Tholi Ekadashi Hindu Festival of Lord Vishnu

Tholi Ekadhashi or Shayan Ekadashi:

Tholi Ekadashi is the most auspicious festival of Hindus mainly the Vaishnavas who celebrate this day by keeping fast, praying and singing bhajans of Lord Vishnu on this day and also by the Hindu people all over the world. Hindu Gods one day is equal to Humans one year period. In that way the Deities one morning period = six months of our Daskshinayanam period and 1 night period = 6 months Uttarayana period, each half is equal to one complete day for Gods. During the Monsoon month, the first Ekadashi which falls in this month is known as "Tholi Ekadashior "Shayan Ekadashi" which marks the sleeping period of Deities (starts night for them) and the day when Lord Maha Vishnu falls asleep in Ksheersagar - cosmic ocean of milk - on Sheshanaga, the cosmic serpent and is seen in Shayan mudra for a period of four months.

According to Hindu Calendar, of all the 26 Ekadashi's this Ekadashi is known as Tholi Ekadashi and is the day when the day time starts shortening and night time starts increasing.

This holy day is of special significance to Vaishnavas, the followers of Hindu preserver God Vishnu and is well mentioned in notes of Bhagavata Purana (sk. IX, adhy. 4) by Ambarisha, a devotee of Vishnu. It is observed on Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon) in Ashadam Masam(June-July) known as Tholi Ekadashi when Lord Vishnu goes to sleep on this day and wakes up after four months on Prabodhini Ekadashi. Vishnu finally awakens from his slumber four months later on Prabodhini Ekadashi - eleventh day of bright fortnight in the Hindu month Kartik Masam (October–November) this period is known as "Chaturmas'' ("four months") which coincides with the rainy season. Thus,Tholi Ekadashi is the beginning of Chaturmas. Devotees start observing the Chaturmas Vrata (vow) to please Vishnu on this day.

Tholi Ekadashi is also known as Padma Ekadashi, Ashadi Ekadashi, Devshayani Ekadashi, Maha Ekadashi and Hari Shayani Ekadashi.

The Tholi Ekadashi comes just after famous Jagannath Rathyatra which currently falls in month of June or July on English calendar. Chaturmas, is a holy period of four months in Hindu calendar, which starts from this day. Tholi Ekadasi is of great significance to the farmer's as they begin to sow seeds after the first rains on Tholi Ekadasi day.

What is Ekadashi?

Ekadashi is known as Hari Vasara - "The Day of Sri Hari" which is observed on every 11th Tithi in Hindu calendar of Lunar Month. There are two Ekadashi fasting in a month, one during Shukla Paksha (bright half) and another during Krishna Paksha (dark half). Devotees of Lord Vishnu observe Ekadashi fasting to seek His blessings. A fast is to be observed on Ekadashi day by all Hindus. During Ekadashi, Nirjal fast (not having water) is ideal. However those unable to fast may take liquids. In accordance with the Hindu religion, the day of Ekadashi is considered to be religiously beneficial and considered to be the most auspicious among various fasts.

Praying Lord Vishnu on Tholi Ekadashi

Praying Lord Vishnu on Tholi Ekadashi

Celebrations on Tholi Ekadashi:

On this auspicious day of Tholi Ekadasi devotees woke up early in the morning and finish their regular activities does puja to the Lord and observe fast on whole day chanting the Lord Vishnu mantra's like Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram, Vishnu Ashtotaram (108 names), Vishnu Sahasranamavali (1008 names), Govinda namalu, sing Anmacharya sankeertanas, study holy books like Ramayana, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, etc. There is a huge rush of Devotees seen in Temples on this day to worship Lord Vishnu and seek his blessings.

Legend Behind Tholi Ekadashi:

In Bhavishyottara Purana - God Shri Krishna narrates significance of Shayani Ekadashi to Yudhishthira, and also the creator - God Brahma narrated the significance to his son Narada.

Here is the story of the King Mandata and about the people of his Kingdom. Once upon a time the pious King's country had faced drought for three years, but the King was unable to find a solution to please the rain gods. Finally, sage Angiras advised the King to observe the Vrata (vow) of Tholi Ekadashi or Dev-Shayani Ekadashi. On doing so by the grace of Vishnu, there was rain in the kingdom. Hence this day is marked very auspicious for Hindus mainly the Vaishnavas worshipping Lord Maha Vishnu who showers his blessing being in Shayan Mudra in Chaturmas.

According to Garuda Purana:

ekadazii vratam nityam tat kuryat paksayor dvayoh
aghaugha narakam hanyat sarvadam visnuloka dam

Meaning: Fasting on Ekadasi days (eleventh day) in both halves of the month when observed removes sins and wards off hell and enables one to attain Vishnuloka and gives everything desired in his life.

As this auspicious day is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, one can chant this powerful Vishnu mantra, a source of positive energy:

"Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya" 

Do's and Dont's on this Day:

A fast is observed on Tholi Ekadashi or Shayani Ekadashi by worshipping images of Vishnu and Lakshmi, the entire night is spent singing prayers by devotees to seek the blessings of Maha Vishnu on this day, observed during the entire chaturmas, the holy four-month period of rainy season. These may include, giving up a food item or fasting on every Ekadashi day. The fast demands abstainance from all grains, beans, cereals, certain vegetables like onions and certain spices.

Benefits of Fasting on Tholi Ekadashi:

Fasting help in keeping body light and stomach free from excessive metabolic activity. Ekadashi fasting spans for three days. Fasting once in fifteen days on Ekadashi will bring feel of cheeriness not weariness. This helps in controlling mind and also will power. Devotees take single meal in the afternoon a day before fasting day to make sure there is no residual food in the stomach on next day. Devotees keep strict fast on Ekadashi day and break the fast on next day.

Devotees can choose to observe fasting without water (Nirjal), with only water, with only fruits, with one time latex food according to their will and body power. However it should be decided before starting the fast on ones health condition.

At times Ekadashi fasting is suggested on two consecutive days. It is advised that Smartha with family should observe fasting on first day only. The alternate Ekadashi fasting, which is the second one, is suggested for Sanyasis, widows and for those who want Moksha. When alternate Ekadashi fasting is suggested for Smartha it coincides with Vaishnava Ekadashi fasting day.

Ekadashi fasting on both days is suggested for staunch devotees who seek for love and affection of Lord Vishnu.

Method of Breaking the Tholi Ekadashi Fast:

The breaking of fast after Tholi Ekadashi is known as 'Parana'. Ekadashi Parana is done after sunrise on next day of Ekadashi fast. It is necessary to do Parana within Dwadashi Tithi unless Dwadashi is over before sunrise. Not doing Parana within Dwadashi is similar to an offence.

Parana should not be done during Hari Vasara - "The Day of Sri Hari". One should wait for Hari Vasara to get over before breaking the fast. Hari Vasara is first one fourth duration of Dwadashi Tithi. The most preferred time to break the fast is Pratahkal (Early Morning). One should avoid breaking the fast during Madhyahna (Afternoon). If due to some reasons one is not able to break the fast during Pratahkal then one should do it after Madhyahna.

Main Prasadam on this day:

The changes which are occurring in the monsoon period from this day marks the intake of Jonna Pelal pindi with Jaggery is taken as Prasadam, which is also considered good for health from the ancient times.

Other Festivals Celebrated on this day:

Pandharpur Yatra:

Pandharpur Yatra is an attractive major festival of Pandharpur celebrated in Maharashtra by pilgrims from about 800 years. The most important dates for Pandharpur pilgrimage is on Aashadi Ekadashi (June- July) and Kartiki / Kartik Ekadashi (November). During these yatras or pilgrimage people travel from miles together, barefooted, fasting and chanting His holy name until they get a glimpse of the Lord.

Lord Vithala with his concert Rukhmini Devi in Pandharpur Maharashtra

Lord Vithala with his concert Rukhmini Devi in Pandharpur Maharashtra

The temple town is filled with devotees by chanting "Jai Hari Vitthala" and "Gyanba Tukaram" of Pandharpur with culmination of the 23-day "Wari Pilgrimage" undertaken by lakhs of pilgrims from across Maharashtra on the occasion of Ashada Ekadashi (Tholi Ekadashi).

The annual Pandharpur Yatra to the Pandharpur Vithal Temple starts with the Shri Tukaram Maharaj Palki Prasthan from Dehu in Pune District of Maharashtra. Every year, the date of the beginning of Sant Tukaram Maharaj Palki from Dehu varies. Pandharpur Yatra ends on Ashada Ekadashi every year. Warkaris (pilgrims) follow the Palki of Sant Tukaram to the Vithal Temple. This is one of the most popular pilgrimages in Marathi culture and people from all walks of life participate in the Yatra. The Palkhi or Palanquin contains the Padukas or foot prints of Sant Tukaram.

Pilgrims in Pandharpur Yatra

Pilgrims in Pandharpur Yatra

Day 1: The palki starts with the Shri Tukaram Maharaj Palki Prasthan from Dehu with pilgrims known as "warkaris" in marathi in Pune District,Maharashtra.
Day 2: The palki of Tukaram Maharaj arrives at Akurdi Vithal temple and halts there for the night.
Day 3: The palki halts at Nivdungya Vithal temple at Nana Peth.
Day 4: The palki stays in the city. Complete rest.
Day 5: The palki proceeds towards Pandarpur the next day morning and leaves Pune city.

The other palki starting from Pune heads towards Loni Kalbhor- Yavat -Varvand- Baramati -Sansar- Lasurne-Nimgaon Ketaki-Indapur (Ringat is performed here) - Sarati- Akaluj- Borgaon-Pirachi Kuroli-Bawada -Vakhari -Pandharpur.

Wari pilgrims in Pandharpur Yatra for Tholi Ekadhashi

Wari pilgrims in Pandharpur Yatra for Tholi Ekadhashi

Millions of people participate in the Pandharpur Yatra and the journey is known as Wari in Marathi, meaning a holy pilgrimage which is a three-week long walk by barefoot from Dehu to Pandarpur covering 450 kms. The Lord Vithal, is an incarnation of Lord Krishna, and emulate Sant Jnaneshwar and Sant Tukaram. Pilgrims reach here with a belief that they seek blessings of the Lord.

Sant Tukaram Palki Procession

Sant Tukaram Palki Procession

The origin of the Pandharpur Palki (palanquin) tradition in the present form is associated with Sant Tukaram and his family. The Palki, or palanquin, procession from Dehu was started by the son of Sant Tukaram in which he carried the silver padukas (footsteps) of Tukaram in the Palkhi to Pandarpur and the tradition is still continued till today. Pilgrims are known as Dindi who travel in group singing bhajans composed by Sant Tukaram and Sant Dnyaneshwar.

Shri Sant Tukaram Maharaj Palki Prasthan from Dehu to Pandharpur

Shri Sant Tukaram Maharaj Palki Prasthan from Dehu to Pandharpur

People, of all generations young and old travel barefooted for kilometers chanting the holy names of the Lord. This pilgrimage presents a perfect amalgamation of people of all castes, creed, class and age. These pilgrims were welcomed and served in all the places they passed. People provide them with food, water, boarding and medical facilities. The local villagers drew rangolis in front of their houses to welcome the palkhis. Varkari’s men pilgrims are mostly dressed in dothi/kurta and women in sari, having gandh on their forehead, walk their way playing musical instruments like veenas, mridungas, dholkis and chiplis. The pilgrims also play the traditional folk dance "Fugdi" with their infectious enthusiasm and energy. With the saffron coloured triangular 'paatakas' (flags) in hands and tulsi leaves on their heads which present a perfect picture of the Bhakti tradition of Maharshtra. These devout pilgrims get the reward for their long journey when they witness the "maha puja" of Lord Vithala and his concert Rukhmini in Pandharpur on the Ashada Ekadashi day.

October - November is very attractive with Navararathri and Diwali festivals celebrated with much pomp and show.
February - March is colorful with the festivities of Holi.

Image Courtesy: Google

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