Hindus being polytheistic revere the various Gods and Goddesses throughout the year. Lord Rama is worshiped on Rama Navami, Lord Krishna on Krishna Asthami but the true form of Lord Vishnu is celebrated on Ekadashis, especially on Hari Bodhini and Hari Shayani.
Ekadasi is a Sanskrit word, which means ‘the eleventh’. It refers to the eleventh day of a fortnight belonging to a lunar month. There are two fortnights in a lunar month—the bright and the dark. So, Ekadasi occurs twice in a month, in the bright fortnight and the dark fortnight during which some people fast (abstinence from diet).
Hari Shayani Ekadashi is the Shukla Paksha Ekadashi of Ashadha month of the Hindu calendar. It is also known as Dev Shayani Ekadashi or Padma Ekadashi. It is called Ashadhi Ekadashi because it is the eleventh lunar day of the bright fortnight of the Ashadha month. This day is very auspicious for Vaishnavas, the followers of Lord Vishnu.
The Importance Of Hari Shayani Ekadashi
Lord Brahma told him the story, there was a great king in Satyuga. His kingdom was suffering from a drought for the past 3 years. Anxiety spread among citizens. Seeing the severity of the problems, he went to consult a Great Sage Angira.
Sage Angiras said that in Satyuga, even a small sin can also affect a lot. He further indicated that there is some person in his kingdom doing wrong prayers. The sage advised the king that if he would kill that man, his kingdom may get relief. But the king didn’t agree to that, as he did not want to kill an innocent person just because of performing wrong rituals.
The king asked the sage another way out. Sage Angira told him that the one and the only alternative is that he and his people should fast on Hari Shayani Ekadashi. Hearing this, the king returned to his kingdom and followed the sage’s advice. He along with the citizens of his kingdom fasted on this day. Due to this, the kingdom received plenty of rains and people became prosperous and happy.
Shayani Ekadashi is one of the most significant Ekadashi Vrat that is also observed as the first Ekadashi. It is a popular belief that anyone observing Shayani Ekadashi Vrat with complete commitment will be blessed with a happy, prosperous, and peaceful life. After enjoying the worldly pleasures, they will finally attain salvation.
Shayani Ekadashi also marks the end of the famous ‘Pandharpur Ashadi Ekadashi Waari Yatra’. Pandharpur is a small district in the state of Maharashtra and here God ‘Vithoba’, a personification Of Lord Vishnu is worshiped with dedication. The yatra or the religious procession is a 17-day long grand event that attracts tourists to this place. Moreover, on the day of Shayani Ekadashi, Vaishnava Mutts dress in heated seals, and this tradition is known as ‘Tapta Mudra Dharana’.
Lord Vishnu and Hari Shayani Ekadashi
On this Ekadashi, Lord Hari (Vishnu) goes to Ksheer Sagar, the Ocean of Milk, rests there for 4 months on Shesha Naga, and then returns to Vaikuntha Vas on Shukla Paksha Ekadashi (Prabodhani Ekadashi). The period between Shayani Ekadashi and Prabodhani Ekadashi is not considered for events like marriage etc. and is known as Chaturmas. This Chaturmas period is a 4 months period of the rainy season. The period includes the Hindu calendar months of Ashadh, Shravan, Bhadarva ad Aasoj.
Lord Vishnu and Tulasi
Five thousand years ago when Sri Krishna descended on Earth to do his pastimes, Vrinda Devi created the proper environment for his pastimes in Vrindavana. Millions of years before the descent of Sri Krishna, Vrinda Devi had appeared as the daughter of the pious Emperor Kedera. Then she performed penances for sixty thousand years. Pleased by her penances, Lord Vishnu gave the benediction that any austerities performed in Vrindavana would be very potent. Thus Vrinda Devi sanctified the place and it got the name Vrindavana. Later Vrinda Devi once again descended as Tulasi Devi, the daughter of King Kushadvaja to perform penances and attain perfection here.
Once Tulasi Devi descended as the daughter of King Kushadvaja. She was married to Jalandhar. It is said that Samudra Deva the demigod controlling the nether regions had Lakshmi Devi as a daughter (since she appeared from him at the time of the churning of the ocean) and Jalandhar (one who is born from water).
Jalandhar was married to Tulasi Devi and drew strength from her purity and chastity. So firm was her chastity that even Lord Shiva could not defeat Jalandhar in battle and all the demigods went to Lord Vishnu for help.
At this time, Lord Vishnu went to Tulasi Devi assuming the form of her husband, Jalandhar. When Tulasi Devi greeted Him, thinking Him to be her husband, her chastity was momentarily broken. Taking advantage of this the demigods killed Jalandhar.
When Tulasi Devi understood what happened, Lord Vishnu revealed His original form. An enraged Tulasi Devi cursed Lord Vishnu for His stone-hearted behavior to become a stone. Honoring His pure devotee, Lord Vishnu accepted this curse and promised to appear as the Saligrama Shila in the Gandaki river (now in Nepal). He also gave Tulasi Devi the benediction that she will eternally reside with Him as His consort in Vaikuntha. He said that for the benefit of everyone she will assume the form of a plant which will be most auspicious for anyone performing devotional service.
Thus devotees never offer anything to Krishna without a Tulasi leaf. He always adorns Himself with a Tulasi garland. The goddess of fortune, Laksmi, is sometimes envious of the Tulasi leaves which are placed at the lotus feet of the Lord, for they remain fixed there and do not move, whereas Laksmiji, although stationed by the chest of the Lord, sometimes has to please other devotees who pray for her favor. Laksmiji sometimes has to go to satisfy her numerous devotees, but Tulasi leaves never forsake their position, and the Lord, therefore, appreciates the service of the Tulasi more than the service of Laksmi.
The Ekadasi is the best day to plant the Tulsi plants in the Chaturmas period adding that the God dwells in the house of devotees who plant the Tulsi plants.
jalasya culukena va
vikrinite svam atmanam
Gautamiya-tantra, the Hari-bhakti-vilasa
‘Sri Krishna, who is very affectionate toward His devotees, sells Himself to a devotee who offers merely a tulasi leaf and a palmful of water.’
In the Nectar of Devotion, service to Tulasi is glorified as one of the items of devotional service.