Śrī Sūta Gosvāmī said, “O sages, let me offer my humble and respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord Hari, Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the son of Devakī and Vasudeva, by whose mercy I can describe the fast day that removes all kinds of sins. It was to the devoted Yudhiṣṭhira that Lord Kṛṣṇa glorified the twenty-four primary Ekādaśīs, which destroy sin, and now I shall recount one of those narrations to you. Great learned sages have selected these twenty-four narrations from the eighteen Puraṇas, for they are truly sublime.
Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja said, “O Lord Kṛṣṇa, O Vāsudeva, please accept my humble obeisances. Please describe to me the Ekādaśī that occurs during the light part of the month of Caitra [March-April]. What is its name, and what are its glories?”
Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa replied, “O Yudhiṣṭhira, please listen to Me attentively as I relate the ancient history of this sacred Ekādaśī, a history Vasiṣṭha Muni once related to King Dilīpa, the great-grandfather of Lord Rāmacandra.
King Dilīpa asked the great sage Vasiṣṭha, “O wise brāhmaṇa, I wish to hear about the Ekādaśī, that comes during the light part of the month of Caitra. Please describe it to me.”
Vasiṣṭha Muni replied, “O king, your inquiry is glorious. Gladly shall I tell you what you wish to know. The Ekādaśī that occurs during the light fortnight of Caitra is named Kāmadā Ekādaśī. It consumes all sins, as a forest fire consumes a supply of dry firewood. It is very purifying, and it bestows the highest merit upon one who faithfully observes it. O king, now hear an ancient history, which is so meritorious that it removes all one’s sins simply by being heard.”
Once, long ago, there existed a city-state named Ratnapura, which was decorated with gold and jewels and in which sharp-fanged snakes would enjoy intoxication. King Punḍarīka was the ruler of this most beautiful kingdom, which numbered many Gandharvas, Kinnaras, and Apsarās among its citizens.
Among the Gandharvas were Lalita and his wife Lalitā, who was an especially lovely dancer. These two were intensely attracted to each other, and their home was full of great wealth and fine food. Lalitā loved her husband dearly, and likewise he constantly thought of her within his heart.
Once, at the court of King Pundarīka, many Gandharvas were dancing and Lalita was singing alone, without his wife. He could not help thinking about her as he sang, and because of this distraction he lost track of the song’s meter and melody. Indeed, Lalita sang the ending of his song improperly, and one of the envious snakes who was in attendance at the king’s court complained to the king that Lalita was absorbed in thinking of his wife instead of his sovereign. The king became furious upon hearing this, and his eyes turned crimson with rage. Suddenly he shouted, “O foolish knave, because you were lustfully thinking of a woman instead of reverently thinking of your king as you performed your court duties, I curse you to at once become a cannibal!”
O king, Lalita immediately became a fearful cannibal, a great man-eating demon whose appearance terrified everyone. His arms were eight miles long, his mouth was as big as a huge cave, his eyes were as awesome as the sun and moon, his nostrils resembled enormous pits in the earth, his neck was a veritable mountain, his hips were four miles wide, and his gigantic body stood a full sixty-four miles high. Thus poor Lalita, the loving Gandharva singer, had to suffer the reaction of his offense against King Pundarīka.
Seeing her husband suffering as a horrible cannibal, Lalitā became overwhelmed with grief. She thought, “Now that my dear husband is suffering the effects of the king’s curse, what is to be my lot? What should I do? Where should I go?” In this way Lalitā grieved day and night. Instead of enjoying life as a Gandharva’s wife, she had to wander everywhere in the thick jungle with her monstrous husband, who had fallen completely under the spell of the king’s curse and was wholly engaged in terrible sinful activities. He wandered fitfully across forbidding regions, a once-beautiful Gandharva demigod now reduced to the ghastly behavior of a man-eater. Utterly distraught to see her dear husband suffer so much in his dreadful condition, Lalitā began to cry as she followed his mad journeying.
By good fortune, however, Lalitā came upon the sage Śṛṅgi one day. He was sitting on the peak of the famous Vindhyācala Hill. Approaching him, she immediately offered the ascetic her respectful obeisances. The sage noticed her bowing down before him and said, “O most beautiful one, who are you? Whose daughter are you, and why have you come here? Please tell me everything in truth.”
Lalitā replied, “O great sage, I am the daughter of the great Gandharva Vīradhanvā, and my name is Lalitā. I roam the forests and plains with my dear husband, whom King Pundarīka has cursed to become a man-eating demon. O brāhmaṇa, I am greatly aggrieved to see his ferocious form and terribly sinful activities. O master, please tell me how I can perform some act of atonement on behalf of my husband. What pious act can I perform to free him from this demoniac form, O best of brāhmaṇas?”
The sage replied, “O heavenly maiden, there is an Ekādaśī named Kāmadā that occurs in the light fortnight of the month of Caitra. It is coming up soon. Whoever fasts on this day has all his desires fulfilled. If you observe this Ekādaśī fast according to its rules and regulations and give the merit you thus earn to your husband, he will be freed from the curse at once.” Lalitā was overjoyed to hear these words from the sage.
Lalitā faithfully observed the fast of Kāmadā Ekādaśī according to the instructions of the sage Śṛṅgi, and on Dvādaśi she appeared before him and the Deity of Lord Vāsudeva and said, “I have faithfully observed the fast of Kāmadā Ekādaśī. By the merit earned through my observance of this fast, let my husband be free from the curse that has turned him into a demoniac cannibal. May the merit I have gained thus free him from misery.”
As soon as Lalitā finished speaking, her husband, who stood nearby, was at once freed from the king’s curse. He immediately regained his original form as the Gandharva Lalita, a handsome heavenly singer adorned with many beautiful ornaments. Now, with his wife Lalitā, he could enjoy even more opulence than before. All this was accomplished by the power and glory of Kāmadā Ekādaśī. At last the Gandharva couple boarded a celestial airplane and ascended to heaven.”
Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa continued, “O Yudhiṣṭhira, best of kings, anyone who hears this wonderful narration should certainly observe holy Kāmadā Ekādaśī to the best of his ability, such great merit does it bestow upon the faithful devotee. I have therefore described its glories to you for the benefit of all humanity. There is no better Ekādaśī than Kāmadā Ekādaśī. It can eradicate even the sin of killing a brāhmaṇa, and it also nullifies demoniac curses and cleanses the consciousness. In all the three worlds, among movable and immovable living entities, there is no better day.”
Thus ends the narration of the glories of Caitra-śukla Ekādaśī, or Kāmadā Ekādaśī, from the Varāha Purāṇa.
[Ekādaśī, The Day of Lord Hari, by Śrī Kṛṣṇa Balarām Swāmījī, KBS0135]