Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Jul 7 15:55:11 CDT 1998

> I have often heard the greatness of observing the Ekadashi fast. Could
>knowledgeable list members post on exactly what constitutes an Ekadashi
>vratam. What are the rules of fasting. Completely giving up food, are
>allowed to eat the night before Ekadashi?  etc.
>Thank you.

 The ekAdashii is an important observance, especially so for the
 VaiShNavas and the bhAgavatas. In Pandharapur, Maharashtra, the home
 of shrI viTThala and Rakhmai (Krishna and Rukmini respectively,) the
 days of the AShADha shukla ekAdashii and the kArtika shukla ekAdashii
 are very prominently observed. Thousands of devotees, called Varkaris
 assemble and conduct nonstop bhajans in praise of ViTThala.
 But the ekAdashii of every fortnight of every  lunar month
 is also held to be significant. The main vrata has to do with the
 obserance of a fast and spending the day of the ekAdashii, the 11th
 lunar day of the fortnight, and night as well in the worship/bhajan
 of Vishnu (or one's favorite deity).

  The fast can be observed at differing levels of rigor:

 1) Abstain from eating/drinking anything at all.  This is the most
    rigorous and obviously the most difficult fast.

 2) Consume milk and/or fruits only once.

 3) Consume food made of what are called "Havis" items, such as
    wheat, ghee, etc. once. (Chapaties or "upma" are OK! But not

 4) Have meals only once, preferrably skipping the day time meals
    and eating only after sunset.

 5) Follow regular eating habits with food chosen from the Havis

  One may, I presume, add different variations of dietary restrictions
  to this list, depending on the region one comes from.

  Personally, I have been able to do 1) only twice in my life and
  that too with "devastating consequences" later. So I was strongly
  advised to not do 1) again. 2) is also quite difficult but I was
  able to do it many times. I find 3) and 4) are not exactly easy if
  it is going to be a regular weekday. I can probably manage somehow.
  5) is the least one can do and still claim to be fasting! This is
  "convenient" for the working man or woman. Besides, if one is
 constantly thinking of food while fasting, it is certainly not good!

 The idea is that one can turn the mind towards God while fasting.
 The ekAdashii fast is also sometimes explained as the control of
 the ekAdasha indriyas or the 11 sense organs - 5 jnAnendriyas or
 the organs of perception , 5 karmendriyas of the the organs of
 action, and the mind, the internal organ.

 The Puranas, for example the Padma purana,  are replete with stories
 that glorify the ekAdashii vrata. Children, the aged, and those who
 are otherwise not strong enough should not perform the ekAdashii
 vrata. Among VAiShNavas, some people say that the fast commences
 on the night of the dashamii (the 10th day) itself and ends on the
 dvAdashii (the 12th day), but before the end of the dvAdashii. In
 this case, it is  mandatory to break the fast before the dvAdashii
 ends. Otherwise, the ekAdashii fast is not deemed fruitful. Once
 the fast is broken on the dvAdashii, the second meal of that day, ie.
 the evening meal, is skipped. This completes the vrata.

 There are several variations in calculating the correct day when
 the ekAdashii is to be observed. Frequently, panchangas mention
 2 types - the smArta ekAdashii and the bhAgavata ekAdashii. Sometimes
 these two ekAdashii's fall on the same day, sometimes they don't.

 Among Shaivas, the Maasa-shivarAtrI vrata is accepted. This involves
 fasting on the 14th lunar day of the dark fortnight of every lunar
 month. Some devii-upAsakas fast on the 8th lunar day of the bright
 half of every month. This is called the durgA-ashhTamii vrata.
 In honor of GaNesha, some people observe a partial fast on the the
 4th lunar day of the dark fortnight of every month. This is called
 the sankaShTa-chaturthii vrata. The fast is only until moon rise,
 after which one may complete the worship of GaNesha and have meals.

 All these vratas are supposed to be beneficial and are extolled in
 various treatises.


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