Vaikunta Ekadasi is an important festival that is dedicated to the Hindu deity, Vishnu. On this day, Hindus flock to Vishnu temples and offer prayers to the deity. They believe that it can get rid of their sins and help them attain salvation or Moksha. They also believe that worshipping Vishnu on this day can enable them to attain Vaikunta, his heavenly abode when they die.
Ekadasi is the 11th day of a lunar fortnight. This is a holy day for Vishnu worship. The Ekadasi Tithi during Shukla Paksha, the bright fortnight of the Moon in Dhanu or the Tamil month of Margazhi (December–January), is very sacred and is celebrated as Vaikunta Ekadasi. Many Vishnu temples will have grand celebrations on the occasion, lasting for several days.
Origin of Vaikuntha Ekadashi
The Padma Purana mentions how Vaikuntha Ekadashi originated. Once, an asura called Murasura was tormenting the Devas, as he had become powerful due to a boon he had received from Brahma. The Devas sought Vishnu’s help to put an end to him. Vishnu fought the demon but could not defeat him. Tired, he took refuge in a cave called Simhavati near Badarikashrama.
Murasura also reached the place and attacked him while he lay asleep. Vishnu then summoned Yogamaya, a Goddess created using his divine energy, and she killed the asura. A pleased Vishnu gave the epithet, ‘Ekadashi’, to the Goddess and declared that she would have the power to remove the sins of all human beings.
Those who keep a fast on this day and worship Ekadashi can attain Vaikuntha, according to Vaishnava beliefs. The first Ekadashi day was a Dhanurmasa Shukla Paksha Ekadashi.
As per another legend, Vishnu opened the gate of his abode, Vaikuntha, for two asuras though they were opposed to him. They also wanted a boon that people who listened to their story and see Vishnu’s image coming out of the door called Vaikuntha Dwaram, would also reach Vaikuntha. Hence, temples erect a door-like structure on this day so that devotees can walk through it.
Vishnu devotees believe that ‘Vaikuntha Dwaram’ (the gate to Vaikunta) will open on this day. The Margashirsha Shukla Paksha Ekadashi in the Hindu calendar is also called ‘Mokshada Ekadashi.’ Some of the events held on this auspicious day include special prayers from the Naalayira Divya Prabandham, the Vedas, Sri Vaikuntha Gadhyam, and also the Vaikuntha Dwara Pooja, Oonjal Seva/swing Pooja, Prakarothsvam (Sri Veli), Oonjal Prabhandham, yagnas, and discourses.
The Vishnu Purana maintains that observing a fast on Vaikunta Ekadasi is equal to fasting on all the other 23 Ekadasis of the year. Fasting on Ekadashi is more holy than any other religious observance. Complete fasting is observed on Ekadasi, the 11th day of the paksha.
To receive divine blessings on Vaikunta Ekadasi, you can do the following 5 things:
We are currently living in Kaliyuga, an age characterized by immorality and all kinds of evils. But, by taking the name of God, we can attain self- realization. Chanting the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra, a sacred hymn found in the Santarana Upanishad, brings many benefits.
On Vaikunta Ekadasi, devotees should chant this Mantra 108 times or in multiples of this number.
The Mantra is given below:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare,
Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare
By doing this, we can purify our hearts, get relief from suffering, and attain spiritual wisdom.
Observe a Fast
Fasting is a must on all Ekadasi days, especially so on Vaikunta Ekadasi. Avoid food and spend the day reading and reciting from the Scriptures and performing religious activities.
Visit Vishnu Temples
Visit the temples of Vishnu or his Avatars and offer prayers. You can also pass through Vaikunta Dwaram, a special doorway that is erected in temples on this day. Worshipping Vishnu and passing through this doorway supposedly ensures one a place in Vaikunta after death.
Read the Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita is rich in spiritual wisdom that Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu, offered to Arjuna on the Kurukshetra battlefield. Supposedly, it was on Vaikunta Ekadasi day that this happened, so the day is also known as Gita Jayanthi.
On Vaikunta Ekadasi day, you can read, recite or listen to some chapters or verses of the Gita, a work meant to guide and benefit humanity.
Perform Seva for Vishnu-devotees
Seva or service is a way to display devotion in Hinduism. Service to devotees is regarded as a service to God because it is seen as greater than service done to him by God himself. So, do some service to devotees on Vaikunta Ekadasi day. You can also donate food to the poor and do acts of charity.