Vaikunta Ekadasi and Tholi Ekadasi - a brief note

What is Ekadasi (also Ekādaśhī' )?  It is the eleventh lunar day (tithi) of each of the two lunar phases which occur in a Hindu calendar month - the Sukla Paksha (the waxing phase of the moon) and the Krishna Paksha (the period of  fading- moon-waning phase). Though there are 26 Ekadasis in a calendar year, Vaikunta Ekadasi assumes the greatest religious significance  and is the most important festival at all temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu.  Presiding deity is Kesava - another name of Sri Vishnu. The Margashirsha Shukla Paksha Ekadasi in the Lunar calendar is known as a 'Mokshada Ekadasi. It falls in the  Tamil month of Margazhi (''Margashirsha'' - Agrahayana-December to January). 

The Shaiva sect observes the day as Trikoti Ekadashi, a religious observance where all the deities in the Hindu pantheon pay obeisance to Lord Sri Shiva.

 In Hinduism and also in Jainism, Ekadasi is believed to be  a spiritual day and is usually observed by partial fast (vratham). As for the Hindus, it is the most auspicious festival and, particularly, Vaishnavites observe it by way of prayers, chanting and fasting. No non-vegetarian food is taken by devout Hindus who mostly consume  vegetarian food during this time  Normally, the period of abstinence from food, etc starts from sunrise on the day of Ekadasi to sunset on the following day. The are no age restrictions,  and the sick and unhealthy people are exempted from  fasting. Ekadasi Tithi-Shukla Ekādaśī) is also known as Hari Vasara because it is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.  According to Garuda Purana: Fasting on Ekadasi days (eleventh day) in both halves of the month, when observed, removes sins and wards off evil thoughts and enables one to attain  the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu in Vishnuloka.

Celebration of Ekadasias well as  observance of fasting (vratham) varies across India. At temples in Ujjain in MP, Ekadasi (every 11th Tithi as per Hindu lunar calendar) fasting  is for three days. Devotees take single meal in the afternoon a day before fasting day  They follow strict vratham-fasting on Ekadasi day and break the fast on the following day only after sunrise. Eating of all type of grains and cereals is prohibited during Ekadasi fasting. There are two Ekadasi fastings in a month one in Suklapaksha and another in Krishnapaksha.

Tholi Ekadasi.

Tholi Ekadasi, 022.

Above image: Tholi Ekadashi, one of the biggest Telugu festivals and  celebrations  is also known as Shayani Ekadashi, Harivasaram Pelalapandaga.. Fasting by devotees is observed during the period (nirjala vrat) during Harivasaram. This event comes in the month of July every year.  The spiritual  message is loud and clear: Let us all get rid of all our vices and begin our lives afesh as better human beings and respect others as equals.  ''Service to Humanity is service to God.''................... 

"Tholi Ekadashi" or "Shayan Ekadashi" marks the sleeping period of deities (night for them) and the day when Lord Maha Vishnu falls asleep in Ksheersagar - cosmic ocean of milk. The belief is Sri Vishnu brings divinity to all water bodies on earth during this period. It is observed on Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon) in Ashadam Masam (June-July) known as Tholi Ekadashi when Lord Vishnu goes to sleep on this day and wakes up after four months on Prabodhini Ekadashi - eleventh day of bright fortnight in the Hindu month Kartik Masam (October–November). This  period is known as "Chaturmas'' ("four months") which coincides with the rainy season. Thus,Tholi Ekadashi, is the beginning of Chaturmas. Devotees start observing the Chaturmas Vrata (vow) to please Vishnu on this day.

The Tholi Ekadashi comes just after famous Jagannath Rathyatra in Puri, Odhisa which currently falls in month of June or July (as per English calendar). Chaturmas, is a holy period of four months in Hindu calendar, which starts from this day. Tholi Ekadasi is of great significance to the farmer's as they begin to sow seeds after the first rains on Tholi Ekadasi day. It is also known as Padma Ekadashi, Ashadi Ekadashi, Devshayani Ekadashi, Maha Ekadashi and Hari Shayani Ekadashi. Note our one day Dhakshinayanam is equal to six months of day for celestial and our night Uttarayanam is equal to six months of night.

The significance of Tholi Ekadasi:  The eleventh lunar day (Shukla Ekadashi), also known as Hari Vasara because it is dedicated to Lord  Vishnu, is a day of fasting and prayers for all Hindus. On this day, the Devas' night time starts, and Lord Vishnu is said to retire for the day. The day is important  to the agricultural community since it is when they start sowing seeds following the first rains on Toli Ekadasi day. According to the Telugu Calendar Thili Ekadasi falls on the 29th of July 2023.  On this day, it has been a tradition to conduct a  a big feast which is meant for the needy and  children. The sponsors and those involved in this munificence , a sort of public service  gets Srihari Vishnu's blessings. In Vaishnava temples, this day is very important 

When it comes to fasting on the Tholi Ekadasi day,  devotees avoid  whole wheat flour, pulses, cereal grains, onion, garlic etc. Fruits, sabudana, makhana, milk and flours like singhare ka atta, kuttu ka atta, rajgira ka atta are recommended. 
As for  Vaikunta Ekadasi (Pushya Suddha Ekadasi; Uttira Dwara Darshanam), among  Sri Vishnu temples in India, in Sri Ranganathar temple at Srirangam (Tiruchirapalli), TN, it is celebrated  with passion and devotion as a long-drawn festival with countless centuries-old rituals which are observed as per Vedic tradition. However, in Kerala at Guruvayoor, the Vrishchika Ekadasi (Sukla paksha) called as Guruvayur Ekadasi assumes much importance. Vaikunta Ekadasi falls on the 18th of Dec, 2018 in Tamil Nadu. The great event is opening of Swarga vaasal - Paramapada vasal from where Lord Ranganathar  will emerge to bless the devotees.