Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja said, “O Viṣṇu, master of all, O delight of the three worlds, O Lord of the universe, O creator of the world, O oldest personality, O best of all beings, I offer my most respectful obeisances unto You.
“O Lord of lords, for the benefit of all living entities, kindly answer some questions I have. What is the name of the Ekādaśī that occurs during the light fortnight of the month of Mārgaśīrṣa and removes all sins? How does one observe it properly, and which Deity is worshiped on that holy day? O Lord, please fully explain this to me.”
Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa replied, “O Yudhiṣṭhira, your inquiry is very auspicious and will bring you fame. Just as I previously explained to you the dearest Utpannā Mahā-dvādaśī–which occurs during the dark part of the month of Mārgaśīrṣa, which is the day when Ekādaśī-devī appeared from My body to kill the demon Mura, and which benefits everything animate and inanimate in the three worlds–so I shall now explain to you the Ekādaśī that occurs during the light part of the month of Mārgaśīrṣa. This Ekādaśī is famous as Mokṣadā because it purifies the faithful devotee of all sinful reactions and bestows liberation upon him. The worshipable Deity of this day is Lord Dāmodara. With full attention one should worship Him with incense, a ghee lamp, flowers, and tulasī mañjarīs [buds].
“O best of kings, please listen as I narrate to you the old and auspicious history of this Ekādaśī. Simply by hearing this history one can attain the merit earned by performing a horse sacrifice. By the influence of this merit, one’s forefathers, mothers, sons, and other relatives who have gone to hell can go to heaven. For this reason alone, O king, you should listen carefully to this narration.
“There was once a beautiful city named Campaka-nagara, which was decorated with devoted Vaiṣṇavas. There the best of saintly kings, Mahārāja Vaikhānasa, ruled his subjects as if they were his own sons and daughters. The brāhmaṇas in that capital city were all expert in four kinds of Vedic knowledge. The king, while ruling properly, had a dream one night in which his father was suffering the pangs of torture in a hellish planet. The king was overwhelmed with compassion and shed tears. The next morning, Maharaja Vaikhānasa described his dream to his council of twice-born brāhmaṇas.
‘O brāhmaṇas,’ the king said, ‘in a dream last night I saw my father suffering on a hellish planet. He was crying out, “O son, please deliver me from the torment of this hell!” Now I have no peace, and even this beautiful kingdom has become unbearable to me. Not even my horses, elephants, and chariots give me any joy, and my vast treasury gives me no pleasure at all.
“‘Everything, O best of the brāhmaṇas, even my own wife and sons, has become a source of unhappiness since I beheld my dear father suffering the tortures of hell. Where can I go, and what can I do, O brāhmaṇas, to alleviate this misery? My body is burning with fear and sorrow! Please tell me what kind of charity, what mode of fasting, what austerity, or what deep meditation I may perform to deliver my father from his agony and bestow liberation upon my forefathers. O best of brāhmaṇas, what is the use of one’s being a powerful son if one’s father must suffer on a hellish planet? Truly, such a son’s life is utterly useless!’
“The twice-born brāhmaṇas replied, ‘O king, in the mountainous forest not far from here is the āśrama where the great saint Parvata Muni resides. Please go to him, for he knows the past, present, and future of everything and can surely help you in your misery.
“Upon hearing this advice, the distressed king immediately set out on a journey to the āśrama of the famous sage Parvata Muni. The āśrama was very big and housed many learned sages expert in chanting the sacred hymns of the four Vedas. Approaching the holy āśrama, the king beheld Parvata Muni seated among the sages like another Lord Bṛahmā, the unborn creator.
“Mahārāja Vaikhānasa offered his humble obeisances to the muni, bowing his head and then prostrating his entire body. After the king had seated himself, Parvata Muni asked him about the welfare of the seven limbs of his extensive kindgdom. The muni also asked him if his kingdom was free of troubles and whether everyone was peaceful and happy. To these inquiries the king replied, ‘By your mercy, O glorious sage, all seven limbs of my kingdom are doing very well. Yet there is a problem that has recently arisen, and to solve it I have come to you, O brāhmaṇa, for your expert guidance.’
“Then Parvata Muni, the best of all sages, closed his eyes and meditated on the king’s past, present, and future. After a few moments he opened his eyes and said, ‘Your father is suffering the results of committing a great sin, and I have discovered what it is. In his previous life he quarreled with his wife when he enjoyed her sexually during her menstrual period. She tried to resist his advances and yelled out, “Someone please save me! Please, O husband, do not interrupt my monthly period!” Still he did not leave her alone. It is on account of this grievous sin that your father has fallen into such a hellish condition.’
“King Vaikhānasa then said, ‘O greatest of sages, by what process of fasting or charity may I liberate my dear father from such a condition? Please tell me how I can remove the burden of his sinful reactions, which are a great obstacle to his progress toward ultimate liberation.’
“Parvata Muni replied, ‘During the light fortnight of the month of Mārgaśīrṣa there occurs an Ekādaśī called Mokṣadā. If you observe this sacred Ekādaśī strictly, with a full fast, and give directly to your suffering father the merit you thus obtain, he will be freed from his pain and instantly liberated.’
“Hearing this, Mahārāja Vaikhānasa profusely thanked the great sage and then returned to his palace. O Yudhiṣṭhira, when the light part of the month of Mārgaśīrṣa at last arrived, Mahārāja Vaikhānasa faithfully and perfectly observed the Ekādaśī fast with his wife, children, and other relatives. He dutifully gave the merit from this fast to his father, and as he made the offering, beautiful flowers showered down from the sky. The king’s father was then praised by the messengers of the demigods and escorted to the celestial regions. As he passed his son, the father said to the king, ‘My dear son, all auspiciousness unto you!’ At last he reached the heavenly realm.
O son of Pānḍu, whoever strictly observes the sacred Mokṣadā Ekādaśī, following the established rules and regulations, achieves full and perfect liberation after death. There is no better fasting day than this Ekādaśī of the light fortnight of the month of Mārgaśīrṣa, O Yudhiṣṭhira, for it is a crystal-clear and sinless day. Whoever faithfully observes this Ekādaśī fast, which is like cintā-maṇi [a gem that yields all desires], obtains special merit that is very hard to calculate, for this day can elevate one to the heavenly planets and beyond–to perfect liberation.”
[Ekādaśī, The Day of Lord Hari, by Śrī Kṛṣṇa Balarām Swāmījī, KBS0144]