Vaikuntha Ekadasi or Mukkoti Ekadasi is the Shukla paksha Ekadashi that occurs during the Dhanurmasa period in the Hindu calendar (corresponding to late December – January in the English calendar). Vaishnavism (Worship of Lord Vishnu) culture believes that ‘Vaikuntha Dwaram’ or ‘the gate to Lord’s Inner Sanctum’ is opened on this day. VAIKUNTA EKADASI, or MUKKOTI EKADASI, is the most important of the twenty four Ekadasi observances in South India. According to Vishnu Purana, fasting on Vaikunta Ekadashi is equivalent to fasting on the remaining 23 Ekadashis of the (Hindu) year.
Vaikunta Ekadasi in Temples
While Vaikunta Ekadasi is observed in all Vaishnava temples, this day is celebrated with lots of gusto in Sri Ranganatha temple, Sri Parthasarathy Temple and in Tirumala Tirupati.
The most important festival celebrated for full twenty one days during the Tamil month Margazhi (December-January), is divided into two ten days as pagal pathu and ra pathu, with all pomp and pageantry. On Ekadesi day, Lord Ranganatha, attired in a splendid garment, proceeds in a magnificent procession through Paramapada Vasal, arriving at Thirumamani Mandapam in the thousand in a pillared hall to the thrill and joy of the devotees gathered in lakhs who have come from all over India and abroad. This occasion is the peak point of all festivals conducted in the Temple, on this day of days.
Sri Ranganatha becomes a virtual king and is known as Sri Rangaraja. He holds his Divine Durbar in that huge hall which is further extended by a specially erected and tastefully decorated pandal. Throughout the day, Nalayira Dhivyaprabandham is recited, and gets back to the Temple only late in the night. A paradise on Earth indeed!!!
In Triplicane Parthasarathy Temple Vaikunta Ekadasi is one of the biggest temple festivals. A Vaikunta Ekadasi celebration starts with the Pagal pathu urchavam and ends with Rapathu urchavam.
Science behind Ekadasi
It is an age old practice for Indians to observe a fast (vrat) on Ekadasi days. According to scriptures, fasting helps to create harmony between the body and soul. Ekadasi is the 11th day of the moon cycle, both from the full moon and from the new moon (equi-distant).
Due to the Orbital path combination of the Sun, Moon and Earth, the air pressure on Earth varies to a greater extent, both on the New moon day and the Full moon day. This can be observed when we go to the sea on these days, where tidal waves are very high and rough.
On both the days, the earth pressure is at its maximum, thus leading to imbalance in the thought process. It takes about 3-4 days for the food we eat to reach our brain. Now during Ekadasi, which falls on the 11th day (4 days before the No Moon/Full Moon day), if we fast/eat less, the chances of brain indulging in extreme activity due to high pressure imbalance becomes minimum.
Another reason for observing fast on this day is since the atmospheric pressure is lower on the 11th day; it is the best time to cleanse the bowel system.
Fasting on Ekadasi or at least not consuming cereals and pulses, helps to flush out the toxins from our body making our body stronger.
After fasting on Ekadasi, on the next day, we should get up early and eat before sunrise by partaking fruits and herbs. Nellikkai and Agatti keerai act as toning agents on our digestive tract while Sundaikkai removes the toxic remains completely.
Story behind Ekadasi
The austerity is associated with much deeper aspects. This is explained in the Padma Puranam (the second amongst the eighteen puranas), which tells us about the beginnings of Ekadasi with this legend.
The Padma Purana says: “ekadasi vrata samam vrata nasti jagattrayeanicchaya’pi yat krtva gatir evam vidha’vayoh ekadasi vratam ye tu bhakti bhavena kurvate na jane kim bhavet tesam vasudeva anukampaya” , which translates as:
In the three worlds, there is no kind of fasting which is even comparable to the Ekadasi fast. Even if one performs this fast without a proper attitude, he achieves the Supreme Abode. If one fasts on Ekadasi day, with full devotion, what happens to him by the mercy of the Supreme Lord, I cannot say (the merit he achieves cannot be described).
During the Krita Yuga, also termed the golden age, an asura called Muran harassed both devas and mortals. Unable to bear his tyranny, the devas sought refuge in Shiva. He directed them to approach Vishnu. Vishnu agreed to help the devas and went out to battle with Muran.
During the long battle, which lasted one thousand celestial years, Vishnu needed to rest for a while. He entered a beautiful cave called Himavati in Badarikashrama to sleep in. Muran wanted to strike Vishnu while he was sleeping. However, Shakti – Vishnu’s female energy – emerged out of his body and assumed the form of a beautiful damsel who fought Muran and vanquished him. When Vishnu awoke he was very pleased and named this maiden as Ekadasi and granted her a boon. The maiden said, “O Lord, if You are pleased with me and wish to give me a boon, then give me the power to save people from the greatest sins if they fast on this day”. Vishnu granted her the boon and declared that people worshipping her would reach Vaikunta. Thus, was born the first ekadasi, which was a Dhanurmasa sukla paksha ekadasi. Sages and devout people have been since, observing the ekadasi vrata regularly. Here, the demon Muran represents the tamasic and rajasic qualities in us. The import of the ekadasi vrata is that one can conquer rajasic and tamasic tendencies in us through fasting. This helps us reach our ultimate destination, Vaikuntha, which is the place or stage of no ‘kuntitha’ or dullness, stupidity and misery.
It is also said that the cave where Sri Vishnu took rest is Badri Kashramam. Vadhari means dates (Elandhai) in Sanskrit. And as the years passed on, Vadhari became known as Badri.