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24 Ekadashis: How to do the fasting?

The study of Vedic astronomy has revealed the significance of the position of the moon and its influence on the human mind.

One complete moon cycle lasts approx. 30 days. That means that there is around 14 days between the new moon and the full moon.

Ekadashi, literally meaning eleventh, is the eleventh day of the lunar fortnight.

Every month there are two Ekadasi, exactly eleven days after full and new moon.

Exactly 4 days before the two lunar cycles of the month, called Krishna Paksha (new moon) and Shukla Paksha (waxing moon), this day is auspicious for the mind to be in its natural state of wisdom.

According to Ayurveda, if you fast on Ekadashi’s day, what you consumed that day will have an effect on your body after 4 days.

So they are good days to cleanse the system, rest the digestive system, realign the body, purify the mind, stay energized, and avoid lethargy.

There are 24 types of Ekadashi in a year, all related with various incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

Each Ekadashi has rules of fasting that must be followed in order to direct the mental energy in the right direction and refrain from bad deeds.

1. Putrada Ekadashi

Putrada Ekadashi is on January. It means "giver of sons" and it is say that fasting on this day combined with offering puja to Lord Vishnu can bless the believer with children.

The fast starts from the dawn of Ekadashi and end at the next morning. It is not allowed to eat rice, pulses, garlic and onion during the fast. People who can’t follow the strict fasting rules can have milk and fruits. Non-vegetarian foods are strictly prohibited in Hindu households on this day.

2. Satilla Ekadashi

Satilla or Tilda Ekadashi come from the word "Til" that means sesame seeds. This Ekadashi involves giving and receiving sesame seeds as gifts and making food that includes them. People who fast on this day should donate sesame seeds, cereals and other foods to strengthen their fate. The story of this day highlights the importance of "annadaana" or food donation in Hindu culture. It is not allowed to eat pulses, grains or beans in meals and fruits like coconut, guava and pumpkin should be offered to the deity.

3. Jaya Ekadashi

On Jaya Ekadashi, people do the fast until the next morning. As always, non-vegetarian food is not allowed. Devotees must not eat pulses and rice, but eating on this day is not completely prohibited. Can eat fast recipes like aloo jeera, sabudana khichdi, sabudana kheer, kattu ki poori or paratha etc. Milk and fruits are also allowed. Honey, leafy vegetables and some particular spices are not considered auspicious.

4. Vijaya Ekadashi

Traditionally, a full day fast is observed on Vijaya Ekadashi and the devotees spend the day worshipping Lord Vishnu, who is believed to sustain the Earth. They cannot eat Tamasic foods made with onion and garlic. It is not allowed to have grains such as rice, lentils and pulses. Sabudana kitchari with ground nuts and potatoes is a preferred food during Vijaya Ekadashi. However, it should only be seasoned with rock salt and not have many spices. Milk and dry fruits are also allowed.

5. Amalaki Ekadashi

Amalaki means "Amla", which has a very important place in both Ayurveda and Hinduism. According to Padma Puran, Amla was very dear to Lord Vishnu and the day is thus commemorated by making amla paste, worshipping amla tree, consuming and even donating amla. It is also offered to the lord as Prasada. Grains and legumes are not eaten during the fast and only potatoes, nuts, milk, fruits, black pepper and rock salt are allowed.

6. Papmochani Ekadashi

During Papmochani Ekadashi, devotees of Lord Vishnu get up early and observe a fast for the entire day. Special delicacies such as Kheer, Til Laddu and Mewa are prepared and offered as Prasada to the lord. If they can’t observe the total fast, they can have milk, fruits, falahari kitchari and juice. Vegetables in cooked or even raw form are not allowed. People donate food and clothes to the poor on this day.

7. Kamada Ekadashi

Kamada Ekadashi occurs at the beginning of the "Hindi New Year" and observing a fast on this day is said to protect the devotees from many kinds of curses. Special bhog should be offered to Lord Vishnu while praying on Ekadashi and devotees should not consume meals on this day. If they must eat, the food should be completely sattvic. Dry fruits, fruits and milk products are allowed. The fast should be ended the next day after offering food to the needy. Beans, peas, pulses and grains are prohibited. It is said that Tulsi leaves should also not be plucked or consumed on this day.

8. Varuthini Ekadashi

Observing a fast on Varuthini Ekadashi is considered to be equal to being in penance for ten thousand years. The fast begins on the dawn of Ekadashi and continues to the morning of the next day. After offering puja and Prashad and donating food to brahmans, the fast can be broken. If the total fast cannot be done, one meal in the day is allowed but should avoid red lentil, black gram, chickpeas, honey, betel nut leaves, betel nuts or spinach. sabudana, milk, water, fruits and sweets are allowed.

9. Gauna Mohini Ekadashi

The devotee must observe a strict fast on this day to appease Lord Vishnu. They can eat one meal during the afternoon if they can’t go on the entire day and night without food. They must then remain awake the entire night singing hymns. The fast must only be broken the next morning by having fruits and milk. No food containing any grains or tamasic ingredients such as onion or garlic are allowed.

10. Apara Ekadashi

During worshipping the lord on Apara Ekadashi, it is important to offer bhog and tulsi leaves. Also, food and clothes must be donated to the needy. Share the prasad with everyone in the family. Food items like rice, meats, onion, garlic, lentils are strictly forbidden on this day. The fast must be broken on the next day only during the Puran muhurta. They can have milk-based foods, dry fruits, fruits and vegetables (if they can’t observe a full fast) only.

11. Nirjala Ekadashi

Nirjala means "without water". The fast on this Ekadashi is observed for 24 hours without drinking water starting from the sunrise of the Ekadashi to the next morning. One evening before this Ekadashi, the people who do the fast offer a prayer and then eat just once in the day. Rice and lentils are prohibited. Only a small drop of water is allowes following the purification ritual. During the worship, panchamrit or a mixture of milk, ghee, curd, sugar and honey is offered to the deity.

12. Yogini Ekadashi

Yogini Ekadashi involves eating food without salt. The devotee should not eat any stimulating food from one night before Ekadashi. Barley, moong dal, and wheat are forbidden foods both the day before and the day of the fast. A devotee can only break his fast after donating food and cloths to Brahmins and the needy the next morning.

13. Padma/Devashyani Ekadashi

On this day, the use of grams and lentils, honey, certain spices and all meats are strictly forbidden as any Tamasic food made with roots like garlic and onion. The fast can be broken the next morning after offering milk, honey, sugar and flour. This day marks the beginning of chaturmas, which are holy four months in the Hindu calendar and auspicious works are not carried out during this time.

14. Kamika Ekadashi

This Ekadashi is celebrated within the chaturmas period when Lord Vishnu is believed to be sleeping. On this day, the devotees must offer milk, fruits and sesame seeds apart from flowers to the lord while worshipping. They must also offer the panchamrit. It is considered best practice to fast the entire day and eat only after distributing food to the poor people the next morning. One meal is tolerated but rice and meat is forbidden. Donating fresh buds from the Tulsi plant also has a special significance on this day.

15. Aja Ekadashi

Observing a fast on Aja Ekadashi destroys our sins and ignorance. It is important to worship the lord with grains and coriander leaves or seeds. Eating grams, gram seeds, honey or vegetables like karonda (Carunda) is not allowed. Only one food is allowed (not have a second meal on this day). Masoor dal should not be eaten one night prior to the fast. Also, devotees should refrain from eating betel leaves (paan).

16. Parivartini, Vamana or Parsva Ekadashi

On Parsva Ekadashi, fasting and praying to Lord Vishnu purifies the devotees of all sins and pleases Goddess Lakshmi. Food should not be eaten after sunset of the previous day (Dashami). The Lord is worshipped with sesame seeds, seasonal fruits and Tulsi leaves. A regular meal is not allowed on this day but can have fruits, dairy products and dry fruits after offering the evening prayer. Rice, grains and beans are not allowed.

17. Indira Ekadashi

On Indira Ekadashi, fasting is observed to provide salvation for the ancestors. Lord Shaligram is worshiped on this day. Devotees consume only one food the night before Ekadashi. On Ekadashi, they must fast for the whole day without grains or cereals, then donate food to the Brahmins, and then to a crow, a cow, and a dog. The fast is only broken on Dwadashi after offering puja and sharing meals with the family.

18. Padmini Ekadashi

Fasting is an integral part of Padmini Ekadashi to purify the mind, soul and body. Rice, chickpeas, spinach, honey and urad dal are not allowed. Those who cannot hold a strict fast can have a meal made up of fruits and dairy products. Fast begins on Dashami and the devotee must have light food without onion, garlic and strong spices. Eating in bronze utensils is prohibited.

19. Parama Ekadashi

Fasting on this Ekadashi frees the devotee from all sins and attains the realms of the gods. Only sattvic foods consisting of fruits, sweets and dairy products are allowed. This option is for those who cannot spend the whole day without eating. Devotees fast 24 hours and survive on water alone. They should not eat foods such as lentils, chickpeas, honey, meats and vegetables.

20. Papankusha Ekadashi

On Papankusha Ekadashi, devotees must start the fast from the day of Dashami like other Ekadashis. Rice, barley, wheat, gram, moong and urad dal are not allowed as these seven grains are considered pious and worshipped on this day. Foods that are heavy on digestion such as sabudana, chips, bananas or fried items are prohibited. Drinks like water, fruit juice and milk are allowed. The fast can be broken only on Dwadashi after serving food to the brahmans.

21. Rama Ekadashi

People who are unable to fast on Rama Ekadashi should ensure that they do not consume dishes made from rice or any non-vegetarian food. Those who observe the fast must refrain from eating anything on this day. However, if that is not possible, they can only have vegetarian and organic food. Devotees must apply turmeric to basil leaves and offer to the lord while performing puja.

22. Devathuna Ekadashi

It is believed that on this day, Lord Vishnu wakes up after four months of rest. From this Ekadashi onwards, devotees are free to carry on their auspicious activities which are prohibited in this period. The food is consumed at Dashami noon and then devotees can only eat the next morning after Ekadashi. This is important so that there is not a trace of food left in the body on the day of fasting. Some people do not eat anything or drink water, but others follow a lighter fast with fruits, milk, natural fruit juices, and tea. Fasting people should not eat grains, vegetables and cereals on this day.

23. Utapanna Ekadashi

According to religious beliefs, people who fast on Utapanna Ekadashi find all kinds of comforts and receive the shelter of Lord Vishnu after death. Devotees who have the body strength and willpower should observe a strict fast, sipping only water during the day. Those who can't perform the fast should not eat garlic, alcohol, meat, masoor dal etc. Special significance is given to inviting married women and offering them fruits. Kheer with tulsi leaves is also prepared on this day.

24. Mokshada Ekadashi

Like other Ekadashis, Mokshada Ekadashi is also marked by a fast that extends from the rest of the day until the next morning. A strict fast is observed and nothing is allowed to be eaten. Other people observe partial fasts where they consume fruit juices, nuts, milk and fruits. Those who cannot keep the fast but want to honor the Lord refrain from onions, garlic, legumes, beans, rice, etc. and limit themselves to fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and nuts. The leaves of the Bel tree are consumed on this day.

Why is the rice not eaten on Ekadashi?

  • According to religious beliefs, a drop of sweat fell to the ground from Lord Brahma's head and turned into a demon. When he asked for a place to live, Brahma told the demon to exist in the grains of rice eaten by people on Ekadashi and turn into worms in their stomach.

  • There is also a scientific reason behind not having rice on Ekadashi: eating food that retains too much water on Ekadashi can cause instability as the moon attracts water and the moon's rays are said to have more cosmic energy on this day. Since rice grains contain a large amount of water, consuming it can cause the aggravation of certain conditions such as fluid retention, cold, sinusitis, etc.


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