During the hottest season (northern hemisphere), if one can perform upavasa without water one is performing a great feat. One may take only charanamrta and achamana water. Bhima the mighty warrior of the Pandava dynasty requested one vrata day by which he could obtain the fruits of all the other days of vrata that he was incapable of observing. Vyasadeva advised him to follow this difficult vrata.
One should worship the Lord in the evening by bathing him in milk.
On the dvadasi one should give full pots of water to brahmanas and feed them before breaking one’s fast.
SAMVATSARASYA YA MADHYE EKADASYO BHAVANTI HI
TASAM PHALAM AVAPNOTI PUTRA ME NA ATRA SAMSAYAH
ITI MAM KESAVAH PRAHA SANKHA CAKRA GADADHARAH
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 15/25 from PADMA PURANA Vyasadeva speaks to Bhimasena)
Oh son, Lord Keshava, Who holds the club, disk, conch and lotus flower in His hand, personally told me that all of the merit achieved by fasting on whatever EkAdasis fall in one year can be attained by fasting on this one EkAdasii (nirjalA EkAdasii). Of this, there is no doubt.
ATMADROHAH KRTASTES TU YAIR ESA NA HY UPOSITA
PAPATMANO DURACARA DUSTAS TE NA ATRA SAMSAYAH
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 15/33 from PADMA PURANA Vyasadeva speaks to Bhimasena)
Anyone who does not fast on this particular EkAdasii (nirjalA EkAdasii), they should be understood to be sinful, corrupted and suicidal person without a doubt.
The Story of PANDava NirjalA EkAdasii:
PANDava NirjalA EkAdasii – Jyeshtha-shukla EkAdasii – from Brahma-vaivarta PurANam.
Once Bhimasena, the younger brother of Maharaja Yudhisthira, asked the great sage Shrila VyAsadeva, the grandfather of the PANDavas, if it is possible to return to the spiritual world without having observed all the rules and regulations of the EkAdasii fasts.
Bhimasena then spoke as follows, “Oh greatly intelligent and learned grandfather, my brother Yudhisthira, my dear mother Kunti, and my beloved wife Draupadi, as well as Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva, fast completely on each EkAdasii and strictly follow all the rules, guidelines and regulative injunctions of that sacred day. Bring very religious, they always tell me that I should also fast on that day too. But, Oh learned grandfather, I tell them that I cannot live without eating, because as the son of VAyudeva – Samanaprana, (the digestive air) hunger is unbearable to me. I can give widely in charity and worship Lord Keshava properly with all manner of wonderful upacharas (items), but I cannot be asked to fast on EkAdasii. Please tell me how I can obtain the same merits result without fasting.”
Hearing these words, the grandsire of Bhima, Srila VyAsadeva said, “If you want to go to the heavenly planets and avoid the hellish planets, you should indeed observe a fast on both the light and dark EkAdasiis.”
Bhima replied, “Oh great saintly intelligent grandfather, please listen to my plea. Oh greatest of munis, since I cannot live if I eat only once in a day, how can I possibly live if I fast completely? Within my stomach burns a special fire named Vrika, the fire of digestion. Agni the fire-god, descends from Lord Vishnu through BrahmA, from BrahmA to Angirasa, from Angirasa to Brihaspathi, and from Brihaspathi to Samyu, who was Agni’’ father. He is the gatekeeper in charge of Nairritti, the south-eastern direction. He is one of the eight material elements, and Parikshit MahArAja, he is very expert at examining things. He examined MahArAja Shibi once by turning into a dove (for further information on this incident see Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s Srimad Bhagavatam commentary to 1:12:20. Purport.)
Agni is divided into three categories; DavAgni, the fire in wood, JatharAgni, the fire in the digestion in the stomach, and VadavAgni, the fire that creates fog when hot and cold streams mix in for example the ocean. Another name for the fire of digestion is Vrika. It is this powerful fire that resided in Bhima’s stomach.
Only when I eat to my full satisfaction does the fire in my stomach become satisfied. Oh great sage, I might possibly be able to fast only once, so I beg that you tell me of an EkAdasii that is worthy of my fasting and that includes all other EkAdasiis. I shall faithfully observe that fast and hopefully still become eligible for liberation’s release.”
Shrila VyAsadeva replied, Oh king, you have heard from me about the various kinds of occupational duties, such as elaborate Vedik ceremonies and pujas. In the Kali-yuga, however, no one will be able to observe all these occupational, functional duties properly. I shall therefore tell you how, at practically no expense, one can endure some small austerity and achieve the greatest benefit and resultant happiness. The essence of what is written in the Vedic literatures known as the PurANas is that one should not eat on either the dark or light fortnight EkAdasiis.” As stated in Srimad Bhagavatam (Mahabhagavat PurANam) 12:13:12 and 15.) the Bhagavat PurANam is itself the essence or cream of all VedAnta philosophy (sara-vedAnta-sAram), and the Srimad Bhagavatam’s unequivocal message is that of full surrender to Lord Sri Krishna and the rendering of loving devotional service to Him. Observing EkAdasii strictly is a great aid in that process, and here Shrila VyAsadeva is simply stressing to Bhima the importance of the EkAdasii vratam. “…One who fasts on EkAdasiis saved from going to the hellish planets.”
Hearing Shrila VyAsadeva’s words, the son of VAyu, Bhimasena, the strongest of all warriors, became frightened and began to shake like a leaf on a banyan tree in a strong wind. The frightened Bhimasena then said, “Oh grandfather, what should I do? I am completely unable and ill equipped to fast twice in a month throughout the year! Please tell me of the one fasting day that will bestow the greatest benefit upon me!”
VyAsadeva replied, “Without drinking even water, you should fast on the EkAdasii that occurs during the light fortnight of the month of Jyeshtha (May-June) when the sun travels in the sign of Taurus (Vrishabh) and Gemini (Mithun), According to learned personalities, on this day one may bathe and perform Achamana for pratiprokshana purification. But while performing Achamana one may drink only that amount of water equal to a drop of gold, or that amount it takes to immerse a single mustard seed. Only this amount of water should be placed in the right palm for sipping, which one should form to resemble a cow’s ear. If one drinks more water than this, he might as well have drunk wine – despite the soaring heat of summer (in the northern hemisphere and cold in the southern hemisphere).
“One must certainly not eat anything, for if he does so he breaks his fast. This rigid fast is in effect from sunrise on the EkAdasii day to sunrise on the DwAdashii day. If a person endeavours to observe this great fast very strictly, he easily achieves the result of observing all twenty-four other EkAdasii fasts throughout the entire year.
“On DwAdashii the devotee should bathe early in the morning. Then, according to the prescribed rules, guidelines and regulative injunctions, and of course depending on his ability, he should give some gold and water to worthy brAhmaNas. Finally, he should cheerfully honour prasAdam with a brAhmaNa.
“Oh Bhimasena, one who can fast on this special EkAdasii in this manner reaps the benefit of having fasted on every EkAdasii during the year. There is no doubt of this, nor should there be. Oh Bhima, now hear the specific merit one gets by fasting on this EkAdasii. The Supreme Lord Keshava, who holds a conch, discus, club and lotus, personally told me, ‘Everyone should take shelter of Me and follow My instructions.’ Then He told me that one who fasts on this EkAdasii, without taking even drinking water or eating, becomes free of all sinful reactions, and that one who observes the difficult nirjalA fast on Jyeshtha-shukla EkAdasii truly reaps the benefit of all other EkAdasii fasts.
“Oh Bhimasena, in the Kali-yuga, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy, when all the principles of the Vedas will have been destroyed or greatly minimised, and when there will be no proper charity or observance of the ancient Vedik principles and ceremonies, how will there be any means of purifying the self? But there is the opportunity to fast on EkAdasii and become free of all one’s past sins.
“Oh son of VAyu, what more can I say to you? You should not eat during the EkAdasiis that occur during the dark and light fortnights, and you should even give up drinking water (nir = no jalaa= water) on the particularly auspicious EkAdasii day of Jyeshtha-shukla EkAdasii. Oh Vrikodara (veracious eater), whoever fasts on this EkAdasii receives the merits of bathing in all the places of pilgrimage, giving all kinds of charities to worthy persons, and fasting on all the dark and light EkAdasiis throughout the year, in one go. Of this there is no doubt.
Oh tiger among men, whoever fasts on this EkAdasii truly becomes a great person and achieves all manner of opulence and wealth, grains, strength, and health. And at the fearful moment of death, the terrible YamadUtas, whose complexions are yellow and black and who brandish huge maces and twirl mystic pAsha ropes in the air for binding their victims, will refuse to approach him. Rather, such a faithful soul will at once be taken to the supreme abode of Lord Vishnu by the Vishnu-dUtas, whose transcendentally beautiful forms are clothed in gorgeous yellowish garments and who each hold a disk, club, conch and lotus in their four hands, resembling Lord Vishnu. It is to gain all these benefits that one should certainly fast on this very auspicious and important EkAdasii, even from water.”
When the other PANDavas heard about the benefits to be gained by following Jyeshtha-shukla EkAdasii, they resolved to observe it exactly as their grandfather Srila VyAsadeva had explained it to their brother, Bhimasena. All the PANDavas observed it by refraining from eating or drinking anything, and thus this day is also known as PANDava NirjalA DvAdashii (technically it is a Maha-DvAdashii).
Shrila VyAsadeva continued, Oh Bhimasen, therefore you should observe this important fast to remove all your past sinful reactions. You should pray to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna in this way making your sankalpa declaration, ‘Oh Lord of all the devas (demigods), Oh Supreme Personality of Godhead, today I shall observe EkAdasii without taking any water. Oh unlimited Anantadev, I shall break fast on the next day, DwAdashii.’ Thereafter, to remove all his sins, the devotee should honour this EkAdasii fast with full faith in the Lord and with full control over his senses. Whether his sins are equal in volume to Mount Sumeru or to MandarAchala Hill, if he or she observes this EkAdasii, the sins that have been accumulated all become nullified and are burned to ashes. Such is the great power of this EkAdasii.
“Oh best of human beings, although a person should also give water and cows in charity during this EkAdasii, if for some reason or other he cannot, then he should give a qualified brAhmaNa some cloth or a pot filled with water. Indeed, the merit achieved by giving water alone equals that gained by giving gold ten million times a day.
“Oh Bhima, Lord Sri Krishna has said that whoever observes this EkAdasii should take a Holy bath, give charity to a worthy person, chant the Lord’s Holy names on a japa-mAla, and perform some kind of recommended sacrifice, for by doing these things on this day one receives imperishable benefits. There is no need to perform any other kind of religious duty. Observance of this EkAdasii fast alone promotes one to the supreme abode of Sri Vishnu. Oh best of the Kurus, if one donates gold, cloth, or anything else on this day, the merit one obtains is imperishable.
“Remember, whosoever eats any grains on EkAdasii becomes contaminated by sin and verily eats only sin. In effect, he has already become a dog-eater, and after death he suffers a hellish existence. But he who observes this sacred Jyeshtha-shukla EkAdasii and gives something in charity certainly achieves liberation from the cycle of repeated birth and death and attains to the supreme abode. Observing this EkAdasii, which is merged with DwAdashii, frees one from the horrible sin of killing a brAhmaNa, drinking liquor and wine, becoming envious of one’s spiritual master and ignoring his instructions, and continually telling lies.
“Furthermore, Oh best of beings (Jivottama), any man or woman who observes this fast properly and worships the Supreme Lord JalshAyi (He who sleeps on the water), and who on the next day satisfies a qualified brAhmaNa with nice sweets and a donation of cows and money – such a person certainly pleases the Supreme Lord Vasudeva, so much so that one hundred previous generations in his family undoubtedly go to the Supreme Lord’s abode, even though they may have been very sinful, of bad character, and guilty of suicide, etc. Indeed, one who observes this amazing EkAdasii rides on a glorious celestial airplane (vimAna) to the Lord’s abode.
“One who on this day gives a brAhmaNa a waterpot, an umbrella, or shoes surely goes to the heavenly planets. Indeed, he who simply hears these glories also attains to the transcendental abode of the Supreme Lord, Shri Vishnu. Whoever performs the Shraddha ceremony to the forefathers on the dark-moon day called amAvasya, particularly if it occurs at the time of a solar eclipse undoubtedly achieves great merit, but this same merit is achieved by him who simply hears this sacred narration – so powerful and so dear to the Lord is this EkAdasii.
“One should clean his teeth properly and, without eating or drinking, observe this EkAdasii to please the Supreme Lord, Keshava. On the day after EkAdasii one should worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His form as Trivikrama by offering Him water, flowers, incense, and a brightly burning lamp. Then the devotee should pray from the heart, ‘Oh God of gods, Oh deliverer of everyone, Oh Hrishikesha, master of the senses, kindly bestow upon me the gift of liberation, though I can offer you nothing greater than this humble pot filled with water.’ Then the devotee should donate the waterpot to a brAhmaNa.
“Oh Bhimasena, after this EkAdasii fast and donating the recommended items according to his ability, the devotee should feed brAhmaNas and thereafter honour prasAdam silently.”
Shrila VyAsadeva concluded, “I strongly urge you to fast on this auspicious, purifying, sin-devouring DwAdashii in just the way I have outlined. Thus you will be completely freed of all sins and reach the supreme abode.”
Thus ends the narration of the glories of Jyeshtha-shukla EkAdasii, or Bhimaseni-nirjalA EkAdasii,
from the Brahma-vaivarta PurANa.
These stories have been summarised and slightly changed or abbreviated from how they are found in the celebrated book, “Ekadasi: The Day of Lord Hari” 1986. HH Krishna Balaram Swami. Bhaktivedanta Institute Press. pages 87-91.
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Srimad Bhagavatam purport 1:12:20.
This child will be a munificent donor of charity and protector of the surrendered, like the famous King Çibi of the Uçénara country. And he will expand the name and fame of his family like Bharata, the son of Mahäräja Duñyanta.
A king becomes famous by his acts of charity, performances of yajïas, protection of the surrendered, etc. A kñatriya king is proud to give protection to the surrendered souls. This attitude of a king is called éçvara-bhava, or factual power to give protection in a righteous cause. In the Bhagavad-gétä the Lord instructs living beings to surrender unto Him, and He promises all protection. The Lord is all-powerful and true to His word, and therefore He never fails to give protection to His different devotees. The king, being the representative of the Lord, must possess this attitude of giving protection to the surrendered souls at all risk. Mahäräja Çibi, the King of Uçénara, was an intimate friend of Mahäräja Yayäti, who was able to reach the heavenly planets along with Mahäräja Çibi. Mahäräja Çibi was aware of the heavenly planet where he was to be transferred after his death, and the description of this heavenly planet is given in the Mahäbhärata (Ädi-parva 96.6–9). Mahäräja Çibi was so charitably disposed that he wanted to give over his acquired position in the heavenly kingdom to Yayäti, but he did not accept it. Yayäti went to the heavenly planet along with great åñis like Añöaka and others. On inquiry from the åñis, Yayäti gave an account of Çibi’s pious acts when all of them were on the path to heaven. He has become a member of the assembly of Yamaräja, who has become his worshipful deity. As confirmed in the Bhagavad-gétä, the worshiper of the demigods goes to the planets of the demigods (yänti deva-vratä devän [Bg. 9.25]); so Mahäräja Çibi has become an associate of the great Vaiñëava authority Yamaräja on that particular planet. While he was on the earth he became very famous as a protector of surrendered souls and a donor of charities. The King of heaven once took the shape of a pigeon-hunter bird (eagle), and Agni, the fire-god, took the shape of a pigeon. The pigeon, while being chased by the eagle, took shelter on the lap of Mahäräja Çibi, and the hunter eagle wanted the pigeon back from the King. The King wanted to give it some other meat to eat and requested the bird not to kill the pigeon. The hunter bird refused to accept the King’s offer, but it was settled later on that the eagle would accept flesh from the body of the King of the pigeon’s equivalent weight. The King began to cut flesh from his body to weigh in the balance equivalent to the weight of the pigeon, but the mystic pigeon always remained heavier. The King then put himself on the balance to equate with the pigeon, and the demigods were pleased with him. The King of heaven and the fire-god disclosed their identity, and the King was blessed by them. Devarñi Närada also glorified Mahäräja Çibi for his great achievements, specifically in charity and protection. Mahäräja Çibi sacrificed his own son for the satisfaction of human beings in his kingdom. And thus child Parékñit was to become a second Çibi in charity and protection.
Dauñyanti Bharata: There are many Bharatas in history, of which Bharata the brother of Lord Räma, Bharata the son of King Åñabha, and Bharata the son of Mahäräja Duñyanta are very famous. And all these Bharatas are historically known to the universe. This earth planet is known as Bhärata, or Bhärata-varña, due to King Bharata the son of Åñabha, but according to some this land is known as Bhärata due to the reign of the son of Duñyanta. So far as we are convinced, this land’s name Bhärata-varña was established from the reign of Bharata the son of King Åñabha. Before him the land was known as Ilävati-varña, but just after the coronation of Bharata, the son of Åñabha, this land became famous as Bhärata-varña.
But despite all this, Bharata, the son of Mahäräja Duñyanta was not less important. He is the son of the famous beauty Çakuntalä. Mahäräja Duñyanta fell in love with Çakuntalä in the forest, and Bharata was conceived. After that, Mahäräja forgot his wife Çakuntalä by the curse of Kaëva Muni, and the child Bharata was brought up in the forest by his mother. Even in his childhood he was so powerful that he challenged the lions and elephants in the forest and would fight with them as little children play with cats and dogs. Because of the boy’s becoming so strong, more than the so-called modern Tarzan, the åñis in the forest called him Sarvadaman, or one who is able to control everyone. A full description of Mahäräja Bharata is given in the Mahäbhärata, Ädi-parva. The Päëòavas, or the Kurus, are sometimes addressed as Bhärata due to being born in the dynasty of the famous Mahäräja Bharata, the son of King Duñyanta.
Morning Walk. June 7th 1976. Los Angeles
Rämeçvara: On the calendar it says it is Bhéma-ekädaçé.
Prabhupäda: Bhéma-ekädaçé, yes.
Rämeçvara: So I’ve been told that if one fasts on Bhéma-ekädaçé, that it is like fasting on all the ekädaçés. Is that true?
Prabhupäda: Yes. Ekädaçé is meant for fasting, either Bhéma or Arjuna. But we cannot fast, therefore we have to take little fruits and…. Otherwise, ekädaçé means fasting.
Tamäla Kåñëa: If it is possible, should we go without eating at all?
Prabhupäda: Yes. But don’t lie down and sleep.
Mahendra: Eating mahä-prasädam is also fasting.
Prabhupäda: Who says?
Mahendra: You said that to Paramahaàsa Swami once.
Prabhupäda: And you heard from Paramahaàsa.
Mahendra: No, I was in the room. It was when he was trying to observe Caturmäsya.
Prabhupäda: I never said that.
Mahendra: Oh, okay, I must have heard wrong.
Prabhupäda: If there is service and, on my fasting, service will be stopped, then I can take. First consideration, service. Now if somebody feels weak, he can take mahä-prasäda, render service.
Rämeçvara: That priest that has now become your disciple, he’s joining Satsvarüpa Mahäräja’s party. He’s very interested, and Satsvarüpa Mahäräja has said he would like him to come to travel together and study.
Prabhupäda: Very good.
( ACBSP. Morning Walk. June 7th 1976. Los Angeles)
“One who is physically unable to fast on Ekadasi may read the glories of each Ekadasi when it occurs and recite all the names of the Ekadasis; thus he will achieve the same goal as the person who observes the full Ekadasi vow.”
Whether one is a Vaisnava or a Saivite, everyone should fast on Ekadasi day.
EKA BHUKTENA NAKTENA BALA VRDDHA ATURAH KSIPET
PAYO MULA PHALAIR VAPI NA NIRDVAD ASIKO BHAVET
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 12/91 from MARKANDEYA PURANA)
A child, an old man or a person unable to fast can take something to eat in the evening or once in the day, whether it be milk, fruit or water, but should properly follow the Ekadasi fast. One should not give up fasting on Ekadasi.
VYADHIBHIK PARIBHUTANAM PITTA ADHIKA SARIRINAM
TRINSAD VARSADHIKANAN CA NAKTA-ADI PRIKALPANAM
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 12/93 from BAUDHAYANA SMRTI)
Any person who is diseased, or who is dominated by bile or who has aged more than thirty years (after householder life), they are advised to eat in the evening on the Ekadasi day.
Srila Sanatana Gosvami remarks, “Aging more than thirty years means after household life ends. This is understood to be around sixty years of age, so thirty years added to that is ninety years.” Furthermore, “One should go to the forest at the ate of fifty”. According to this statement, a grhastha’s life is said to be fifty years, that is he has decided to live in his family life until the age of fifty. Even then, if one adds thirty years, if becomes approximately eighty years. Therefore, fasting is recommended until a minimum age of eighty (actually it means throughout life).
ASTA ETANY AVRTAGHNANI APO MULAM PHALAM PAYAH
HAVIR BRAHMANA KAMYA CA GUROR VACANAM AUSADHAM
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 12/100 from MAHABHARATA, UDYOGA PARVA)
Water, fruits, roots, milk, ghee, the request of a brahmana, the order of a spiritual master and medicine do not wane one’s fast.
Note::: Special thanks to Jaya Tirtha Caran prabhu from NZ for allowing us to use some of the content from his site to compile these pages.