Vaikunta Ekadasi and fasting (Vratham) by devotees!! - a brief account

 Vaikunta Ekadasi  or Swarga Vasal Thirapu  is  the most important Hindu festival being observed by Vishnu temples across South India, in particular,  the most auspicious day that falls in the Tamil month of Margazhi or Margashirsha  Shukla paksha  (mid December to mid January).  Lakhs of devotees visit the temples and go through the Swarga vasal to get rid of sin. This year this festival is to be held on 23 December.  The major venue of this festival is Srirangam Ranganathar temple, TN.

Vaikunta Ekadasi is  the holiest day for  the true devotees to undertake fasting and prayer, a tradition that has been followed for several centuries. The crucial question that is frequently asked by many people is: Why do the Hindus give due importance to fasting on this particular day? 

Vaikunta Ekadasi fasting or vrata

Vaikunta Ekadasi Fasting certain facts:

From the scientific  point of view on the Full Moon Day, the ocean waves  will be aggressive,  stronger and higher  due to the influence of the moon on the ocean; gravitational pull will be much higher. Above  70% of the human body is made of  some sort of watery fluid  obviously, the position of the Moon on  his day will have  an influence on the human body.  Mind being part  of the human body, no doubt whatever impact is felt by the body is transferred to the human mind. Yet another reason is when the stomach is kept empty the toxins left  in the body will get cleared. Fasting is a sort of self purification of the human body to make it function effectively. As your mind needs respite, so does your body. So if you fast for three days before the Full Moon, then on Full Moon day you will not have any physical problems and the impact will be less than the normal – this is the belief.

There are certain reasons why  our forefathers  made fasting an important religious ritual on the Ekadasi day. To nullify the effects of the moon on the mind and body and food on the stomach.

It is not necessary that you must fast on every Ekadashi, but it is good if you fast for at least two to three days in a year. Vaikuntha Ekadashi fasting is an important ritual. People fast the whole day and keep vigil, besides, special prayers are offered to Vishnu and devotees engage in Japa (chanting of Vishnu's name) and Dhyana (Meditation).

Vaikunta Ekadasi Fasting norms: 

01.Hindus of all classes, age  groups and gender are supposed to observe fasting, Children below 8 years of age are not advised to go on a fast. 

02. Food and water must not be touched during the fasting hours. However, those who cannot observe Nirjala Ekadashi (Ekadashi without water) can intake fruit and milk. 

03. Avoid onions, garlic, rice, wheat, pulses and legumes in any form. A smoking and alcohol. Eat Vrat bhojan or fruits and milk only. The following items should be avoided  when preparing food:  mustard seeds, spices, ghee,  powdered asafetida (hing), garlic and onion, 

04. However, during the Ekadasi day, devotees are allowed to use certain green vegetables and pulses for cooking. 

05. When it comes to fasting, devotees normally fast for more than 24 hours, some people take one meal in the morning and skip the food  till following day.  Normally fasting is observed by most people from the sun-rise till sun-down. 

06. Ekadashi fast must be broken next day after the sunrise. Devotees can break their fast by having sattvik food. They should avoid eating onion, garlic or any other tamsik food item. Eat cooked rice as it is considered auspicious to make rice on the day of Dwadashi. Devotees wake up early in the morning and take a bath

07. Some people practice what is called Nirjala fasting  without even taking  a drop of water. However, people who are prone to dehydration are advised to consume the needed quantity of water during fasting to avoid health issues in the wake of this ritual undertaking.   

08. Devotees are advised to avoid Vishnu-prasadam containing the above forbidden foods. Such offerings are not thrown away and will be used in the following day.  Fasting act without   taking water  is not advisable. The aim during fasting is utmost concentration on the almighty. 

09. On the day of fasting besides visiting Sri Krishna or Sri Vishnu temples  close-by,  many people spend time reading scriptures on  Sri Krishna,   Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita and also the incarnation of God Vishnu.  

10. No NV food is allowed. Intake of food grains, meat, and fish is strictly prohibited.

11. The benefits of Fasting are manifold mind-wise and health-wise. Padma Purana has mentioned that people who undertake Ekadashi  vratham and associated rituals will enhance their positive outlook on life. That is why our ancestors have said to fast on Ekadashi.  

12. Because when the stomach is kept empty the toxins in the body get cleared. Fasting has a purifying effect on the body. So if you fast three days before Full Moon then on Full Moon day you will not have any problems – this is the belief.

13. It is not necessary that you must fast on every Ekadashi but it is good if you fast for at least two to three days in a year.  

14. Most importantly, devotees  will be free from sins done unwittingly in the past  and if they' ve  taken  serious steps in earnest  to attain salvation  by reaching the abode of the  lord  - Vaikunta where they experience eternal bliss in the proximity of the god.