Ashadhi Ekadashi

Ashadhi Ekadashi is an auspicious day of God Shri.Vitthal and is a festival of religious procession which is celebrated during the month of June-July.As per the Marathi calendar, it is Aashadh Shukla Paksha. People consider the two eleventh days, 'Ekadashi',of every month to be of special significance.And the eleventh day (bright) of Ashadh is known as the Maha (great) Ekadashi.

Ashadhi ekadashi is also known by the following names - Maha Ekadashi(the great eleventh),Shayani Ekadashi (the sleeping eleventh),Prathama Ekadashi (the first eleventh) and the Padma Ekadashi.It is believed that on this day, Lord Vishnu falls asleep and wakes up four months later on Prabodhini Ekadashi in the Kartik month(oct-nov).This holy day is very important for the 'Vaishnavas",being the followers of Lord Vishnu.

Like the creator of universe - Lord Brahma narrated the significance to his son Narada,.Lord Krishna narrates significance of Shayani Ekadashi to Yudhisthira,in the scripture Bhavishyottara Purana.This is the story of king Mandata.King Mandata was very pious.Hiss country had faced drought for three years, but the king could not find a solution to please the rain gods.Later, sage Angiras advised the king to observe the 'Vrat' (vow) of Dev-Shayani ekadashi.As the king observed the vow, there was rain in the kingdom by the grace of Lord Vishnu.
Ekadashi is considered as the date (tithi) of Lord Vishnu,so,it is also referred to as Haridini (Hari's, that is, Lord Vishnu's day).In other religious festivals there are vows and resolutions but ekadashi need not be observed with a resolution (sankalpa) and ritual.It is the basic among all vowed religious observances and rituals.
The proportion of satva,raja,tama components in every organism varies according to time/season (samay/kal).On the eleventh day of each Hindu lunar fortnights,the satva component is maximum in all living beings.So it benefits the most if spiritual practice is done on an ekadashi day.

This period coincides with the rainy season and is also known as Chaturmas.Ashadhi Ekadashi is a fasting day and on this day people go walking in a huge processions from Alandi to Pandharpur,singing the Abhangas (devotional songs) of Vithoba,Saint Tukaram and Saint Dnyaneshwar.The 'Dindi'(procession) starts from Alandi and ends on Guru Poornima day at Pandharpur.

The �Vi� in Lord Vithoba�s name denotes knowledge and ï¿½Thoba� denotes shape.So, He is the idol of knowledge. Another interpretation is that the word �Vitthal� is said to be derived from the Marathi word �Vit�, meaning brick.The reason behind the brick will be explained later in this article. �Ba� is used to denote �father� in Marathi.

Lord Vithoba is a form of Lord Vishnu, Lord Narayana or Lord Krishna. It is believed that Lord Krishna had incarnated at the end of Dwarpa Yuga on the eighth day of the dark fortnight in the holy month of Shravan (As per the Hindu calendar).
Devotees lovingly address him as Mauli, Pandharinath, Pandurang,Vitthal etc.Lord Vishnu is the name for Vitthal in Kannada language(southern parts of India). The worship of Lord Pandurang is mainly derived from the Puranas.
His worship has been made well-known by the poems, kirtans and the great saints of Maharashtra from the 13th through the 17th centuries.The great saints were Saint Namdev,Saint Tukaram, Saint Dnyaneshwar, Saint Eknath and Pundalik.
The festival of Ashadhi Ekadashi is celebrated with great devotion at Pandharpur,for seeking the 'Darshana(to see the divine grace of the God) of Shri.Vitthal-Rakhumai,Thousands of devotees go in procession to Pandharpur,from different parts of Maharashtra, some carrying palanquins with the images of the great saints of Maharashtra.
In recent times, the holy festival of �Ashadi Ekadashi� has seen multitudes from the states of Maharashtra and Goa make the pilgrimage to Prasanthi Nilayam to celebrate this important festival in the Divine Presence.
Devotees from the states of Maharashtra and Goa commence their Dindi Yatra from the town of Dharmavaram (about 40 kilometres from Puttaparthy) on foot and reach Prasanthi Nilayam, on the morning of Ashadi Ekadashi to have the Darshan and blessings of Bhagawan. This is usually followed by a cultural programme presented by the Bal Vikas children of Maharashtra and Goa.

If it is not possible to observe the ekadashi of every Hindu calendar,one can at least observe the ekadashi of the bright fortnight.On both the ekadashis of Ashadh month,Lord Vishnu is worshipped as Shridhar (one of the Names of Lord Vishnu).A deep (lamp) of clarified butter (ghee) is kept lit throughout the night of an Ashadhi ekadashi.
Early in the morning a divine bath is taken and a visit is paid to a Vitthal Mandir to take divine 'darshana' of God Vithoba-Rakumai.On ekadashi day,the food intake should be limited to only water and a mixture of dried ginger (suntha) and sugar.Else,one can consume the food items as per the Hindu fasts (upavas). These foods, being sattvik,do not reduce one's sattva component,diverting the attension from the God (the aim of a fast is to be close to God),A fast observed on an ekadashi is ended the following day.

Pandharpur yatra is belived to be done from more than 700 years.It is believed that in 13th century,the parents of Saint Dnyaneshwar started this pilgrimage which was later on popularised by Saint Dnyaneshwar.Later on in the year 1685,Saint Narayan Maharaj,the son of Saint Tukaram started this pilgrimage as 'waari' of current trend.
The main Pandharpur Yatra starts from the Sant Tukaram Temple at Dehu.The waarkaris or pilgrims follow the Tukaram Maharaj Palkhi procession.This main procession is joined by other palkhis from other towns and villages.Some of them carry 'Palkis'(palanquins) with the image of a saint.Saint Dnaneshwar's image is carried from Alandi, Tukaram's image is carried from Dehu, Eknath's from Paithan, Nivruttinath's from Trimbakeshwar, Muktabai's from Edlabad and Sopan's from Sasvad.

Pandharpur Yatra takes place twice in a year one during Ashadhi Ekadasi (June - July) and another during Kartik Ekadasi (October -November).Pandharpur Yatra is a classic example of unparalleled devotion to a personal deity, a great aspect of Bhakti sect.The Yatra is attracting more and more pilgrims every year.Pilgrims of all ages,young and old walk for kilometers barefooted singing the holy songs.Since thispilgrimage is done on foot, it is considered as physical penance,which  purifies the physical body.

Pandharpur is located in Solapur District of Maharashtra. The main Pandharpur Yatra starts from Dehu in Pune District. From there it travels to Pune city, Alandi and finally the 21 day trek ends on the previous day of Ashadhi Ekadasi at Pandharpur.

Thousands of pilgrims called 'warkaris', walk all the way from Alandi to Pandharpur while singing the devotional songs,'Bhajans, of Pandurang (Vithoba).This is called as 'waari' which is a 21 days trek and culminates on the Ashadhi Ekadashi day at Pandharpur.The Pandharpur Yatra to the Vithoba temple at Pandarpur is an unparalleled pilgrimage that breaks the barriers of caste, creed, rich and poor.

As per the legend,Pundalik,was the devoted son of Janudev and Satyavati.After his marriage he ill treated them.Annoyed with his behaviour,the parents left for the pilgrimage to Kashi ,Varanasi etc.
Pundalik and his wife also joined them and continued with their harassment to them.Pundalik made his old parents walk while he and his young wife rode on a horse.On the way, they reached the hermitage of the sage, Kukkutswami.  
All of them being tired of journey,decided to rest for some days there itself.The next morning,just before the dawn,Pundalik saw a group of beautiful, young women dressed in dirty clothes who entered the hermitage.They cleaned the floor,washed the Sage�s clothes and did other such jobs.On finishing their jobs, they went to the prayer room and came out with spotlessly clean clothes and they disappeared.
Pundalik was very happy to see all this but thought he was dreaming.The next day when the incident was repeated,he talked to the women and asked curiously,'Who are you ?'They replied,'We are Ganga, Yamuna and all the holy rivers of India.People wipe away their sins by taking a bath in us.But you are a biggest sinner,because of the way you treat your parents.'
Pundalik was shaken with their statement.He realized his mistake and wanted to improve his ways.He soon started serving his parents well and looked after all their needs and comforts.

Lord Vishnu was extremely pleased by seeing Pundalik�s sincere devotion towards his parents.He left his abode,Vaikauntha-Lok, to bless Pundalik.Lord Vishnu came to Pundalik�s house and knocked his door.Pundalik was engrossed serving his parents and his devotion to his parents was so sincere that he wanted to finish his duties first and then attend to whoever was at the door.
Pundalik flung a brick(Vit) towards the door to offer a platform for the guest,to wait at the door.The Lord Vishnu was very much pleased with Pundalik's devotion to his parents and he waited for him on the brick.When came to know the fact,Pundalik apologised Lord Vishnu,for keeping him waiting,but the Lord instead offered him to get a boon to be fulfilled.
Pundalik soon requested him to remain on earth and bless all his devotees.His wish was granted and the Lord remained behind and is known as Vithoba(Lord who stands on a brick).This form of the Lord Vishnu is Swayambhu(came into existence on its own).He is always seen accompanied by his consort Rakhumai orRukmini.
*In the scripture Bhavishyottara Purana,God narrated significance of Shayani Ekadashi to king Yudhisthira, as the creator-god Brahma did it to his son Narada.The story of king Mandata has reference to this.The country of king Mandata was struck by drought for three years,but the king could not to find a solution to come out of it and to please the rain god.
Later on,the sage Angiras advised the king Mandata to observe the 'Vrat' of Dev-shayani ekadashi.King Mandata followed his advise and on doing so Lord Vishnu was pleased and blessed king Mandata and there was rain in the kingdom and all were happy.

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