Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja said, “O Madhūsudana, O killer of the Madhu demon, what is the name of the Ekādaśī, that occurs during the dark fortnight of the month of Āśvina [September-October]? Please describe its glories to me.”
The Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, replied, “This holy day is called Indirā Ekādaśī. If a person fasts on this day, all his sins are eradicated and his forefathers who have fallen into hell are liberated. O best of kings, one who simply hears about this Ekādaśī achieves the great merit earned by performing a horse sacrifice.
“In the Satya-yuga there lived a king named Indrasena, who was so powerful that he destroyed all his enemies. His kingdom was called Māhiṣmatī-purī. The glorious and highly religious King Indrasena took good care of his subjects, and therefore he was rich in gold, grains, sons, and grandsons. He was greatly devoted to Śrī Viṣṇu as well. He especially enjoyed chanting My name, calling out ‘Govinda! Govinda!’ In this way King Indrasena systematically dedicated himself to pure spiritual life and spent much time meditating on the Absolute Truth.
“One day, as King Indrasena happily and peacefully presided over his assembly, the perfect orator, Nārada Muni, was seen descending from the sky. The king offered Devarṣi Nārada, the saint among the demigods, great respect by greeting him with joined palms, inviting him into the palace, offering him a comfortable seat, washing his feet, and speaking sweet words of welcome. Then Nārada Muni said to Mahārāja Indrasena, ‘O king, are the seven limbs of your kingdom prospering?’ Is your mind absorbed in thinking of how you can properly perform your occupational duty? Are you becoming more and more devoted to the Supreme Lord, Śrī Visnu?’
“The king replied, ‘By your kind grace, O greatest of sages, everything is quite well. Today, just by your presence all the sacrifices in my kingdom are successful! Please show me mercy and explain the reason for your visit here.’
“Śrī Nārada, the sage among the demigods, then said, ‘O lion among kings, listen to my astonishing words. When I descended from Brahmaloka to Yamaloka, Lord Yamarāja praised me very graciously and offered me an excellent seat. As I glorified his truthfulness and wonderful service to the Supreme Lord, I noticed your father in Yamarāja’s assembly. Though he had been very religious, because he broke an Ekādaśī fast prematurely, he had to go to Yamaloka. Your father gave me a message for you. He said, “In Māhiṣmatī lives a king named Indrasena. Please tell him about my situation here–that because of my past sinful deeds I have somehow been forced to reside in Yamarāja’s kingdom. Please give him this message from me: ‘O son, kindly observe Indirā Ekādaśī and give much in charity so I can go upward to heaven.’ ”
“Nārada continued, ‘Just to deliver this message, O king, have I come to you. You should help your father by observing the fast of Indirā Ekādaśī. By the merit you gain, your father will go to heaven.’
“King Indrasena asked, ‘O great Nāradaji, please be merciful and tell me specifically how to observe a fast on Indirā Ekādaśī, and also tell me during what month and on what day it occurs.’
“Nārada Muni replied, ‘O king, please listen as I describe to you the full process of observing Indirā Ekādaśī. This Ekādaśī occurs during the dark fortnight of the month of Āśvina. On Daśamī, the day before Ekādaśī rise early in the morning, bathe, and then do some service for God with full faith. At noon, bathe again in running water and then offer oblations to your forefathers with faith and devotion. Be sure not to eat more than once on this day, and at night sleep on the floor.
“‘When you awaken on Ekādaśī morning, cleanse your mouth and teeth thoroughly and then with deep devotion for the Lord take this sacred vow: “Today I shall fast completely and give up all kinds of sense enjoyment. O lotus-eyed Supreme Personality of Godhead, O infallible one, please give me shelter at Your lotus feet.” At noon, stand before Śrī Śālagrāma-śilā and worship Him faithfully, following all the rules and regulations; then offer oblations to your forefathers. Next, feed qualified brāhmaṇas and offer them some charity according to your means. Now take the food you offered to your forefathers, smell it, and then offer it to a cow. Next, worship Lord Hṛṣikeśa with incense and flowers, and finally, remain awake all night near the Deity of Śrī Keśava.
“‘Early in the morning of the next day, Dvādaśī, worship Śrī Hari with great devotion and invite brāhmaṇas to a sumptuous feast. Then feed your relatives, and finally take your meal in silence. O king, if you strictly observe a fast on Indirā Ekādaśī in this way, with controlled senses, your father will surely be elevated to the abode of Lord Viṣṇu.’ After saying this, Devarṣi Nārada immediately disappeared.
“King Indrasena followed the great saint’s instructions perfectly, observing the fast in the association of his relatives and servants. As he broke his fast on Dvādaśī, flowers fell from the sky. The merit Indrasena earned by observing this fast released his father from the kingdom of Yamarāja and caused him to attain a completely spiritual body. Indeed, Indrasena saw him rising to the abode of Lord Hari on the back of Garuḍa. Indrasena himself was able to rule his kingdom without any obstacles, and in time he handed over the kingdom to his son and also went to Vaikuṇṭha.
“O Yudhiṣṭhira, these are the glories of Indirā Ekādaśī, which occurs during the dark fortnight of the month of Āśvina. Whoever hears or reads this narration certainly enjoys life in this world, is freed of all his past sins, and at death returns home, back to Godhead, where he lives eternally.”
[Ekādaśī, The Day of Lord Hari, by Śrī Kṛṣṇa Balarām Swāmījī, BDS0130]