Vaikuntha Ekadasi - the most significant Hindu festival

Vaikunta Ekadasi

In Indian mythology, Vaikunth  or Vaikundam refers to the  abode of Lord Vishnu  where everything is in abundance.  ''Kuntha'', a Hindi word   implies no shortage, everything is available in plenty.  The  Bhagavatam mentioned that it is the place where  the soul  reaches the higher level and experiences the divinity in the holy shadow of the lord.  It is the place  where the  all-pervading God Narayana appears as the most supreme power.  It is in the ''vaikundam'' the Supreme Consciousness  permeates all of ''Creation'', and  there is no discernable difference  between the Lord (Narayan) and the sevaka (servant or devotee) who  reposes trust in the lord.  

Ekadashi (in Sanskrit, ekādaśī,  meaning  “Eleven”, “Eka” – one, “dashi” – ten) is the eleventh lunar day (Tithi) - moon cycle  between the New Moon and Full Moon;  both from the Purnima (full moon) and from the Amavasya (new moon) - occurring twice a month- Shukla  paksha and Krishna paksha. Referred to as  the day of Lord Hari, Vaikuntha  Ekadashi or Swarga Vasal Thirapu  is  the most auspicious day that falls in the Tamil month of Margazhi or Margashirsha  Shukla paksha  (mid December to mid January). In 2023 it falls on 23 December.

In Kerala it is known as  Swargathil Ekadasi, in Telugu Vaikuntha dwaram or Swargada Bagilu and in the northern states it is referred to as Putrada Ekadasi. 

 On this day in all Vishnu temples special pujas and rituals are held in honor of god Vishnu  and Vaikunta vasal (entrance gate to heaven) is opened for darshan of god Vishnu.  

It is the holiest day  for fasting and prayer,  and the devotees, particularly, people above 40 years of age visit the nearby Hindu temple devoted to God Vishnu and  enter  the  ''Swarga vasal'' - the entrance gate to the sanctified abode of the lord. In some Vishnu temples the  entrance gate on the north side is kept open for this purpose on this day; rest of the year it is closed. In Perumal  temples without Swarga vasal, a makeshift entrance gate will be fixed on the north side for the devotees to enter it.   

People undertake fast on that day  after regular  head bath and puja ritual and break the fast following morning. Vaikunta Ekadasi Vrata' ll help the ardent devotees reach the eternal place of tranquility at the lotus feet of the lord. It is said that fasting on the Vaikuntha Ekadashi day is equivalent to fasting on all 23 Ekadashis of the year for a Vishnu devotee. 

For them there are no cycles of birth and death, of pain and pleasure and of failure and victory.  According to Padma purana (second among the 18 puranas) demon Muran terrorized the Devas who sought the help of god Vishnu. Furious as he was, Muran turned against Vishnu and one day Lord Vishnu retired to a cave for the goddess named, Haimavati in Badarikashrama. Finding the right time, when Muran tried to kill Lord Vishnu while asleep, a female power emerged from Lord Vishnu and burnt Muran with her eyes. Quite pleased  with her powers that emerged from him) and her prompt action, Lord Vishnu named her as ‘Ekadashi’ (the day was 11th lunar day in Vedic month). 

Responding to god Vishnu's offer of a boon, Ekadasi, requested the lord to give his devotees  salvation when they prayed to him on the Ekadasi day. So Vishnu said,  ''Those who worship Ekadasi on that particular day will be free from sins and reach vaikunta'' . 

There are  24 Ekādaśīs in a calendar year - two in a period of 30 days  presided by one of the avatars of God Vishnu.  Example: Vaamana is the presiding deity of Yogini Ekadashi /Shayani Ekadashi in the Vedic calendar month of Ashada (June-July).  In addition to 24, two extra Ekadaśis can  happen in a leap year.  

Bhagavata Purana (skandha IX, adhyaay 4) has stated the observation of Ekādaśī by Ambarisha, an ardent  devotee of Lord Vishnu. The Mokshada Ekadashi / Vaikunta Ekadashi (Suklapaksha) and Utpanna Ekadashi (Krishna paksha)  fall in December-January (Vedic calendar:  Margashirsha) and the former gains foremost importance in all Vishnu and Sri Krishna temples across the land. The presiding deity is Sri Kesava, yet another name of Sri Vishnu..