Vaikunta Ekadasi and Tholi Ekadasi - a brief note


What is Ekadasi (also Ekādaśī' "Eleven")?  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 Ekadasi and also 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 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.

As for  Vaikunta Ekadasi, among  Sri Vishnu temples in India, 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 vaasal from where Lord Ranganathar  will emerge to bless the devotees.