You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : February 2000


From: Vijayaraghavan Srinivasan (
Date: Fri Feb 11 2000 - 05:41:17 PST

Dear Shri Anbil Swamigal:

The following is a brief monograph on Ekadasi, Adiyen wrote for NAMA.  It 
does not address your friends' question directly. Nevertheless it can serve 
the purpose of providing some more information on Ekadasi.

It is my recollection that normally, on a Ekadasi day, rice is not cooked.  
Therefore even for Perumal fruits or 'upma' etc., are offered.  Please 
correct me.




The importance of Ekadasi for worshippers of Sriman Narayana cannot be 
emphasized enough.  Ekadasi is also called “Hari-Vasara” (Lord Hari’s day).  
All our elders have steadfastly observed the Ekadasi-Dwadasi vratam or  
“Upavasam” on this sacred day.  Upa means near and Vasam means stay.  Stay 
close to Hari contemplating on His kalyana gunas.  This is the summum bonum 
of Ekadasi vratam.

1. Do we need to fast on Ekadasi

Since upavasam does not (directly) connote fasting, a question may be asked 
as to the need to fast on Ekadasi.  Shastras give unequivocal answers.  The 
following quotes from our shastras should clear any doubts in this regard:

ekAdashyAM tu yo bhuN^kte mohenAvR^itachetasaH  |
  shuklAyAmatha kR^ishhNAyAM nirayaM yAti sa dhruvam.h

  One who eats on ekAdashI on account of an intellect clouded by delusion; 
be it the shukla- or the kR^ishhNa-paxa, (s) he goes to hell, this is 

ashhTavarshhAdhiko yastu ashItirnahi pUryate
  yo bhuN^kte mAnavaH pApo vishhNorahani chAgate

  One who is greater than eight years of age, but has indeed not completed 
eighty; the human who eats when Vishnu's day arrives, consumes verily sin 

In addition, several scientific findings go to prove the benefits of fasting 
on one’s health. This should further reinforce one’s determination to fast.

2. When should one observe fast – When to observe Ekadasi-Vratam

Sometimes Ekadasi can be combined with Dasami or Dwadasi.  It appears that 
shastras are strict concerning the observance of vratam.  If on a day if 
both Dasami and Ekadasi are present that day must be avoided and the fasting 
should be observed the following day.   Here is what shastrAs tell us:

kalAvedhe tu viprendra dashamyaikAdashI yadi  |
  surAyA bindunA spR^ishhTaM gaN^gAMbha iva santyajet.h

  If there is even the slightest contact of dashamI with ekAdashi; then as 
with Ganga-water that has a drop of liquor mixed in it, such is to be 
rejected.  Therefore, the "pollution" of contact with another date is so 
great that even a small amount of it would render the observance worthless.

ekAdashyA yadA brahman.h dinaxayatithirbhavet.h  |
  uposhhyA dvAdashI puNyA trayodashyAM tu pAraNam.h

  If on the day of ekAdashI a dina-xaya-tithi (incomplete date) occurs; then 
fasting is to be undertaken on dvAdashI, and pAraNe on the trayodashI.

Therefore, such a situation merely re-schedules the observance, and does not 
excuse it.

bahvAgamavirodheshhu brAhmaNeshhu vivAdishhu  |
  uposhhyA dvAdashI puNyA paxayorubhayorapi

  When there is a conflict between different almanacs, and when the 
brAhmaNa-s disagree [on ekAdashI]; fast then on the pious dvAdashI, in 
either fortnight (i.e., in the waxing or the waning of the moon).  
Therefore, when there is conflict among various texts and when one is unable 
to decide when the correct ekAdashI is, one must fast instead on the 
dvAdashI day that follows.

3. How to break your fast on Dwadasi

Timely breaking of the fast on Dwadasi is as important as observing the fast 
on Ekadasi.  Normally, the fast must be broken before trayOdasi arrives.  If 
there is insufficient time, the fasting can be broken with water.  From the 
ShastrAs we find:

pArayitvodakenApi bhuJNjano naiva dushhyati  |
  ashitAnashitA yasmAdApo vidvadbhirIritAH  |
  aMbhasA kevalenaiva karishhye vratapAraNam.h

  [If there is insufficient time] there is no flaw if water is consumed for 
pAraNe; for it is stated by the learned that water  has the property that 
when consumed, it is still as if one has  not consumed; thus, with only 
water, do I perform the ceremonial  paraNe.  If there is not enough time for 
a proper pAraNe, then the fast may be broken merely by sipping water; there 
is no flaw of multiple pAraNe-s on this account, as the wise have decreed 
that such a procedure does not count as multiple pAraNe-s.  Having performed 
the ceremonial pAraNe in this manner, one may have a proper meal later, 
although the time later may not be appropriate for pAraNe itself.

  dvAdashI na pramoktavyA yAvadAyuH pravartate  |
  archanIyo hR^ishhIkesho vishuddhenAntarAtmanA

  The dvAdashI is not to be neglected, as long as life goes on;  Hrshikesha 
is to be worshipped [for so long] with a clean psyche.

Concerning the food for Dwadasi pAranE, one should avoid using anything 
related to plantains (vazhai kaay, ilai etc.), also avoid chilies and 
tamarind.  One can substitute pepper for chilies and lemon or dry mango 
powder for tamarind.  Include sundaikaay , nellikaay, and akathik keerai.

4. An Instance from the Life of Swami Desika

Swami Desikan, who we all know lived a full veda prayam, in his old age was 
observing Ekadasi vratam.  The head priest of the Sri Ranganatha temple 
seeing swami in a very weak condition offered him the koil prasadam and told 
Swami that Lord Ranganatha Himself had ordered him to offer the prasadam.   
To this Swami replied that the Lord would not have said that and politely 
refused to partake the prasadam.  Such was the steadfastness of our Acharya 
in observing the sastraic codes.

5. Ekadasi-Dwadasi – Supreme of all Vratas
There is a saying that: “ Na DwadasyAt param Vratam”.  Therefore observing 
the Ekadasi-Dwadasi vratam is equivalent to performing many Yagnyas.  Most 
of us are familiar with the story of Ambarisha.  What’s more, one becomes 
dear to our Lord Narayana.

  ekAdashIsamutthena vahninA pAtakendhanam.h  |
  bhasmIbhavati rAjendra api janmashatodbhavam.h

  With the ekAdashI as fire, and sin as fuel; [the latter] gets incinerated, 
O King, even if it be obtained of hundreds of lifetimes (From Bhaghavatam).

Therefore, while other actions can bring some benefits, none of them quite 
matches up to the power of an ekAdashI in terms of removing the accumulation 
of sins, which brings one misery.

Note:  I thank Smt. Shoba Srinivasan of Corning NY for providing appropriate 
references from the purAnAs (slokAs and their translations).

Buffalo, NY

Get Your Private, Free Email at