharvas and apsaras in the court of King Pundarika, but Lalit and Lalita were the most sought-after performers in the court. They were madly in love with each other, and couldn’t bear being away from one another, even for a short period. Once, during a performance in the King’s court, Lalita was to dance with other apsaras, while Lalit sang with the Gandharvas. But Lalita was not to be seen at the time. Lalit’s eyes searched for her all across the vast courtroom but in vain. This separation from his wife affected Lalit’s performance. His singing grew weak and he forgot many words or misplaced the words in the lyrics of the song.

One among King Pundarika’s guests on that day was Karkotaka, a serpent from the Patala Loka. He understood the problem with Lalit’s performance and did not find it amusing. Rather, he took it as an insult. In the presence of King Pundarika, Karkotaka singled out Lalit for the failings in his performance as disrespect towards the King and cursed him into becoming an ugly corpse-eating demon. He assumed that Lalita, once seeing what her husband had become, would leave him. But he was wrong. Lalita, pained by what her husband had become, decided to stay by his side during this time of tragedy. She took her husband and retreated into the forest. Lalita spent nights and days roaming with her husband, with the thought of saving him from this fate consuming her.

One day, she chanced to arrive at the ashram of Sage Sringi. After paying her respects, she narrated her story and sought the sage’s help. Sage Sringi told Lalita about the upcoming Kamada Ekadashi. He narrated to her the importance of the day, and advised her to observe vrat. Lalita did as was told and, at the conclusion of the vrat, prayed to Lord Vasudeva to bring her husband back to his original form. Those observing Kamada Ekadashi vrat get their wish fulfilled. Lalita too got hers. Lalit was back in the form of Gandharva. The husband and wife embraced affectionately for a long time. Needless to say, they lived happily after. 

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What are the salient features of Kamada Ekadashi?

In Vedic culture, killing a Brahmin is considered the worst sin a person can commit. Kamada Ekadashi is the only Ekadashi whose observation will relieve the person from such a heinous sin. The vrat observed during the Ekadashi should end within the Dwadashi Tithi. Otherwise, it may be considered an offense. If it cannot be ended by sunrise, then one should wait till the afternoon to end it. The vrat should not be ended during mid-day. It is also suggested to observe Ekadashi vrat for two consecutive days. They are suggested only for the staunchest of Vishnu devotees. Women observe Kamada Ekadashi to have their husbands or son get rid of bad habits. Every wish is fulfilled by observing Kamada Ekadashi vrat. Being the first Ekadashi of the traditional new year, Kamada Ekadashi is considered extremely fruitful, with the impact of the vrat seen soon afterward. 

What is the Significance of Kamada Ekadashi?

The sand used during the bath, at the start of the vrat, should be taken from a pure place. Applying sand to the body is believed to get rid of poisonous toxins. It is also very rejuvenating for the skin and mind of the individual. Indulging in satvik food helps create positive energy in the body which enables the individual to be calm and more focused. It reduces excess heat and makes the person feel one with the world around him or her. Spending an entire day focusing on Lord Vishnu has great benefits.

By chanting prayers and hymns in praise of Lord Vishnu, the person is opening the doors of their conscience towards receiving energy from the eternal power source. This makes him or her more disciplined and virtuous as a person. Also, Lord Vishnu may be termed as the feminine of the Trimurti. This is reflected even in the story behind Kamada Ekadashi. Here, Lalit is punished for his love towards his wife, which, to him, carries more precedence than reverence towards royalty.

By cursing Lalit to become an ugly creature with crude mannerisms, the men in power had expected the beautiful Lalita to leave him to find another suitor. But Lalita stood by her husband. Her love for Lalit wasn’t based on good looks, it was a divine bond, one which completed her. Lalita not only stays with her husband, but she also takes care of him, alone, till she finds a way to lift the curse and bring her husband back to his original form. Hers was a fight against stereotypes and patriarchal hegemony that exists in society even today. So, by observing the Kamada Ekadashi, not only are we respecting the virtue of women and the power of the feminine, but also evolving as a society and moving towards a more balanced and morally centered world. 

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