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Fast on Uthana ekadasi, feed the soul
Today is Uthana ekadasi, a highly auspicious day. There are only four pure things in life: Bhaagavadasyannam (feeding Bhagavadas), Bhagirati jalam (Ganga jal) Vishnu padadhyanam (supplicating to Vishnu) and ekada si vratham. By practising these, one gets purified physically, even as the enrich one’s soul.
What is ekadasi ?
Ekadasi is the 11th day in a month, and thus falls twice in a 30-day period. It is also a day of upavasam—where one observes a fast and refrains from sleeping, in order to get closer to God. In North India, many refer to ekadasi as Hari vasara or Madhav titi. It is said that all humans possess five acquiring senses and five working senses.
However, man also possesses one other trait: the mind, which tends to go wayward often. Controlling the mind is key to controlling the senses, getting closer to God and attaining salvation. Therefore when we fast during ekadasi, the 11th trait controls the other 10, making it possible for all to get closer to God.
One may ask how one can get closer to God merely by foregoing the basic necessities of sleep and food. Keeping the mind absorbed in divine activities helps cleanse one’s mind and purify the soul. There are two ways of doing this. The first is by way of rituals, such as homams, yagams , etc. The second way lies in spirituality. This involves fasting, chanting mantras, participating in nama sankeertans, etc.
The spiritual margam is easier to follow than the one of rituals, since it only requires one’s own personal determination. Once the mind is focused, it automatically becomes spiritual in nature. And fasting is a great way to attain that mental equipoise. According to science, it is safe to fast for upto 36 hours, once in a fortnight— which is the duration of an ekadasi fast.
However, since continuous fasting may result in acidity, devotees are allowed to sip water or coconut water at regular intervals. Uthana ekadasi is also known as Prabhobhini . It occurs in the month of October/November every year.
The significance lies in the fact that it is on this day that Vishnu opens His eyes, after His Yoga nithra of a few months. which begins on Ashada ekadasi day, A number of sadhus observe this as the start of Chaturmasya .
After four months, when Vishnu opens His eyes, devotees throng temples, seeking the blessings that cannot be quantified. The importance of Uthana ekadasi as the best among the 24 ekadasis is propounded by none other than Brhama, who narrates the importance to sage Narada. Thousands of devotees undertake a padayatra to Pandaripuram and take part in celebrating Uthana ekadasi that goes on for five days there.
Similarly, pilgrims travel to Pushkar in Rajasthan and pray at Brahma’s temple there, as a form of thanksgiving for sending the message to devotees through Narada. A number of sugarcane farmers who observe this ekadasi make offerings of sugarcane to God and take part in charitable activities.
In Gujarat’s Mount Girnar, devotees form a huge train while performing nama sankirtan, stretching to over 32 km. This is also called as lily parikrama. In some homes, devotees even conduct a marriage between tulsi and Krishna, to reinforce the special significance that tulsi holds for Krishna.
For those who cannot undertake the journey, an arch anai performed on Lord Krishna with tulsi leaves can be done in their homes. The idea is to overcome material cravings and focus the mind on God.