This year, the Fourth of July is being observed as the Devshayani Ekadashi. Tomorrow, millions of Hindus will take vows to lead lives of honesty, purity, and abstinence. For the next four months, they will try to stick to their vows.
The word, ‘Devshayani’ means Sleep of the Dev or Lord and ‘Ekadashi’ means the Eleventh Day.In this context, the Eleventh Day refers to the eleventh day of the first half of Ashadh month (June-July).
The Dev, in this case, Vishnu, goes to sleep for the next four months until November. He sleeps in the Ksheer Sagar, or the ocean of milk and His bed is made up within the coils of Sheshnag, or the Great Serpent.
Devshayani Ekadashi is also known as Shayan Ekadashi or Hari Shayan Ekadashi. The word Hari means Vishnu and Shayan means Sleep.
Devshayani Ekadashi and Jagannath Yatra
For many Hindus, Devshayani Ekadashi begins a few days after the Jagannath Yatra. This Yatra marks the journey of Krishna, Balram and their sister, Subhadra to their house and back.
Millions of Hindus believe that Vishnu and Krishna are one and the same. Many thousands of years ago, Vishnu took the form of Krishna to protect the good folks of the world. Reincarnation or avatar is a central thought in the Hindu thought.
People have been observing fasts and other penances on Hari Shayan Ekadashi for many thousands of years. It is not a new phenomenon.
In the Bhavishyottar Purana, Lord Krishna advises Yudhisthir, the head of the Pandava clan, to observe fasts to mark this day. Similarly, Sage Angiras also had advised King Mandhata to observe severe penances and fasts on Shayan Ekadashi. He said that these fasts were necessary to bring rain to the King’s parched kingdom. Sage Angiras also advised that the King’s subjects must join him in observing fasts to bring rains to the country.
Since then, observing fasts and penances has become an important activity for millions of Hindus on Devshayani Ekadashi.
Many Hindus put off their travel plans during the Chaturmas period as the roads become slippery and there is always the risk of sudden rains. In the hills, there is always the risk of landslides and flash floods.
This period comprises the months of July, August, September and some part of October. During these months, Hindus try to stick to their vows and also fast on some days.
For some, this means no liquor, non-vegetarian food and in some cases, no onions also.
Rituals of Devshayani Ekadashi
- Devotees must take a bath in the Bramha Muhurta ( before sunrise) to clean their bodies and minds
- They must observe a fast for the entire days on Hari Shayan Ekadashi
- Do not eat grains, cereals, spices, onions and other tamsik food
- Clean the praying area and decorate the idol of Lord Vishnu
- Bathe the idol with panchamrit ( curd, milk, honey, ghee, and gangajal)
- Offer roli, flowers, kumkum, incense sticks, holy water, fiyas, a hand fan, and prasadam to the deity
- Visit nearby temples of Lord Vishnu with their families
- Chanting of bhajans
On Hari Shayan Ekadashi, many people go to the ancient temple at Pandharpur finish their yatra (journey).
Pandharpur is a small town in the Sholapur district of Maharashtra and is known for the Vitthal Temple. Vitthal or Vithoba is another name of the combined form of Krishna and Rukmini.
On this day, many devotees carry the images of several renowned saints in palkis. These saints are known all over the country for their devotion to Lord Vishnu.
These saints are Dnyaneshwar, Namdev, Tukaram, Eknath, Nivruttinath, Muktabai, Sopan and Gajanan Maharaj.
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