Vaishnava Jaya (Bhaimi) Ekadasi is an important fasting ritual observed on the 11th day during the Shukla Paksha (the bright fortnight of moon) in the month of Madhava in the Vaishnava calendar. This observance falls somewhere between the months of January to February in the Gregorian calendar. Jaya Ekadasi is also popularly called as Bhaimi Ekadasi and it is strongly believed that one who observes a righteous fast on this day will find a place in Vaikuntha. Observing the Vaishnava Jaya Ekadasi vrata is equivalent to observing all other Ekadasi fasts.
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NOTE: Bhaimi Ekadasi is observed on Wednesday, February 1 in India, and Tuesday, January 31 in the U.S.. Please refer to your local calendar through www.gopal.home.sk/gcal.
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The Glories of Bhaimi Ekadasi
From the Bhavishyottara Purana
The narration of the glories of Magha-Shukla Ekadasi or Jaya (Bhaimi) Ekadashi is found in the Bhavishyottara Purana in a conversation between Maharaja Yudhishthira and Lord Krishna. It is said that one who observes upavasa (fasting) on this day is granted entry into Lord Vishnu’s abode, even not having performed other vratas of the year. The half-day fast (vrata) for the appearance day of Lord Varahadev on the following day, Varaha Dvadasi is also observed on this Ekadashi.
Yudhishthira Maharaja Inquires From Lord Krishna
Yudhisthira Maharaj said, “O Lord of the lords, Sri Krishna, all glories unto You! O Master of the universe, You alone are the source of the four types of living entities – those born of eggs, of perspiration, of seeds, and of embryos. You are the root cause of all, O Lord, and therefore the creator, maintainer, and destroyer.
“My Lord, You have kindly described to me the auspicious day known as Sat-tila Ekadashi, which occurs during the dark fortnight (Krishna paksha) of the month of Magha (January – February). Now I request you to please explain to me about the Ekadasi that occurs in the bright fortnight (Shukla paksha) of this month. By what name is it known, and what is the process for observing it? Who is the presiding Deity of this sublime day, which is so dear to You?”
Lord Krishna Answers Yudhishthira
Lord Sri Krishna replied, “O Yudhisthira, I shall be glad to tell you about the Ekadasi that occurs during the bright half of Magha. This Ekadashi effaces all kinds of sinful reactions and demonic influences. It is known as Jaya Ekadashi, and the fortunate soul who fasts on this sacred day is relieved of the great burden of ghostly existence. Thus, there is no better Ekadashi than this, for it truly bestows freedom from birth and death. It should be observed respectfully and meticulously. Please listen to Me attentively, O Pandava, as I relate an ancient episode that I have previously narrated in the Padma Purana.
Malyavan and Pushpavati Attracted
“Long ago, Lord Indra ruled his celestial kingdom well and the devas (demigods) living there were content. In the Nandana Forest graced with Parijata Flowers, Indra drank ambrosia and enjoyed the company of fifty million celestial maidens (Apsaras), who danced for his pleasure. Singers, led by Pushpadanta, sang in sweet voices. Chitrasena, Indra’s chief musician in the company of his wife Malini and his handsome son Malyavan entertained Indra.
“At that time, an Apsara named Pushpavati became attracted to Malyavan. Cupid’s sharp arrows pierced her heart. With her beautiful body, complexion and enchanting movements of eyebrows, she captivated Malyavan.
“O King, listen as I describe the splendid beauty of Pushpavati: She had incomparably graceful arms with which to embrace a man like a fine silken noose; her face resembled the Moon; her lotus eyes reached almost to her lovely ears, which were adorned with exquisite earrings. Her thin neck decorated with ornaments looked like a conch, having three lines. Her waist was as slender as the size of a fist. Her hips were broad, and her thighs like the trunks of banana trees. Gorgeous ornaments and garments complemented her naturally beautiful features. Her breasts were raised emphasizing her prime of youth and to look upon her feet was to behold newly grown red lotuses.
Indra Curses Malyavan and Pushpavati
“Seeing Pushpavati in all her heavenly beauty, Malyavan was bewitched. They had come with the other performers to regale Lord Indra, but enamored of each other, they faltered in their singing and dancing. Their pronunciation dithered and their rhythm wavered. Lord Indra could understand the cause of their mistakes at once. Offended at the discord in the musical performance, he became very angry and shouted, ‘Useless fools! You pretend to sing for me while in a stupor of infatuation for each other! You mock me! I curse you both to suffer henceforth as pisachas (hobgoblins). Go to the earthly regions as husband and wife and reap the reactions of your offense.
The Sufferings of Malyavan and Pushpavati
“Dumbstruck by the chastisement, Malyavan and Pushpavati fell from the heavenly Nandana Forest to a Himalayan peak on Earth. Distraught, with their celestial intelligence vastly diminished by the effects of lord Indra’s fierce curse, they lost their sense of taste, smell, and touch.
“It was so frigid on the high Himalayan desert of snow and ice that they could not even enjoy the oblivion of sleep. Roaming aimlessly in the harsh altitude, Malyavan and Pushpavati suffered more at every moment. Even in a cave, their teeth chattered incessantly due to the cold. Their hair stood on end due to fright and bewilderment. In this wretched condition, Malyavan said to Pushpavati, ‘What abominable sins did we commit as to suffer in these pisacha bodies, in an unbearable environment? This is absolutely hellish! Hell is ferocious, but this suffering is even more abominable. Oh! One should never commit sins!’
The Blessings of Bhaimi Ekadasi
By their good fortune, however, that day happened to be the auspicious Jaya (Bhaimi) Ekadashi, the Ekadasi of the light fortnight of the month of Magha. Due to their intense misery, they had neglected to drink water, kill any game, or even eat fruits and leaves available at that altitude. They had unknowingly observed Ekadasi by fasting completely from all food and drink. Sunk in misery, Malyavan and Pushpavati collapsed beneath a Pipal tree unable to get up. The Sun had set. The night was colder and even more miserable than the day. They shivered in a freezing snowfall. Their teeth chattered in unison, and when they became completely numb, they embraced just to keep warm. Locked in each other’s arms, unable to enjoy sleep or sex, they suffered all night under the powerful curse of Indra.
“Yet, O Yudhishthira, by the mercy of the fast they had inadvertently observed on Jaya Ekadasi, and because they had remained awake all night, they were blessed on the following day. As Dvadasi dawned, Malyavan and Pushpavati had given up their demonic forms and once again attained beautiful heavenly bodies with lustrous ornaments and exquisite garments. As they both looked at each other in amazement, a celestial airplane (vimana) arrived on the spot for them. A chorus of heavenly denizens sang their praises as the couple stepped into the beautiful aircraft and proceeded directly to the heavenly regions, cheered by the good wishes of everyone. Soon Malyavan and Pushpavati arrived at Amaravati, Lord Indra’s capital city, and immediately went before their lord (Indradeva) and offered him their obeisances.
“Lord Indra was astonished to see them restored to their original forms so soon after he had cursed them. Indradeva asked, ‘What extraordinarily meritorious deeds did you perform to give up your pisacha bodies so quickly after I had cursed you? Who released you from my irresistible curse?’
“Malyavan replied, ‘O lord, it was by the extreme mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna (Vasudeva) and also by the powerful influence of the Jaya Ekadashi, that we were released from our suffering as pisachas. O master, because we unwittingly executed devotional service to Lord Vishnu by observing the day most dear to Him, we were restored to our former status.’
“Indradeva then said, ‘Because you served the Supreme Lord Sri Keshava by observing Ekadashi, you have become worshipable even by me, and I can see that you are now completely purified of sin. Whosoever engages in devotional service to Lord Sri Hari is commendable to me.’ Lord Indradeva then gave Malyavan and Pushpavati free reign to enjoy each other and wander the heavenly planets as they wished.
Lord Krishna Concludes
“O Maharaj Yudhisthira, one should strictly fast on the sacred day of Lord Hari, especially on Jaya Ekadashi, which frees one even from the sin of killing a twice born Brahmin. A great soul who observes this fast with full faith and devotion in effect gives profuse charity, performs all kinds of sacrifice, and bathes in all the holy places of pilgrimage. Fasting on Jaya Ekadashi qualifies one to reside in Vaikuntha and enjoy eternal happiness.”
“O great king,” Lord Sri Krishna concluded, “one who even hears or reads these wonderful glories of Jaya Ekadashi attains the merit of performing an Agnistoma fire sacrifice, during which the hymns from the Sama-Veda are recited.”
Thus ends the narration of the glories of Magha-shukla Ekadasii, or Jaya Ekadasi, from the Bhavishya-uttara Purana.
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