Ekadasi is a Sanskrit word derived from the words, Eka means “one” and dasi means “ten,” therefore Ekadasi. Ekadasi occurs twice in a month one of the 11th day of shukla paksha and another one on the 11th day of krishna paksha. Hence there are twenty five Ekadasis in a year. Ekadashi day is meant for fasting and people observe a complete fast on this day, to please Lord Maha Vishnu. Observing Ekadasi Vratham enhances spiritual development.
Ways to do Fasting:-
Some people only take a single meal on the Dasami day, the day before Ekadasi. Ekadashi fast begins on the day before the Ekadasi, on the Dashami, continues on the day of Ekadasi and ends on the Dvadasi, the day after Ekadasi.
On Ekadasi day we have to wake up early (before sunrise) in the morning by saying the word “hari” seven times. (Good to do this every day).
After head bath (not an oil bath) perform puja to Lord Vishnu at home by lighting a lamp and offering fruits, flower and Tulsi leaves (pluck it the previous day).
We could do meditation/dhayam for some time by keeping Him in mind. Chant His holy names.
We could Visit Vishnu temple. Then complete fasting/Upavasam on the day is the main observance.
If complete fasting is not possible due to health condition even partial fasting could be done.
One should avoid consuming grains, beans, cereals, certain vegetables and spices on the day. Foods allowed when partial fasting on Ekadasi include fruits, milk, nuts and root vegetables.
On Ekadasi day avoid day time nap/sleep. On Vaikunta Ekadasi day who observe fasting do not sleep even in the night time. They spend the whole night at Vishnu temples or by singing prayers or listening stories dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Ekadasi involves some strict regulations on food and sleep. The person should engage himself/herself in chanting, hearing and reading and discussing the stories/history of the Lord and involve in other spiritual services.
The fast is broken on the next day called as Dwadasi i.e. 12th day from Full Moon/New Moon. So after a bath, Offer prayers to Lord Vishnu eat food in the morning as early as possible. This breaking fast on the 12th day is known as ParaNai.
This fast is not only said to remove sins but also gain Lord’s blessings.
Importance of Ekadasi Vratham:-
Lord Krishna says: “I shall remove all obstacles from his path of spiritual development and bestow upon him the perfection of life” if a person keeps regular and rigorous fast on Ekadasi.
In the Padma Purana, Lord Vishnu says: “Among all plants, the Tulsi is my favorite, among all months Kartikai, among all pilgrimages Dwaraka, and among all days Ekadasi is most beloved.”
This is one of the most popular “Vratham” can be observed by all irrespective of gender. Lord Vishnu blessed that anyone who observes Ekadasi fast will be freed of their sins and will attain Moksha.