Ekadasi is a day found in the Vedic calendar eleven (eka = 1; dasam = 10) days after the full moon (purnima) and the new moon (amavasya). As each month contains both a full and a new moon, each Vedic month will contain two Ekadasis. With twelve months, in a year, there are twenty-four Ekadasi observance dates.
The spiritual significance is that one would fast from eating and focus attention on spiritual activities to improve the relationship with Krsna. From the historical or the religious standpoint, this day is known as the “Day of Hari.” After Ekadasi day is completed, one would break the fast on the next day known as Dvadasi*** (12th day after new or full moon). It is important to know that the fast must be broken with within a specific time range. Additionally, it must be broken with the foods that one fasted from. Usually, one breaks the fast with grains or beans, as all Ekadasi days require one to fast from this at least).
ADVENTAGE OF EKADASI
The adventage of Ekadasi takes place when Lord Visnu created a personality that punished sinful people named Papa-purusa (embodiment of sin). Papa-purusa had a ghastly and ugly form where his various body parts composed of sinful activities. With such a personality formed, Lord Visnu felt that Papa-purusa must be controlled. He visited Yamaraja, the demigod of the afterlife. Upon visiting Yamaraja, He heard crying and noises of pain and suffering from the Earth. Everyone on Earth went to the hellish planets due to their bad karma. Upon seeing this sight, Lord Visnu felt pity for the suffering souls.
Lord Visnu, then, expanded Himself into personifying the eleventh day of the lunar calendar, Sri Ekadasi. When the inhabitants of Earth followed Sri Ekadasi’s observance, their pious nature allowed them to aboard Vaikuntha, the holy abode of Lord Visnu. This threatened the existence of Papa-purusa. Therefore, Papa-purusa prayed to Lord Visnu reminding Him that if Ekadasi’s pious effects win the earth, then there would be no need to exert pastimes. Therefore, Lord Visnu ordered Papa-purusa to reside in grains on the day of Ekadasi, where Ekadasi cannot touch him.
Due to the presence of Papa-purusa in the grains, Ekadasi forbids one to eat grains or beans. Although there are very strict guidelines for forbidden foods, acceptable items are milk, fruit, vegetables, and nuts. Spices, except for asafetida (hing), are acceptable. Some may choose to do a complete fast from everything, including water. Those are said to perform a nirjalaekadasi (nir = without; jala = water). This is optional, although there is one Ekadasi* in the summer which requires one to fast from everything, including water, if one has broken an Ekadasi throughout the year.
Certain fasting days like Krsnastami or GauraPurnima will require the fast to be broken with “Ekadasiprasadam.” It is prasada (offered food to the Lord) that adheres to the guidelines for the Ekadasi diet.
While grains cannot be eaten, they be offered to Radha or Krsna or anything of Their forms, except Lord CaitanyaMahaprabhu and His associates. In addition, grains may not be offered to the spiritual master. As the spiritual master is a devotee, and Lord Caitanya and associates are assuming roles of devotees, they would adhere to the same rules. After completing the grain offering to the acceptable Deities, one can store the preparation for the next day. Lastly, whether it is Ekadasi or not, one must abstain from eating meat, fish, and eggs
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