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Benefits of fasting on Ekadasi
Medical professionals often extol the virtues of detoxification. Spiritual gurus likewise, recommend that devotees should observe fasting on Ekadasi . This not only cleanses the body but also sharpens the mind and helps purify the
Narada, the sage who always had a number of questions, once asked Lord Vishnu to list a few of His favourite things. Vishnu promptly said, “I love those devotees who undertake annadhanam because it is the purest form of charity. If I were to conduct a wedding and gift everyone a bar of gold, the guests would murmur saying, “He is so rich. He lives in Vaikundam. He could have given me two bars of gold. If I scale it down to, say, a sari, the recipient would still be dissatisfied with either the breadth of the zari or the cost. You see Narada, man’s heart is a bottomless pit. However, when it comes to food, there is a satiation point and one says,” Enough, I have enjoyed the meal to the full, my burp factor is complete.” Therefore, I hold a devotee very dear who has fed the poor and the saintly to the full.”
When Narada prodded Vishnu further, He said, “The waters of Ganga are the purest and I prefer that. I hold meditation in high regard. However, what I treasure most is the Ekadasi vratam, especially the Kaisika Ekadasi, ” Vishnu said. Falling on December 10 this year, Kaisika Ekadasi is also known as Guruvayur Ekadasi , because it is very special to Krishna, and the Guruvayur temple conducts it elaborately. The lamp is let on dasami (the previous day) and that lamp will continue to burn till dwadasi (the day after Ekadasi ). This is also the only Ekadasi when Guruvayur temple is kept open for devotees, starting from the morning of dasami to the closing hours of dwadasi.
In keeping with the fast on Kaisika Ekadasi, the presiding deity is offered wheat-based dessert, and not the famed pal payasam, because Lord Krishna is said to have observed the fast. Guruvayurppan is happy to be offered whatever His devotees consume on Kaisika Ekadasi.
There are two other legendary stories, associated with Kaisika Ekadasi and Guruvayur temple. One is of the 16th Century mathematician and poet Narayana Bhattathiri, who is famed for his composition, Narayaneeyam. It is said Bhattathiri was unable to watch his guru suffer from rheumatism and therefore ‘transferred’ it to himself (via yogic ability). He then proceeded to Guruvayur temple, and composed ten slokas a day, on Guruvayurappan. Pleased by his devotion, Vishnu is said to have blessed him with his Viswaroopa darshan. Bhattathiri’s disease vanished and he went on to live for many more decades. Narayaneeyam is considered a powerful devotional piece and is sung in many households, especiallay during the months of December-January.
Like Bhattathiri, Chembai Vaithyanatha Bhagavathar too has a special bond with Guruvayur temple. Chembai, as he is known, was rendering the kriti, “guru bhavana puradeesam”, when he suddenly lost his voice. He sought medical help, but the experts were puzzled and could not find a cure. Chembai went to Guruvayur temple and cried quietly. It is said he was beseeching Lord Krishna to help him. On Kaisika Ekadasi, Chembai suddenly burst into the same kriti, picking up from where he left, loud and clear for all to hear at this temple. To this day, musicians sing kritis every ten minutes at the Melpathur auditorium to commemorate Chembai’s regaining of his voice. The Guruvayur Devaswom Board officially conducts Chembai Sangeetholsavam every year, in honour of the episode.
—The writer lectures on spirituality and devotion