मङ्गलम् भगवान विष्णुः, मङ्गलम् गरुणध्वजः।
मङ्गलम् पुण्डरी काक्षः, मङ्गलाय तनो हरिः
Every Ekadashi that appears twice every month is significant but the 11th day (Ekadashi) of the Waxing Phase of the Moon (Shukla Paksha) in the Margashira (December-January) which is observed as Vaikunta Ekadashi (Vaikunta is the abode of Bhagawan Vishnu) is considered a special one. It is believed that the portals of Vaikunta is left open for sincere devotees of Bhagawan Vishnu.
Significance of the word Vaikunta is relevant here. Kunta means “Inability or Incapability” Vikunta means something that can never slip in the course of life, which means liberated. Thus Vaikunta is where all incapabilities are overcome.
It is on this day that the Amrita or the Divine Nectar that grants immortality to the consumer emerged after Ksheera Sagara Manthana (Churning of the Ocean of Milk) on this day. Devotees who leave their bodies on this day thus directly get liberated from the cycles of life and death and attain Lotus Feet of Bhagawan Vishnu and attain Moksha. It is also observed as Bheeshma Ekadashi in some parts of India since it is on this day that Bheeshma Pitamaha revealed the Vishnu Sahasranama (You can listen to the rendition of MS Subbulakshmi Amma here. Personally it is one the the best renditions by any human being) to the Pandavas while dying on the bed of arrows awaiting his passage which he attains on this day. (Though there are conflicting versions on when it happened). Bheeshma revealed it in the presence of Bhagawan Krishna, who is an Avatar of Vishnu.
Some other legends associated with this Auspicious day
An asura (Demon), Murasura, who had a boon from Brahma was terrorising the Devas and Humankind assuming his invincibility. Devas then approached Vishnu, who fought against the asura in a battle, but was unable to defeat him. He retired to cave called Simhavati near Badarikashrama, where he was pursued by Murasura. On a day when Vishnu was sleeping Murasura thought of overpowering Vishnu and kill him and take His position in the Devaloka. Unfortunately for the asura, Vishnu summoned Haimavati (Yogamaya) a goddess created from His divine energy, who appeared and killed Murasura. Pleased with this, Yogamaya was blessed by Vishnu and named Her ‘Ekadashi’, declared that she would be capable of erasing the sins and provide succour to devoted people on earth. This is the legend behind observing all the rituals associated with Ekadashi and Vaikunta Ekadashi is no different insofar as Ekadashi observance goes.
Another legend associated with day – Ambarisha, King of Ayodhya who regularly observed Upavasa or Fasting on Ekadashi and who observes three days of fasting for Vaikunta Ekadashi was about to break his fast, when the Rishi Durvasa appeared at his palace. He received the Rishi with utmost honour, and offered him a anna prasada befitting Rishi’s stature. Rishi told that he will return after his ritual ablutionsand even after a long wait he did not return. Just as the period of observing fasts, it is important also to strictly observe the auspicious moment for breaking one’s fast. As that moment was fast approaching Ambarisha was in a fix. His Upavasa will not bear fruits if he did not break his fast before the day was over. But he did not want to disrespect the Rishi by eating before Rishi Durvasa returned. In Hindu traditions it is considered disrespectful to eat any meal before the Atithi (Guest) – even worse when it is someone far more respected and revered. Ambarisha decides to sip some water which broke the fast and assumed that it won’t be considered disrespectful by Rishi. Rishi Durvasa, famous for his Temper, was enraged when he came to know that Ambarish broke his fast by consuming water and fact that he had not eaten even a morsel of rice did not calm down the furious Rishi. He pulled a tuft of hair from his head, and flung it at the king. Ardent devotee of Bhagwan Vishnu that Ambarisha was, had to flee to save his life. Vishnu then released Sudarshana Chakra to destroy the tuft of hair and went after the Rishi. Durvasa began fleeing and sought protection of Brahma and Shiva, but was refused any respite. Finally, Durvasa sought refuge from Vishnu himself, who says that his protection lay in the hands of Devotees and none else. Rishi Durvasa sought forgiveness from Ambarisha, and was saved on Vaikunta Ekadashi
Rituals to be performed on this day
1) Wake up before Brahmi Muhurta and have a ritualistic bath
2) Visit any temple of Bhagawan Vishnu (or His Avatars)
3) Pass through/beneath the Vaikunta Dwara
4) Chant Hare Krishna Mantras
5) Listen to Vaikunta Ekadashi Katha
6) Observe Fast during the entire day (Check with the Panchanga for the start and end times)
– Milk and fruits (without seeds) can be taken on for Vaikunta Ekadasi fast.
– We need to observe a strict fast and indulge in prayers of Vishnu.
– Chant or recite Vishnu mantra for desired results.
-Rice and other grains like cereals, wheat, vegetables and fruits with seeds are avoided on Vaikunta Ekadashi.
-Participate in yagnas and rituals organized to honor Vishnu.
-Visit temples dedicated to Vishnu.
-Avoid vegetables, such as cauliflower, eggplant, tomatoes, and leafy vegetables.
-Spices, salts should also be avoided.
-Curd or yogurt, buttermilk, coffee and tea are avoided.
7) Break the fast as per the scheduled Parana muhurta (See note below)
Ekadashi Parana should be done after sunrise on the next day of Ekadashi fast. To bear fruits of Ekadashi Upavasa, perform Parana (breaking the fast) within Dwadashi Tithi, ensuring that it is not done during Hari Vasara. Hari Vasara is believed to be the first quarter part of Dwadashi Tithi. Hence it make it ideal to break your fast during Pratahkala (morning) so that the Hari Vasara would have got over. Never break the Vaikunta Ekadasi vrat during Madhyahna (Noon). If for any reason breaking the fast during Pratahkala is not possible, do it after Madhyahna.