Ekadashi Viradham is practised in most of the homes. Fasting on the thithi Ekadashi is considered to be a way to reach Vaikundam. We have attempted to discuss the significance of Ekadashi Viradham in this blog.
Ekadashi is the eleventh day of the moon cycle, both from the Purnima (full moon) and from the Amavasya (new moon). Well-known as the day of Lord Hari, this is celebrated as one of the highly auspicious days suitable for fasting. Ekadashi is also termed as “Upavaasam” since we stay (Vaasam) close(Upa) to Perumal all day by chanting his naamam and thinking about him all day long without partaking any food.
Different levels of observing Ekadashi Viradham
People observe Ekadashi Viradham in different ways. It predominantly depends on their age and lifestyle. We have enlisted the different ways in which Ekadashi Viradham is observed.
- The real way to observe Ekadashi is to fast completely without even taking water. This is called nirjala fast.
- If you cannot observe a nirjala fast, you can take just water.
- If you cannot do that, you can also take a little fruit and milk.
- The next option is that you can also take other non-grain foods like vegetables (except onion and garlic), roots, nuts, varai, sabudana, etc., only once during the fast.
- The last option is to take the above items three times like on a regular day.
Fast should be taken because of buoyancy of feeling and not fatigue. People who are weak cannot take nirjala viradham. They could take the other levels of Viradham as mentioned above.
How do we observe Ekadashi viradham?
Ekadashi Viradham is observed from sunrise to sunset of the day where the thidhi Ekadashi comes on the dawn. The viradham can be observed by all irrespective of gender, age, class and caste.
One gets the benefits of Ekadashi Viradham by engaging themselves in the spiritual activities for the whole day. This include
Remembering the pastimes of Lord Krishna or the other incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
- Chanting Hare Krishna maha-mantra as many times as possible.
- Reading scriptures like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
- Visiting a temple of Lord Vishnu/Krishna.
How to break the fast is as important as the fast. Ekadeshi Vrata is broken on the next day after sunrise. People who observed nirjala vrata should break their fast by taking grains on the next day morning. The fast could also be broken by taking milk and fruits after sunrise.
The purpose and benefits of Ekadashi
- Fasting on days such as Ekadashi is meant for reducing the fat within the body .Although there is no intrinsic connection between fast and meditation, there is an advantage of keeping the body light and the stomach free from an excessive metabolic function. This would help in the physical and mental health.
- When the stomach is given the duty of digestion, doctors will tell you, the blood circulation is accelerated towards the digestive organs, on account of which blood circulation to the head gets decreased after food is taken and so you feel sleepy and the thinking faculty practically ceases to function.
- On Ekadashi, more time can be utilised for spiritual activity. In this way, one can achieve both external and internal purity.
- The real purpose of fasting on Ekadashi as increasing one’s faith and love for Krishna. By observing a fast on Ekadashi, we can minimise the bodily demands and engage our time in the service of the Lord by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra or performing similar service.
- Padma Purana states that one should follow Ekadashi especially since even if one by trickery follows Ekadashi, all of his sins become destroyed and he very easily attains the supreme goal, the abode of Vaikuntha.
We have also attached the words of Japanese Scientist Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi on Ekadeshi for your reference:
“Japanese scientist Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi for his research on autophagy. Autophagy means to “self-eat”. In other words, the process by which the human body eats it own damaged cells and unused proteins. Autophagy is a natural process and also one which occurs in cases of starvation. The failure of autophagy is one of the main reasons for accumulation of damaged cells which eventually leads to various diseases in the body. Autophagy is important to prevent/fight cancer and also plays a vital role in degrading and ‘consuming’ cells infected by bacteria and viruses.
I have to observe here that ancient India had recommended a practice of fasting (Ekadasi) one day in a fortnight. Many of us religiously follow this practice to this day as a penance for spiritual progress without any idea of the biological and therapeutic benefits of this practice. Through this process of fasting-induced autophagy, our body repairs its damaged and degenerated cells or used up the proteins of the damaged cells for its survival.
Whenever modern science conquers a frontier in any field, it somehow relates back to a quaint spiritual practice followed in India for generations.
A day in a fortnight spent in prayer and divine contemplation was a tonic for the mind and soul while the practice of fasting ensured that the body would heal and rejuvenate itself.
Clearly, our ancients believed in a process of holistic healing of both the body and the mind. They were able to, quite remarkably, connect the yearning for spiritual progress in a human being with the biological necessity of the human body. One cannot but marvel, and bow our heads with admiration and reverence, at their wisdom and deep scientific understanding of the body and the mind.”