An ekadashi as per Hindu calendar falls on the eleventh day of every lunar fortnight, making it a total of 24 ekadashis in an entire year.
An ekadashi is also known as Hari Vasara. Amongst all these Ekadashis, the Nirjala Ekadashi is considered to be the most beneficial, auspicious and powerful. Devotees observing this Ekadashi have to give up not only food, but water too.
This Nirjala Ekadashi is observed on the eleventh day of the waxing fortnight of the moon in the month of Jyestha according to the traditional Hindu calendar. As per the Gregorian calendar, the Nirjala Ekadashi happens on the 11 th day of the lunar calendar of the month of June.
What is Nirjala Ekadashi?
Nirjala Ekadashi, as mentioned is the most powerful Ekadashis amongst all the 24 Ekadashis in an entire year. As the name itself suggests, Nirjala Ekadashi is one Ekadashi where the devotee has to abstain from not only food but also water, which means Nir jala, or no water. Because of its very strict fasting guidelines, this becomes the most difficult Ekadashis to be observed in the whole year. This fast begins on the day before and ends on the next day at sunrise. It is believed that devotees who observe this vrat or ritual go to Heaven or the abode of Lord Vishnu, the Vaikunthadham. The Nirjala Ekadashi is so effective that people who do not observe the ekadashis throughout the year, if observes the Nirjala Ekadashi; will gain all benefits and blessings. Nirjala Ekadashi is also known as the Pandava Bhima Ekadashi or Bhimseni or Pandava Nirjala Ekadashi.
What is the Legend of Nirjala Ekadashi?
The legend behind Nirjala Ekadashi goes back a long way. This is also known as Pandava Bhima Ekadashi for legendary reasons. It is derived from Bhima, the second of the Pandava brothers. The saga of this is recounted in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana. As per the legend, Bhima, a connoisseur of food had always failed dismally to observe an ekadashi vrat as he could not keep a fast, whereas, everyone else, gained the blessings of Vishnu, by keeping a fast in the Ekadashis. He felt that he had been dishonoring Lord Vishnu, by not being able to observe a Ekadashi. Thus Bhima went to sage Vyasa to seek a way out for the same. Vyasa was the grandfather of the Pandavas and the author of the Mahabharata. Vyasa suggested gaining the blessings and the result of all the Ekadashis, Bhima should observe the fast of the Nirjala Ekadashi to make up for the 24 ekadashis.
How to observe the Nirjala Ekadashi?
Nirjala Ekadashi is an extremely difficult austerity to be performed and maintained. A fast without water during hot and humid weather for 24 hours is difficult and thus considered to be the most auspicious. There are certain things which are to be done on this auspicious day. These are as follows –
- The day before the ekadashi the devotee takes one meal without rice and performs the evening prayers or the Sandhyavandanam
- Devotee should have a ritual cleansing bath in the morning and pray to Lord Vishnu in the morning
- A puja should be done by lighting a lamp, burning incenses and offering fruits and tulsi leaves
- Visit a Vishnu temple and take part in the proceedings of pujas etc
- Maintain a fast without water for the whole day. Only a drop of water while doing the ritual of Achaman or water for purification, is permitted, but anything more than that is considered to be a break of the vow
- Image of Vishnu or a shaligram shila is bathed in Panchamrita, which is a mixture of the five foods of milk, curd, honey,sugar and ghee or clarified butter
- The Shaligram shila is then bathed in water and adorned in royal and beautiful clothes
- Hand fan, flowers, incense, water, and lamp for arati are also offered
- Devotees worship Lord Vishnu with Durva grass in their hands
- It is forbidden to sleep at nights , thus the devotees have to keep awake throughout the night and pray
- It is important to do some dan-dhyan to the Brahmins, meaning charity should be done to the Brahmans on this day. Umbrellas, hand fans, grains, clothes etc are all things which are donated to the Brahmins on this auspicious day
- The fast to be broken the next day by drinking water
What are the merits of the Nirjala Ekadashi?
As per the Markandeya Purana, the day of Nirjala Ekadashi is itself Lord Vishnu’s manifestation. It is said to redeem people from all sins. It gives the result and benefits of all the 24 ekadashis in one day. It is believed to grant the devotee who performs and completes this ritual immense favor from Lord Vishnu. It is the vrata which post death guarantees an entrance to Vaikuntha, Lord Vishnu’s abode by passing the Lord of Death, Yama Raja. This ekadashi astrologically happens just before the onset of the monsoon season, and thereby cleanses the body, mind and soul. Blessings of Vishnu grants happiness, prosperity and moksha or salvation to the devotees.