Yudhisthira Maharaja said, “O Kesava, what is the name of the Ekadasi that occurs during the light fortnight of the month of Asadha [June-July]? Who is the worshipable Deity for this auspicious day, and what is the process for observing it?”
Lord Sri Krsna replied, “O caretaker of this earthly planet, I shall gladly tell you a wonderful history that Lord Brahma once narrated to his son Naradaji.
“One day Narada asked his father, ‘What is the name of the Ekadasi that comes during the light part of the month of Asadha? Kindly tell me how I should observe this Ekadasi and thus please the Supreme Lord, Visnu.’
“Lord Brahma replied, ‘O great orator, O best of all sages, O purest devotee of Lord Visnu, your question is excellent. There is nothing better than Ekadasi, the day of Lord Hari, in this or any other world. It nullifies even the worst of sins if observed properly. For this reason I shall tell you about Asddha-sukla Ekadasi.
“Fasting on this Ekadasi purifies one of all sins and fulfills all one’s desires. Therefore, whoever neglects to observe this sacred fast day is a good candidate for entering hell. Asddha-sukla Ekadasi is also famous as Padma Ekadasi. Just to please Hrsikesa, the master of the senses, one should fast on this day. Listen carefully, O Mirada, as I relate to you a wonderful history from the scriptures concerning this Ekadasi. Just hearing this account destroys all kinds of sins, along with all obstacles on the path to spiritual perfection.
“O son, there was once a saintly king in the sun dynasty whose name was Mandhata. Because he always stood up for the truth, he was appointed emperor. He took care of his subjects as though they were his very own children. On account of his piety and great religiosity, there was no pestilence, drought, or disease of any kind in his kingdom. All his subjects were not only free of all kinds of disturbances but also very wealthy. The king’s own treasury was free of any ill-gotten money, and thus he ruled happily for many years.
“Once, however, because of some sin in his kingdom, there was a drought for three years. The subjects found themselves beset by famine. The lack of food grains made it impossible for them to perform the Vedic sacrifices, offer oblations to their forefathers and the demigods, engage in ritualistic worship, or even study the Vedic literatures. Finally, they all came before their beloved king in a great assembly and said, “O king, you always see to our welfare, so we humbly beg your assistance now. Everyone and everything in this world needs water. Without water, almost everything is rendered useless or dead. The Vedas call water nara, and because the Supreme Personality of Godhead sleeps upon water, His name is Narayana. God makes His own abode on water and takes His rest there.’ In His form as the clouds, the Supreme Lord is present throughout the sky and pours forth rain, from which grow the grains that maintain every living entity.
“O king, the severe drought has caused a great lack of valuable grains; thus we are all miserable, and the population is decreasing. O best ruler on earth, please find some solution to this problem and bring us peace and prosperity once again.”
“The king replied, “You speak the truth, for grains are like Brahman, the Absolute Truth, who lives within grains and thereby sustains all beings. Indeed, it is because of grains that the entire world lives. Now, why is there a terrible drought in our kingdom? The holy scriptures discuss this subject very thoroughly. If a king is irreligious, both he and his subjects suffer. I have meditated upon the cause of our problem for a long time, but after searching my past and present character I can honestly say that I find no sin. Still, for the good of all you subjects, I shall try to remedy the situation.”
“Thinking in this way, King Mandhata assembled his army and entourage, paid his obeisances to me, and then entered the forest. He wandered here and there, seeking great sages in their asramas and inquiring about how to resolve the crisis in his kingdom. At last he came upon the asrama of one of my other sons, Angira Muni, whose effulgence lit up all directions. Seated in his hermitage, Angira looked like a second Brahma. King Mandhata was very pleased to see that exalted sage, whose senses were completely under control.
“The king immediately dismounted his horse and offered his respectful obeisances to the lotus feet of Angira Risi Then the king joined his palms and prayed for his blessings. That saintly personage reciprocated by blessing the king with sacred mantras; then he asked him about the welfare of the seven limbs of his kingdom.
“After telling the sage how the seven limbs of his kingdom were faring, King Mandhata asked about the sage’s own happiness. Then Angira Risi asked the king why he had undertaken such a difficult journey into the forest, and the king told him of the affliction his kingdom was suffering. The king said, “O great sage, I am ruling and maintaining my kingdom while following the Vedic injunctions, and thus I do not know the reason for the drought. To solve this mystery, I have approached you for help. Please help me relieve the suffering of my subjects.”
“Angira Risi said to the king, “The present age, Satya-yuga, is the best of all ages, for in this age Dharma stands on all four legs. 3 In this age everyone respects brahmanas as the topmost members of society. Also, everyone fulfills his occupational duties, and only twice-born brahmanas are allowed to perform Vedic austerities and penance. Although this is the standard, O lion among kings, there is one sudra who is unlawfully performing the rites of austerity and penance in your kingdom. This is why there is no rain in your land. You should therefore punish this laborer with death, for by so doing you will remove the contamination and restore peace to your subjects.”
“The king replied, “How can I kill an offenseless performer of austerity? Please give me some spiritual solution.”
“The great sage Angira said, “O king, you should observe a fast on the Ekadasi that occurs during the light fortnight of the month of Asadha. This auspicious day is named Padma Ekadasi and by its influence plentiful rains will surely return to your kingdom. This Ekadasi bestows perfection upon its faithful observers, removes all kinds of bad elements, and destroys all obstacles on the path to perfection. O king, you, your relatives, and your subjects should all observe this sacred Ekadasi fast. Then everything in your kingdom will undoubtedly return to normal.”
“Upon hearing these words, the king offered his obeisances and then returned to his palace. When Padma Ekadasi arrived, King Mandhata assembled all the brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras in his kingdom and instructed them to strictly observe this important fast day. After they had observed it, the rains fell, just as the sage had predicted, and in due course of time there were abundant crops and a rich harvest of grain. By the mercy of the Supreme Lord Hrsikesa, the master of the senses, all the subjects of King Mandhata became extremely happy and prosperous.
“Therefore, O Narada, everyone should observe this Ekadasi fast very strictly, for it bestows all kinds of happiness, as well as ultimate liberation, upon the faithful devotee.’
Lord Sri Krsna concluded, “My dear Yudhisthira, Padma Ekadasi is so powerful that one who simply reads or hears its glories becomes completely sinless. O Pandava, one who wishes to please Me should strictly observe this Ekadasi, which is also known as Deva-sayani Ekadasi. O lion among kings, whoever wants liberation should regularly observe a fast on this Ekadasi, which is also the day when the Caturmasya fast begins.”
[Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari, by Sri Krsna Balaram Swamiji, KBS0141]