Ekadashi fast is mainly dedicated to Lord Vishnu. In a year there come 24 Ekadashi and observed two times in a month according to the Hindu lunar calendar, one during Shukla Paksha (waxing phase) and the other during Krishna Paksha (waning phase). Every Ekadashi is uniquely special in some way.
Devshayani Ekadashi is the one that comes during the Shukla Paksh (waxing phase) in the month of Ashadha, hence also known as Ashadhi Ekadashi. Devshayani Ekadashi is highly special as indicated by its many names including Maha Ekadashi, Ashadi Ekadashi, Toli Ekadashi, Padma Ekadashi, Devpodhi Ekadashi and Hari Sayana Ekadashi. In the state of Maharashtra, this Ekadashi is popular in the name of Ashadhi Ekadashi and the annual Pandharpur Yatra or holy pilgrimage to the Pandharpur temple comes to an end on this day. In the south, this day is identified as Toli Ekadashi.
When is it observed?
Devshayani Ekadashi is observed on the eleventh lunar day (Ekadashi) of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) of the Hindu month of Ashadh (June – July). Thus it is also known as Ashadhi Ekadashi. This holy day is of special significance to Vaishnavas, followers of Lord Vishnu. Devshayani Ekadashi is the beginning of Chaturmaas (“chatur” means four and “maas” means months), the four auspicious monsoon months which are full of festivals and celebrations.
Devshayani Ekadashi is celebrated with piously on Tuesday, 4th July 2017.
As per the scripture Bhavishyottara Purana, God Krishna narrates the legend of Shayani Ekadashi to Yudhishthira, as the creator-god Brahma narrated the significance to his son Narada once. The story of king Mandata is narrated in this context. The pious king’s country had faced drought for three years, but the king was unable to find a solution to please the rain gods. Finally, sage Angiras advised the king to observe the vrata (Fasting) of Devshayani Ekadashi. On doing so by the grace of Vishnu, the kingdom received plenty of rains and the kingdom became prosperous. With rains came prosperity and the people lived happily thereafter.
It became a ritual since then to fast on this auspicious day as this brought prosperity and luck to those who showed religious devotion.
‘Dev’ means Lord and ‘Shayani’ means sleep. According to ancient scriptures, Hari Shayani Ekadashi is the day when Lord Hari or Vishnu retires to Ksheer Sagar (Ocean of Milk), rests there till four months and comes back to Vaikunth Vas on Shukla Paksh Ekadashi of Kartik Month. The Shukla Paksh Ekadashi of Kartik Month is called as Prabodhani Ekadashi.
The period from Hari Shayani Ekadashi to Prabhodhani Ekadashi is called as Chaturmas (Four Months). As Lord Vishnu, the preserver of life rests in Ksheer Sagar so no pious and auspicious activities like marriage etc. are carried out in Chaturmas.
Devshayani Ekadashi usually begins day after the Puri Rath Yatra. Pandharpur Yatra in Maharashtra too concludes on this day. Pilgrims in Maharashtra observe Devshayani Ekadashi with religious fervor. Main celebration occurs in Lord Vithala temples. Lord Vithala is considered an incarnation of Lord Krishna.
Devshayani Ekadashi is the sacred day devoted to Lord Vishnu. It is considered highly auspicious to observe fast on Hari Shayani Ekadashi. Devotees pray to Lord Vishnu and avoid consuming cereals, grains onion, certain spices and all types of non-vegetarian food. Observing the fast with utmost devotion on Devshayani Ekadashi is considered very pious as this Vrat brings happiness, prosperity and devotees get divine blessings of Lord Vishnu.
On this day images of Vishnu and Lakshmi are worshiped, the entire night is spent singing prayers, and devotees keep fast and take vows on this day, to be observed during the entire Chaturmas, the holy four-month period of rainy season.
Parana means breaking the fast. Ekadashi Parana is done after sunrise on next day of Ekadashi fast. It is necessary to do Parana within Dwadashi Tithi unless Dwadashi is over before sunrise. Not doing Parana within Dwadashi is similar to an offence.