The eleventh day (ekadashi) each of the bright as well as dark fortnights of the Hindu lunar month of Ashadh are called Ashadhi ekadashi. They are a part of the major vowed religious observances of the Hindu religion.
Significance and meaning of ekadashi
Ekadashi is considered as the date (tithi) of Lord Vishnu. Hence, it is also referred to as Haridini (Hari’s, that is, Lord Vishnu’s day).
Unlike other vowed religious observances, an ekadashi need not be observed with a resolve (sankalpa) and ritual. It is the basic among all vowed religious observances and rituals.
The proportion of sattva, raja, tama components in every organism varies according to time/season (kal). On the eleventh day of each Hindu lunar fortnights, the sattva component is maximum in all living beings. Hence, if one does spiritual practice on an ekadashi, one benefits to a greater extent.
Method of observing Ashadhi ekadashi
If it is not possible to observe the eleventh day of each fortnight of the Hindu calendar, one can at least observe the eleventh day of the bright fortnight. Worship: On both the ekadashi of Ashadh, Lord Vishnu is worshipped as Shridhar (one of the Names of Lord Vishnu). A lamp of clarified butter (ghee) is kept lit throughout the night of an Ashadhi ekadashi.
Intake: On any ekadashi, one’s intake should be kept limited to only water, and a mixture of dried ginger (suntha) and sugar. However, if not possible to do so, one can eat foods allowed during Hindu fasts (upavas). These foods, being sattvik, do not reduce one’s sattva component, detracting from focus on God (the very aim of a fast – upavas – is to be close to God), unlike rajasik-tamasik foods do. A fast observed on an ekadashi is ended the following day.
The pilgrimage (vari) to the town of Pandharpur in Maharashtra, India: The vowed religious observance of going on a pilgrimage to Pandharpur, the seat of Lord Vitthal, sacred especially to devotees from the Varkari sect, is commenced from the ekadashi of the bright fortnight of the month of Ashadh. The Varkari sect is the main sect among the Hindu Vaishnava sects that worship Lord Vishnu. The devotees from this sect undertake this pilgrimage annually or bi-annually, depending upon the type of initiation they have received. Since this pilgrimage is carried out on foot it is considered as physical penance, purifying (mainly) the physical body.
Some people consider the two eleventh days, “ekadashi”, of every month to be of special importance. But the eleventh day (bright) of Ashadh is known as the great ekadashi or Mahaekadashi. It is a day of fast.
This is the day of the huge “yatra” or pilgrimages to the god Vithoba of Pandharpur, a town in south Maharashtra, situated on the banks of the Bhima River, a tributary of the Krishna River.
This Mahaekadashi is also known as Shayani Ekadashi, because on this day Vishnu falls asleep to wake up four months later on Prabodhini Ekadashi in the Kartik month. This period is known as Chaturmas and coincides with the rainy season.
Ashadhi Ekadashi is more of a religious procession festival and is celebrated during the months of June-July (Aashaadh Shukla paksha). People consider the two eleventh days, “Ekadashi”, of every month to be of special importance. But the eleventh day (bright) of Ashadh is known as the great Ekadashi or Mahaekadashi. This Mahaekadashi is also known as Shayani Ekadashi, because on this day Vishnu falls asleep to wake up four months later on Prabodhini Ekadashi in the Kartik month. This period is known as Chaturmas and coincides with the rainy season.
Ashadhi Ekadashi is the day of fast and on this day people go walking in huge processions to Pandharpur singing the Abhangas (chanting hymns) of Saint Tukaram and Saint Dnyaneshwar to see their God Vitthal. The yatra starts in Allandi and ends on Guru Poornima day at Pandharpur.
The feast of Ashadhi Ekadashi is celebrated with great solemnity at Pandharpur. Hundreds of thousands go in procession from different parts of Maharashtra, some carrying palanquins with the images of the great saints of Maharashtra. Dnaneshwar’s image is carried from Alandi, Tukaram’s from Dehu, Eknath’s from Paithan, Nivruttinath’s from Trimbakeshwar, Muktabai’s from Edlabad, and Sopan’s from Sasvad.
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