Yudhisthira Maharaja said, “O Lord of lords, Sri Krsna, all glories unto You! O master of the universe, You alone are the source of the four types of living entities-those born from eggs, those born from perspiration, those born from seeds, and those born from embryos. You alone are the root cause of all, O Lord, and therefore You are the creator, maintainer, and destroyer.
“My Lord, You have so kindly explained to me the auspicious day known as Sat-tila Ekadasi, which occurs during the dark fortnight of the month of Magha [January-February]. Now please explain the Ekadasi, that occurs during the light fortnight of this month. By what name is it known, and what is the process for observing it? Who is the Deity that is worshiped on this sublime day, which is so very dear to You?”
Lord Sri Krsna replied, “O Yudhisthira, I shall gladly tell you about the Ekadasi, that occurs during the light half of the month of Magha. This Ekadasi, obliterates all kinds of sinful reactions and demoniac influences affecting the spirit soul. It is known as Jay& Ekadasi, and the fortunate soul who observes a fast on this sacred day is relieved of the great burden of ghostly existence. Thus there is no better Ekadasi, than this, for it truly bestows freedom from birth and death. It is to be honored very carefully and diligently. So I ask you to listen to Me very attentively, O Pandava, as I explain a wonderful historical episode regarding this Ekadasi, an episode I have already related in the Padma Purana.
“Long, long ago in the heavenly planets, Lord Indra ruled his celestial kingdom very nicely, and all the demigods living there were very happy and content. In Nandana Forest, which was beautifully graced with parijata flowers, Indra drank ambrosia whenever he liked and enjoyed the service of fifty million celestial maidens, the Apsaras, who danced in ecstasy for his pleasure.
“Many singers, led by Puspadanta, sang in voices sweet beyond compare. Citrasena, Indra’s chief musician, was there in the company of his wife Malini and his beautiful son Malyavan. An Apsara named Puspavati became very much attracted to Malyavan; indeed, Cupid’s sharp arrows pierced the core of her heart. Her beautiful body and complexion, along with the enchanting movements of her eyebrows, captivated Malyavan.
“O king, listen as I describe the splendid beauty of Puspavati: She had incomparably graceful arms with which to embrace a man like a fine silken noose; her face resembled the moon; her lotus eyes reached almost to her lovely ears, which were adorned with wonderful earrings; her thin, ornamented neck looked like a conch; her waist was very slender, the size of a fist; her hips were broad, and her thighs like the trunks of banana trees; her naturally beautiful features were complemented by gorgeous ornaments and garments; her breasts were highly raised; and to look upon her feet was to behold newly grown red lotuses.
“Seeing Puspavati in all her heavenly beauty, Malyavan was bewitched at once. They had come with other performers to please Lord Indra by singing and dancing enchantingly, but because they had become so enamored of each other, pierced through the heart by the arrows of Cupid, lust personified, they were utterly unable to sing or dance properly before the lord and master of the heavenly realms.’ Their pronunciation was wrong and their rhythm careless. Lord Indra understood the source of the errors at once. Offended at the discord in the musical performance, he became very angry and screamed, ‘You useless fools! You pretend to sing for me while in a stupor of infatuation with each other! You are mocking me! I curse you both to suffer henceforth as pisacas [hobgoblins]. As husband and wife, go to the earthly regions and reap the reactions of your offenses.’
“Struck dumb by these harsh words, Malyavan and Puspavati at once became morose and fell from the beautiful Nandana Forest in the kingdom of heaven to a Himalayan peak here on planet earth. Immeasurably distressed, and their celestial intelligence vastly diminished by the effects of Indra’s fierce curse, they lost their senses of taste and smell, and even their sense of touch. It was so cold and miserable high on the Himalayan wastes of snow and ice that they could not even enjoy the oblivion of sleep.
“Roaming aimlessly hither and thither in those harsh altitudes, Malyavan and Puspavati suffered more and more, from one moment to the next. Even though they were situated in a cave, because of the snowfall and cold their teeth chattered ceaselessly, and their hair stood on end because of their fright and bewilderment.
“In this utterly desperate situation, Malyavan said to Puspavati, ‘What abominable sins did we commit to have to suffer in these pisaca bodies, in this impossible environment? This is absolutely hellish! Though hell is very ferocious, the suffering we are undergoing here is even more abominable. Therefore it is abundantly clear that one should never commit any sin.’
“And so the forlorn lovers trudged onward in the snow and ice. By their great good fortune, however, it so happened that that very day was Jaya Ekadasi, the Ekadasi of the light fortnight of the month of Magha. Because in their misery they neglected to drink any water, kill any game, or even eat whatever fruits and leaves were available at that altitude, they unknowingly observed Ekadasi by fasting completely from all food and drink. Sunk in misery, Malyavan and Puspavati collapsed beneath a pipal tree and did not even try to get up. The sun had set by this time.
“The night was even colder and more miserable than the day. They shivered in the frigid snowfall as their teeth chattered in unison, and when they became numb, they embraced just to keep warm. Locked in each other’s arms, they could enjoy neither sleep nor sex. Thus they suffered through the whole night under the powerful curse of Indra.
“Still, O Yudhisthira, by the mercy of the fast they had by chance observed on Jaya Ekadasi, and because they had remained awake all night, they were blessed. Please hear what happened on the next day. As Dvadasi dawned, Malyavan and Puspavati had given up their demoniac forms and were once again beautiful heavenly beings wearing lustrous ornaments and exquisite garments. As they looked at each other in amazement, a celestial airplane [vimana] arrived on the spot. A chorus of heavenly denizens sang their praises as the couple stepped into the beautiful aircraft and proceeded directly to the heavenly regions, buoyed up by the good wishes of everyone. Soon Malyavan and Puspavati arrived at Amaravati, Lord Indra’s capital city, and then they immediately went before their lord and offered him their cheerful obeisances.
“Lord Indra was astonished to see that they had been restored to their original status and forms so soon after he had cursed them to suffer as demons far, far below his celestial kingdom. Indra asked them, ‘What extraordinary meritorious deeds have you performed so that you could give up your pisaca bodies so quickly after I had cursed you? Who released you from my irresistible curse?’
“Malyavan replied, ‘O lord, it was by the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vasudeva, and also by the powerful influence of Jaya Ekadasi, that we were released from our suffering condition as pisacas. This is the truth, O master: Because we executed devotional service to Lord Visnu by observing Jaya Ekadasi, the day most dear to Him, we have happily been restored to our former status.’
“Indra said, ‘Because you served the Supreme Lord Kesava by observing Ekadasi, you have become worshipable even by me, and I can see that you are now completely purified of sin. Whoever engages in devotional service to Lord Sri Hari or Lord Siva becomes praiseworthy and worshipable even by me. Of this there is no doubt.’ Lord Indra then gave Malyavan and Puspavati free rein to enjoy each other and wander about his heavenly planet.
“Therefore, O Yudhisthira, one should strictly observe a fast on the day of Lord Hari, especially on Jaya Ekadasi, which frees one from the sin of killing even a twice-born brahmana. A great soul who observes this fast with full faith and devotion has in effect given all kinds of charity, performed all kinds of sacrifice, and bathed in all the holy places of pilgrimage. Fasting on Jaya Ekadasi, qualifies one to reside in Vaikuntha and enjoy unending happiness for billions of yugas-indeed, forever. O great king, one who even hears or reads these glories of Jaya Ekadasi, achieves the blessed merit attained by performing an Agnistoma sacrifice, during which hymns from the Sama-veda are recited.”
[Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari, by Sri Krsna Balaram Swamiji, KBS0027]