Nirjala Ekadashi is the holiest Hindu occasion falling on the 11th lunar day of the waxing fortnight of the Hindu month of Jyestha. This year it will be observed on 23rd June 2018. It is also known as Pandava Bhima Ekadashi. While on other ekadashis food is consumed, on Nirjala Ekadashi, an absolute fast is observed, without even consuming water. The Ekadashi derives its name from the water-less (Nir-jala) fast observed on this day. The fast is observed 24 hours from sunrise on Nirjala Ekadashi to Sunrise on the next day. Amongst the 24 Ekadashis observed throughout the year, Nirjala Ekadashi is considered to be the most beneficial, if one properly observes a fast on this day it is said to give the fruits of 24 Ekadashi observed throughout the year. It is most popular and strictly observed by Vaishnavas.
Story behind Nirjala Ekadashi
The name “Bhima Ekadashi” is derived from Bhima, the second and strongest of the five Pandava brothers in the epic Mahabharat. Brahma Vaivarta Purana narrates the story behind the Nirjala Ekadashi Vrat. Bhima, a lover of food, wanted to observe all ekadashi fasts, but could not control his hunger. He approached the sage Vyasa, author of the Mahabharat and grandfather of the Pandavas for a solution. The sage advised him to do Nirjala Ekadashi, when for one day in the year, he should observe an absolute fast. Bhima attained the virtue of all 24 ekadashis, by observing Nirjala Ekadashi.
Importance of this Fast
It is believed that by observing fast on these days, negative effects get reduced and mind gets maximum efficiency and better capacity to meditate. The Upavasa observer gains longevity and Moksha (Salvation). Meditating and worshiping Vishnu on this day generates favorable influence on the mind and soul and helps in spiritual elevation to higher lokas. Usually, the god of death Yama are described to fetch the person’s soul after death. Yama then judges the person’s deeds and sends him to Svarga (heaven) or Naraka (Hell). However, one who observes the Nirjala Ekadashi rituals is believed to be excused from yama’s judgement and taken by messengers of Vishnu to Vaikuntha.
What to do on Nirjala Ekadashi
Like other Ekadashis, Puja is offered to Vishnu. The one who observes fast has to observe waterless fast or Upavasa. Fast begins on Ekadashi sunrise and ends on next day sunrise. Those with family should observe fasting on first day only. The two-day Ekadashi fasting, is only suggested for Sanyasis, widows and those who want Moksha.
Devotee may visit a Vishnu/Krishna temple and offer prayers. One can also worship at their homes in the early morning. The idols of Lord Vishnu or a Saligram stone should be worshiped with Panchamrita. It is then washed with water and sprayed with precious etra and then dressed in colorful finery. Flowers, incense, water and arati are also offered. One can worship Lord Vishnu by using Vishnu Yantra.
Devotees meditate on Lord Vishnu and chant his Mantra: ‘Om Namo Bhagwate Vasudevya Namha’ and also chant Hare Krishna Maha-Mantra in front the image of God. Chanting thousand names of Vishnu (Vishnu Sahasranamam) has a purifying effect on the mind and body.
You can also perform a Vishnu Sahasranama puja under qualified Brahmins. The puja includes Vishnu-Lakshmi Abhishek and pujan. Vishnu mantra Japa 1100 times, Vishnu Sahasranama strotra followed by Homa and Aarti.
Donate clothes, food grains, umbrellas, hands-fan, pitchers filled with water, gold etc. items to Brahmins.
According to Vishnu Puranas, the day of Ekadashi is itself a form of Vishnu. The fast observed on this day is said to wash away all sin. One who completes the Upavasa of Nirjala Ekadashi, gains the favour of Vishnu, who grants happiness, prosperity and forgiveness for sins.