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Utthana Ekadasi, or Prabodhini Ekadashi, is observed during the waxing phase of moon in the month of Kartik (Oct - Nov).The importance of Utthana Ekadashi or Dev Prabodhini Ekadasi is narrated to Sage Narada by Lord Brahma and the divine conversation is found in the Skanda Purana.Utthana Ekadasi is an important Vrat dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
The famous Tulsi Vivah festival is performed on the next day of Utthana Ekadashi. As per the Legend - on this holy day, Lord Vishnu awakes from the Yoganidra.So,Uttana Ekaadasi also marks the conclusion of Chaturmas 'Vrat'. Tulsi Damodar Vivah is also performed on this Ekadashi.The Chatur Mas period also ends with this Ekadashi. The famous Kartik Month Pandarpur Yatra also concludes on the day. All the normal rules associated with Ekadasi fasting are observed on the day.
It is strongly believed that by observing this Ekadasi,all the sins committed in passed life are washed away and the observer of this 'Vrat' gets the path to liberation (Moksha).Utthana Ekadasi, which falls in the Kartik month, is considered highly auspicious by Lord Vishnu devotees. Staunch Vishnu devotees observe a rigid fast on the day by skipping food and staying awake during night. Majority of the people take one meal mostly in the evening and visit the temples and other shrines dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
On Utthana Ekadashi day, devotees also observe Bhishma Panchaka Vrata which is also known as Bhishma Panchakam.In some sects, Tulsi Damodar Vivah is also performed on this Ekadashi.On this day, Pandharpur kartik Palki Yatra takes place. Vishnu Sahasranama parayana and Kartika Purana parayana are the other main rituals during Utthana Ekadasi.Devotees break their Ekadasi Upavas on the next day which is known as Ksheerabdi Dwadashi.
Fasting on Ekadashi and chanting Vishnu prayers like Om Namo Narayana, Vishnu Sahasranamam and Venkateswara Suprabhatam is considered to be very fruitful for the devotees.
Lord Brahma explained to Narad Muni, "O Dear son, O Devarshi, I will explain to you the significance of the Utthana or Prabhodini Ekadashi,which bestows great merits, and ultimately the 'Moksha'.This Ekadashi, which occurs during the light fortnight of the month of Kartika, is much more purifying than a bath in the ocean or a sacred place.This divine Ekadasi is more powerful in nullifying sins than one thousand Ashvamedha sacrifices and one hundred Rajasuya sacrifices."
Lord Brahma continued, "If a person eats once at noon on Ekadasi, the sins of his previous birth are washed away, if he eats supper, the sins acquired during his previous two births are nullified and if he fasts completely, the sins accumulated during his pervious seven births are erased. The sins accumulated over a thousand previous births are nullified completely if the devotee remains awake throughout Ekadasi night besides the fasting vrat.Even if one's forefathers were implicated in many sins and are suffering in hell, they still attain beautifully ornamented spiritual bodies and happily go to Vishnu's abode .
One who does not chant the Gayatri mantra three times a day,who disregards fast days, who does not believe in God,who criticises the Vedic Scriptures,who thinks the Vedas bring only ruination to one who follows their injunctions, who is cruel and wicked,who is ungrateful, or who cheats others - such a sinful person can never perform any religious activity effectively."
Brahma further added,"The bad charactered persons ruin their acquired merits and whoever associates with sinful people and visits their homes without a spiritual purpose will go directly to the abode of Lord Yamaraj, the superintendent of death.And if someone has his meal in such a home, his acquired merit is lost and also happiness, his fame,life-span, children's happiness.
All places of pilgrimage in the three worlds at once come to reside in the house of a person who fasts on this Ekadasi. Whoever fasts on this Ekadasi will definitely not take a birth again,hence the devotees of the Lord Vishnu,give up all other religeous activities and simply surrender to fasting on this Ekadasi.
He who listens to the divine narrations about Lord Vishnu,during the month of Kartika, earns the same merit as of donating hundred cows in charity.A person who chants the glories of Lord Hari this day, achieves the merit earned by donating seven islands.One who worships the Tulasi-devi in this period, achieves ultimate happiness in the higher world,since there are roots and subroots growing from a mature tulasi plant.
As per the Lord Brahma's advise to Narada,the rituals are as follows,-The person should wake up early on Ekadasi morning,during the brahma-muhurta hour (an hour and a half before sunrise until fifty minutes before sunrise).He should then clean his teeth and bathe in a natural water body like river etc. or in his own house
After worshipping Lord Keshava,he should listen carefully to the sacred descriptions of the Lord. He should pray to the Lord thus: 'O Lord Keshava, I shall fast on this day, which is so dear to You, and tomorrow I shall honour Your sacred "Prasada".You are my only shelter,so kindly protect me.'
After reciting the solemn prayer with full devotion,one should fast whole heartedly.The devotee should remain awake full night by singing religeous songs glorifying the Lord,dancing , playing delightful music and reciting the bhajans of Lord Krishna.Shri Krishna is worshipped with camphor, fruits, and aromatic flowers, especially the yellow agaru flower. and also with many kinds of fruits .
Lord Keshava should be offered Tulsi,kadamba ,bakula, ashoka, and patali flowers which keeps away the misery and distress.Offering of kannera flowers to Lord Jagannatha brings as much mercy upon the devotee as that earned by worshipping Lord Keshava for four yugas.During this month everyone should regularly offer a ghee lamp to Lord Vishnu or to Shrimati Tulasidevi in a temple.
The Ekadasi fast will be complete after offering the brahmana a gold or copper pot filled with ghee and ghee wicks, along with eight waterpots containing some gold and covered by cloths.One who cannot afford these gifts should at least offer gratifying words to the Brahmana.
After completing all the rituals,the devotee should eat his meal.On this Ekadasi, Chaturmasya ends, so whatever one gave up during Chaturmasya should now be donated to brahmanas.