In a year, 24 ekadashi are observed and out of these the Nirjala Ekadashi is the most sacred one. Nirjala Ekadashi is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, so all the pujas performed on this day are for Him to seek His blessings. Nirjala means water-less and as per Hindu calendar Nirjala Ekadashi falls on the eleventh lunar day of the waxing fortnight in the month of Jyestha (June-July). On Nirjala Ekadashi, a waterless fast is observed and it is considered a very fortunate day as per Hindus. Devotees observe the fast very religiously and say that it is the toughest fast. Also some communities organize chabeel (sweet mixture of water and milk) on this day.
A Nirjala Ekadashi Legend
Nirjala Ekadashi is also known as Pandava Bhima Ekadashi as the story of this day is related to Bhima, the strongest of the five Pandava brothers.
All the four Pandava brothers Yudhishthir, Arjuna, Nakul and Shahdeva along with their wife Draupadi and mother Kunti used to observe 24 ekadashi fasts. But Bhima was extremely fond of food and he could not control his hunger. At the same time he was afraid of dishonoring God Vishnu for whom the fast was observed. So, Bhima went to sage Vyasa for a solution. Sage Vyasa told him to observe one day’s fast on Nirjala Ekadashi and with this he would be able to gain the virtue of all the 24 ekadashis.
Nirjala Ekadashi Rituals
While keeping other ekadashis fasts, only the intake of food is prohibited. But for the Nirjala Ekadashi fast, the intake of both food and water is restricted for a complete 24 hours (from sunrise that starts on this auspicious day to the next day’s sunrise). Few devotees observe fast from sunrise to sunset. Along with this, evening prayers are performed by the devotees. Rice intake is also prohibited on Nirjala Ekadashi. People who do not keep fast eat food without rice.
Devotees get up early in the morning to offer prayers to God Vishnu for whom the fast is observed. Then the mixture of five foods known as panchamrita is taken that consists of curd, milk, ghee, sugar and honey. God Vishnu’s idol is then given a bath in panchamrita and dressed in royal clothes. On this day, male devotees as a part of ritual also perform achamana, a purification ritual. While doing this they can have just one drop of water. Devotees offer a pot filled with water, hand fans and melon to Brahmins as a part of charity on this day. Next morning, devotees after taking bath donate food and cloth and drink water to complete the fast.
Nirjala Ekadashi’s Significance
As per Hindu mythology, Nirjala Ekadashi is a form of God Vishnu and helps in washing away all sins. Also, the devotees are blessed by Lord Vishnu and granted all the happiness, prosperity and a blissful life. It is also believed that by observing Nirjala Ekadashi fast one gains salvation (moksha) as the person at the time of death is not judged by Yama (God of Death). The one who observes fast is taken by the messengers of Vishnu to Vaikuntha, an abode of Vishnu after death.