Amalaki Ekadashi, which is being celebrated today, March 17, is a Hindu festival where Hindu community across the world worship amla tree and Lord Vishnu on the 11th day of the lunar month of Phalgun (February to March). It is believed that during this month Lord Vishnu resides in the tree. The day also marks the beginning of the colourful festival of Holi, which is on March 21 this year.
Ekadashi vrata is said to be one of the most auspicious fastings and is observed by many people across India. It is also believed that people can fulfil their desires by observing the fast as it carries blessings.
History and Significance:
There are various stories around why Amalaka Ekadashi is celebrated. One popular legend suggests that King Chitrasena and his subjects observed the vrata of Amalaka Ekadashi. During one of his hunting trips, Chitrasena lost his way in the forest and was captured by the wild tribals or rakshasas (demons) who attacked him with weapons. The king remained physically unharmed, but he fell unconscious as more tribals or demons surrounded him. That is when a divine power in the form of light emerged from his body and destroyed his attackers and then vanished. When he regained consciousness, Chitrasena was stunned to see all the attackers killed. A divine voice then announced that this was due to the observance of the Ekadashi vrata. After this incident, the vrata became popular in the kingdom, which led to peace and harmony.
Another legend in the Brahmanda Purana states that King Chaitraratha of Vaidisa and his subjects were blessed with riches due to the worship of Vishnu. When Chaitraratha and his subjects worshiped Vishnu and the amla tree near the Vishnu temple, they also fasted and remained awake the whole night singing bhajans in praise of Lord Vishnu. The story states that a hungry hunter joined the group and followed the Amalaka Ekadashi vrata. As a result, after his death he was reborn as King Vasurath. Essentially, the moral of the story is that the performance of Amalaka Ekadashi vrata, without any desire and just pure devotion, results in the grace of Vishnu, in this and next lives.
How it is celebrated in India:
On this day, devotees have an early bath, water the tree, do a puja and then observe a fast. Gifts are offered to Brahmin priests and people also listen to the vrata katha of Amalaka Ekadash. Giving food and charity on this day is believed to be equal to the performance of a vajapeya, a somayajna sacrifice. Ekadashi Parana is done after sunrise on the next day of Ekadashi fast. It is necessary to do Parana within Dwadashi Tithi unless Dwadashi is over before sunrise. Not doing Parana within Dwadashi is similar to an offence. Also, Ekadashi fasting on both days is suggested for staunch devotees who are seeking the love and affection of Lord Vishnu. Also, Amalaka Ekadashi is when the festivities around Holi begin.
Vrat Timings and Muharat:
Amalaki Ekadashi vrata starts at 11:33 pm on March 16
Amalaki Ekadashi vrata ends at 5:43 am on March 18