Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja said, “O Janārdana, protector of all living entities, please tell me the name of the Ekādaśī that occurs during the dark fortnight of the month of Bhādrapada. [August-September]
The Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, replied, “O king, hear me attentively. The name of this sin-removing, sacred Ekādaśī is Ajā. Any person who fasts completely on this day and worships Hṛṣikeśa, the master of the senses, becomes free of all reactions to his sins. Even one who simply hears about this Ekādaśī is freed from his past sins. O king, there is no better day than this in all the earthly and heavenly worlds. This is true without a doubt.
“There once lived a famous king named Hariścandra, who was the emperor of the world and a person of great truth and integrity. His wife’s name was Candramatī, and he had a son named Lohitāśva. By the force of destiny, however, Hariścandra lost his great kingdom and sold his wife and son. The pious king himself became a menial servant of a dog-eater, who made him guard a crematorium. Yet even while doing such menial service, he did not forsake his truthfulness and good character, just as soma-rasa, even when mixed with some other liquid, does not lose its ability to bestow immortality.
“The king passed many years in this condition. Then one day he sadly thought, `What shall I do? Where should I go? How can I be delivered from this plight?’ In this way he drowned in an ocean of anxiety and sorrow.
“One day a great sage happened by, and when the king saw him he happily thought, ‘Ah, Lord Brahmā has created brāhmaṇas just to help others.’ Hariścandra paid his respectful obeisances to the sage, whose name was Gautama Muni. With joined palms the king stood before Gautama and narrated his pitiful story. Gautama Muni was astonished to hear the king’s tale of woe. He thought, `How has this mighty king been reduced to collecting clothes from the dead!’ Gautama became very compassionate toward Hariścandra and instructed him on the process of fasting for purification.
“Gautama Muni said, ‘O king, during the dark fortnight of the month of Bhādrapada there occurs an especially meritorious Ekādaśī named Ajā, which removes all sins. Indeed, this Ekādaśī is so auspicious that if you simply fast on that day and perform no other austerity, all your sins will be nullified. By your good fortune it is coming in just seven days. So I urge you to fast on this day and remain awake through the night. If you do so, all the reactions of your past sins will come to an end. O Hariścandra, I have come here because of your past pious deeds. Now, all good fortune to you in the future!’ So saying, the great sage Gautama immediately disappeared.
“King Hariścandra followed Gautama’s instructions concerning fasting on the sacred day of Ajā Ekādaśī. O Yudhiṣṭhira, because the king fasted on that day, the reactions to his sins were completely destroyed at once. O lion among kings, just see the influence of this Ekādaśī fast! It immediately vanquishes whatever miseries one may be suffering as a result of past sinful activities. Thus all Hariścandra’s miseries were relieved. Just by the power of this wonderful Ekādaśī, he was reunited with his wife and son, who had died but were now revived. In heaven the demigods began beating their celestial kettledrums and showering down flowers upon Hariścandra, his queen, and his son. By the blessings of the Ekādaśī fast, he regained his kingdom without difficulty. Moreover, when King Hariścandra left this planet, his relatives and all his subjects went with him to the spiritual world.
“O Pāṇḍava, whoever fasts on Ajā Ekādaśī is surely freed from all his sins and ascends to the spiritual world. And whoever hears and studies the glories of this Ekādaśī achieves the merit gained by performing a horse sacrifice.”
[Ekādaśī, The Day of Lord Hari, by Śrī Kṛṣṇa Balarām Swāmījī, KBS0134]