The Ultimate Guide to Observing Apara Ekadashi Fast: 8 Benefits and Rituals

Discover the significance of Apara Ekadashi Fast, its rituals, and immense spiritual benefits. Learn how to observe this sacred day with devotion.

What is Apara Ekadashi?

Apara Ekadashi, also known as Achala Ekadashi, is a highly revered fasting day dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Observed on the 11th day of the Krishna Paksha (waning phase of the moon) in the month of Jyeshtha, this Ekadashi is believed to bestow immense spiritual and material benefits. This sacred day is celebrated with great devotion by Vaishnavas and other Hindu devotees who seek to attain divine blessings and absolution from sins.

Who are the Smartas?

The Smarta sect comprises householders who worship multiple deities including Hari, Shiva, Shakti, Ganesh, and Surya. Unlike Vaishnavas, Smartas do not emphasize the importance of the lunar calendar’s waxing and waning phases. They observe festivals like Janmashtami, Ram Navami, and Ekadashi by aligning them with the preceding day’s date. Therefore, those who follow these practices are known as Smartas.

Who are the Vaishnavas?

Vaishnavas are devotees who exclusively worship Vasudeva, Sri Krishna, or Lord Vishnu. This category includes all ascetics and monks who have adopted a guru. In the Vaishnav tradition, the rising phases of the lunar calendar are highly significant. Festivals like Ekadashi are celebrated by aligning them with the Dwadashi (the 12th day), highlighting their importance in the Vaishnav calendar.

Why is Apara Ekadashi Important?

Apara Ekadashi holds a special place in Hinduism due to its profound spiritual benefits. Lord Krishna explained the importance of this Ekadashi to Yudhishthira in the Brahmanda Purana. He narrated that observing Apara Ekadashi fast can absolve even the gravest of sins, such as cow slaughter, Brahmin murder, foeticide, and adultery. This Ekadashi is named “Apara” to denote its limitless glory and benefits, making it a crucial day for those seeking spiritual growth and repentance.

How to Observe Apara Ekadashi Fast?

Observing Apara Ekadashi involves several rituals and practices. Devotees rise early, preferably before sunrise, and take a holy bath. They then offer tulsi leaves, incense, and lamps to Lord Vishnu. Visiting Vishnu temples and listening to the Apara Ekadashi Mahatmya (glory) recited by a storyteller is also a significant part of the observance.

Fasting is a core aspect of this Ekadashi. Devotees typically consume only fruits, and some even observe a waterless fast. It is customary to listen to the Ekadashi Mahatmya before breaking the fast with root vegetables. Consuming grains and applying oil to the body are avoided on this day, both of which have scientific and spiritual significance. The day is spent reciting the Vishnu Sahasranama, singing devotional songs, and maintaining purity and devotion.

What Are the Benefits of Apara Ekadashi Fast?

Observing Apara Ekadashi fast brings numerous spiritual and material benefits. According to Lord Krishna, fasting on this day can yield the same merit as performing significant religious acts such as:

– Bathing thrice daily in Pushkar during the Kartik month.

– Bathing in Prayag during the Magh month.

– Worshiping on Shivratri in Varanasi.

– Offering pinda (ritual food) to ancestors in Gaya.

– Taking a holy dip in the Gautami river when Jupiter is in Leo.

– Worshiping Shiva in Kedarnath.

– Visiting Badrinath during the Kumbh pilgrimage.

– Donating cows or land in Kurukshetra.

Those who do not observe the fast on Apara Ekadashi are said to be compelled to be reborn on earth, underscoring the day’s paramount importance for achieving union with the Supreme.

What Should Be Avoided on Apara Ekadashi?

On Apara Ekadashi, devotees are advised to refrain from certain activities to maintain the sanctity of the fast. These include:

– Avoiding grains and pulses: Consuming grains is prohibited as it is believed to diminish the spiritual benefits of the fast.

– Refraining from applying oil: Applying oil to the body is avoided to maintain purity.

– Controlling negative thoughts and stress: Devotees focus on positive thoughts and devotion to Lord Hari.

– Abstaining from indulgent activities: Activities that distract from spiritual practices should be avoided.

Apara Ekadashi is a powerful and significant observance in the Hindu tradition. By adhering to the prescribed rituals and maintaining purity and devotion, devotees can attain immense spiritual and material benefits. The fast not only helps in absolving sins but also paves the way for spiritual growth and divine blessings. May the grace of Apara Ekadashi be upon everyone who observes this sacred day with sincerity and devotion.

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