Vaikuntha Ekadashi in Dhanurmasa Month

"Vaikuntha Ekadashi" is one of the most important Ekadashis which falls in the Margazhali Month ( Tamil Calendar ) and in Pushya Month ( Telugu Calendar ) in Mid Dec- Mid Jan during Dhanur solar month in Hindu Calendar. This Dhanur month is also known as Dhanurmasam. The Vaikuntha Ekadashi is also knwon as Shukla Paksha Ekadashi out of two Krishna Paksha and Shukla Paksha Ekadashis in a month. This Ekadashi is an auspicious day dedicated to Lord Vishnu which falls on the 11th day of every lunar fortnight in traditional Hindu Calendar. According to Gregorian calendar there might be none, otherwise one or two Vaikuntha Ekadashis in a year.
Vaikunta Ekadashi in Dhanurmasam
Vaikunta Ekadashi in Dhanurmasam
In 2015, the Vaikuntha Ekadashi was celebrated on January 1st. The Swarga Vasal or Paramapada opening was at 4:30 AM on January 1st, 2015 and in United States and UK it was marked on December 31st, 2014. There is no Vaikunta Ekadashi in 2016. In 2017, the date of Vaikuntha Ekadashi is Sunday, January 8. Swarga Vasal or or Paramapada opening is from 3:00 AM on January 8, 2017. Please note that in United States and UK it is marked on January 8, 2017. In Australia and New Zealand it is marked on January 9, 2017. 
Dieties worshipped on Vaikuntha Ekadashi
Dieties worshipped on Vaikuntha Ekadashi
This Ekadashi is also known as "Mukkoti Ekadashi" which is mostly celebrated by Vaishnavaites of Tamil and Telugu speaking people. In Kerala it is known as "Swargavatil Ekadashi". The most important activities done on this auspicious day are Fasting, staying vigil at whole night, and having darshan of the Lord Vishnu by passing through the "Vaikuntha Dwaram" ( Paramapada Vasal Door ) in Vishnu Temples as this is the only day when the doors are opened and the devotees are allowed to pass through it to attain salvation. This door symbolises 'the gateway to Vaikuntham' - 'abode of Lord Vishnu'.
Worship of Lord Vishnu on Vaikuntha Ekadashi
Worship of Lord Vishnu on Vaikuntha Ekadashi
Celebration in Vishnu Temples:
Vaikuntha Ekadashi is celebrated with great importance in all the temples of Lord Vishnu ( All His Incarnations ) across South India. Some famous temples are:
  • Tirupati Balaji Temple  
  • Srirangam Ranganathaswamy Temple
  • Bhadrachalam Sita Ramachandraswamy temple
Those who visit Vishnu Temples like Tirupathi or Srirangam on Vaikuntha Ekadashi can pass through the Vaikunta Dwaram, the door which is the inner most way to sanctum sanctorum. It is also known as Mokshada Ekadasi in South India.
Lord Vishnu at Vaikuntha Dwaram on Vaikuntha Ekadashi
Lord Vishnu at Vaikuntha Dwaram on Vaikuntha Ekadashi
According to Garuda Purana:
ekadazii vratam nityam tat kuryat paksayor dvayoh
aghaugha narakam hanyat sarvadam visnuloka dam
Meaning: Fasting on Ekadashi 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.
Significance of Vaikuntha Ekadashi:
It is an important festival dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the Tamil month of Margazhali( Dec-Jan ) having great significance at the Tirupathi Lord Balaji Temple, Srirangam SriRanganatha Swamy Temple and at the Bhadrachalam SriRama Temple. Last year Vaikunta Ekadashi date was January 1 in 2015. This year in 2016 it has no such day but falls on next year 8th Jan, 2017. In United States also, it is observed on 8th Jan, 2017 and in Australia, on 9th Jan, 2017.
The Significance of Vaikuntha Ekadashi is well told in 'Padma Puranam'. The Padma Puranam tells us that Lord Vishnu on this day took the form of 'Ekadashi' – the female energy – to kill the demon Muran, in the month of Margazhali. When Lord Vishnu got satisfied by 'Ekadashi', he gave her a boon that whoever worships her on this day will reach the 'Vaikuntham' (the heaven - abode of Lord Vishnu).
Doors opened on Vaikuntha Ekadashi
Doors opened on Vaikuntha Ekadashi
This Ekadashi is also associated with Lord Vishnu and 'Haribhakti Vilas' which talks in detail about its importance. Now a Day's, in Hindu religion Ekadashi means a day to fast which falls on the 11th day of every lunar fortnight. There are two Ekadashi's observed in a month. It is also known as 'Harivasara' and 'Hari din' as it is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. There are several puranas ( Padma Purana and Skanda Purana ) which tells us the signifance of Ekadashi.  
In this manner among all 24 Ekadashis falling in a year,  this day is very auspicious as devotees indulge in keeping fast, keep vigil whole night, does meditation, do Japam and Singing of Lord Vishnus Kirtans. Rice which is the staple food of South India is completely avoided on this day as their is a belief that the demon Muran finds a dwelling in the rice eaten on this day.
The 'Vaikuntha Dwaram' or 'the gate to the heaven' is opened on this day (once in a year) in early hours of this day as Scores of devotees queue up to pass through this Gate of Vaikuntham in Vishnu Temples which is the passage encircling the innermost sanctum of the Lord Vishnu in Temples of South India like Tamilnadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Benefits of Vaikuntha Ekadashi: 
This Ekadashi is also known as 'Mukkoti Ekadashi' and has a belief that Vaikuntha Dwaram or the door of Lord's inner most sanctum sanctorium is opened on this day for the witness of devotees who observe fast on this day to attain salvation by going to Heaven.
How to observe Vaikuntha Ekadashi?
Vaikuntha Ekadashi falls on the 11th day in Margazhali Shukla Paksha of Tamil Calendar and in Telugu Calendar the same period as Pushya Shukla Paksha.
Things needed for Puja and Prayer on this day include:
  • An Idol or Photo frame of Lord Vishnu
  • Fruits
  • Flowers
  • Tulasi Leaves
  • Betel Leaves, Betel Nuts and Yellow Bananas ('Tambulam' which is offered to the Lord)
  • One Unbroken Coconut (used at the end of the puja)
Method of Observation:
  • It is observed from Dashami day itself and One should wake up early in the morning on the day of Ekadashi, have bath at 'Brahmamuhurtham' and get ready for the morning puja, keep fasting on the whole day, and witness Lord Vishnu in any of his temples from Vaikuntha Dwaram to attain salvation.
  • The puja is done to the Idol or Photo frame of Lord Vishnu by offering some fruits, flowers and Tulasi leaves.
  • One can lit diyas and meditate for few minutes infront of Lord Vishnu or can perform puja as usual which is done daily as this day ( Vaikuntha Ekadashi ) is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Type of Fasting:
  • The one who keeps fast ( partial or total abstinence from food ) for whole 24 hours on this day is rewarded with bliss of Lord Vishnu.
  • Those having any health problems or on medication should consult their doctors before keeping fast. 
  • The one who wishes to opt for partial fast should avoid food made of rice on this day and take some fresh fruits, vegetables,nuts or milk.
  • It is believed that fasting once in a while recuperates the body. Thus Ekadashi observance cleans one's body and the digestive organs get the amount of rest needed for them.
  • It is believed that demon Muran found a dwelling place in the rice and Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Ekadasi to annihilate Muran. Therefore devotees who fast on the Ekadashi day should avoid food made from grains, pulses, beans and non-vegetarian.
  • The Sabudana Khichadi with potatoes and ground nut ( but no onion and garlic ) is the most preferred Ekadashi fasting food in western parts of India.
Puja at the end of the Day:
  • One has to bath again in the evening and repeat the puja done in the morning to Lord Vishnu.
  • They should visit nearby Vishnu temple and witness the rituals done at the time of evening puja and offer their prayers.
  • One should be engaged on chanting mantras of Lord Vishnu like Vishnu Ashotharam, Vishnu Sahasranamam, Baghawadgita, Vishnu Puranam, etc.
  • Those who can't read can chant the mantra – Om Namoh Narayana!
  • The staunch devotees who keep vigil whole night and does fasting on this day spend their whole time in Vishnu temples or sitting infront of the Idol in their home by singing kirtan, bhajans or listening to the stories dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Breaking the Ekadashi Fast:
The Ekadashi fast is broken on next day morning which is known as 'Dwadashi' after having bath. Same rituals are followed on this day also and puja is done to Lord Vishnu by lighting diyas, the food made at home is offered to the diety which is then consumed as prasad for breaking one's fast. 
The breaking of Ekadashi fast 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. One should avoid breaking the fast during Madhyahna. If due to some reasons one is not able to break the fast during Pratahkal then one should do it after Madhyahna.
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