The legend of Vaikuntha Ekadashi festival and importance of fasting

''Paramapads vassal''
Goddess Hemavati kills demon Muran.
Have you any idea about the legend behind the Vaikuntha  Ekadashi festival that falls between mid  December and mid January (Tamil month of Margazhi).  It is important to understand the significance of Vaikuntha Ekadashi, a temple  festival mostly associated with Sri Vishnu temples. As you may be aware,  that most of Hindu festivals have a mythological story related to them   and  it conveys a relevant moral message to the  humanity so that  people  can lead a meaningful, peaceful and contended life with strong spiritual orientation. This will help them face the life's long and tedious journey with confidence, determination, faith and commitments.

To understand the origin of Vaikuntha Ekadashi, we have to turn the pages of  Padma Purana. The legend  has it that Devas (celestial), having fed up with the atrocities and  tyranny of  demon Muran', sought the help of Trinity God  Shiva, who advised them to  approach another Trinity God Sri Vishnu. Being sympathetic to their pain and suffering, Sri Vishnu declared war on the demon, When the war was on, Sri Vishnu realized he was facing a powerful and ferocious warrior  and his weapons were not enough to defeat demon  Muran.  Sri Vishnu retired to a  cave of  goddess  Haimavati in Badarikashrama for rest and to come up with a powerful weapon to slay the demon. Realizing the impending danger to his life, demon Muran  followed Sri Vishnu to the cave   to kill the lord. No sooner had   Muran tried to slay the lord, who was fast asleep, than  the female power  emerged from Vishnu and   burned Muran to ashes with her fiery look. When Vishnu woke 
up he realized  that he had been saved by the female power. Pleased as he was, with her timely action,  he  named the goddess'Ekadashi' and asked her what she wanted. Upon which she requested  the lord that people who observed a fast on that day should be freed of their sins. Vishnu thus declared that people who observed a fast on the Ekadashi  day and worshipped the goddess, would attain Vaikuntham - the abode of God Vishnu (salvation;  free from the cycles of birth and death). This way the first Ekadashi-Dhanurmasa Shukla Paksha Ekadashi came into being. 

Here, if you go to the bottom of this mythology, you will realize what the lord of the world is trying to portray to humans in all Yagas by his divine acts. The god subtly conveys the demon Muran stands for the Rajasic and Tamasic qualities-  all bad qualities
lust, passion, arrogance, evil mindedness, abuse of power, etc.These bad qualities will ultimately take him to the path of annihilation.  Ultimately, no purpose is served.  Satva is the most  indispensable one for attaining moksha and this can only be archived if one gets rid of Rajasic and Tamasic qualities - all bad traits in us that will, one stage, take us to abysmal depth from which redemption is impossible. Purity of mind and action is to be inculcated that will take us to the path of self-realization. Fasting, keeping awake whole night, meditating on God or engaging in Bhajans, etc.,  will balance our wavering mind and put a strong hold on it. This way you can concentrate on your  family duties by being detached from those transient worldly, materialistic pleasures. At the same time you should  chase your goals and aspirations in your life without having to deviate from Dharmic path.   

Vaikuntha Ekadashi fasting, keeping vigil whole night, meditation, special prayers  are essential for our mental well being to improve concentration and focus. Fasting here implies  just taking only lunch.  Visiting  the Vishnu temple  in the wee hours of the morning on the Ekadashi day has been vogue for centuries. Taking the Prathakshana path and going through the Vaikuntha Vassal (paramapada Vassal) in the temple is done by devotees.  At Srirangam Ranganathar temple,  a few lakhs devotees, on this auspicious day, walk through the paramapada vassal with religious fervor strong faith that the almighty will absolve them of their  sins, guide them in th right direction here on and ultimately give them a place under his divine shadow  in his abode upon leaving this mortal body.