Sūta Gosvāmi said, “Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja said, O Janārdana, what is the name of the Ekādaśī that occurs during the light fortnight of the extra, leap year month? How does one observe it properly? Please narrate all this to me.’
“The Supreme Personality of God, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, replied, „O Pāṇḍava, the meritorious Ekādaśī that occurs during the light fortnight of the extra month of leap-year is called Padminī. It is very auspicious. The fortunate soul who observes it with great determination and faith will return to My personal abode. This extra-month Ekādaśī is as powerful as I am in nullifying sins. Even four-headed Lord Brahmā cannot glorify it sufficiently. Long ago Lord Brahmā told Nārada about this liberating, sin-removing Ekādaśī.’
“Lotus-eyed Lord Kṛṣṇa became very pleased by the enquiry of Yudhiṣṭhira and spoke to him the following pleasing words: ‘O king, please listen carefully as I narrate to you the process of fasting on Padminī Ekādaśī, which is rarely done even by great sages.
“One should begin his fast on the Daśamī, the day before Ekādaśī, by not eating any urad dāl, pink dāl, chickpeas, spinach, honey, or sea salt, and also by not dining in homes of others or off bell-metal plates. These eight things should be avoided. One should eat only once on the Daśamī, sleep on the ground and remain celibate. On Ekādaśī the devotee should rise early in the morning but should not brush his teeth. Then he should thoroughly bathe – in a place of pilgrimage, if possible. While chanting sacred hymns from the Vedas, he should smear his body with cow dung mixed with clay, sesame-seed paste, kuśa grass, and the powder of āmalakī fruits. Then the devotee should take another thorough bath, after which he should chant the following prayers:
‘O sacred clay, you have been created by Lord Brahmā, purified by Kaśyapa Muni, and lifted by Lord Kṛṣṇa in His form as Varāha, the boar incarnation. O clay, please purify my head, eyes, and other limbs. O clay, I offer my obeisances unto you. Kindly purify me so I may worship the Supreme Lord, Śrī Hari.”
‘O cow-dung, you posses medicinal and antiseptic qualities because you have come directly from the stomach of our universal mother, the cow. You can purify the entire planet Earth. Please accept my humble obeisances and purify me. “O āmalakī fruits, please accept my humble obeisances. You have taken your birth from the saliva of Lord Brahmā, and thus by your very presence the entire planet is purified. Kindly cleanse and purify my bodily limbs.“
‘O Supreme Lord Viṣṇu, O God of the gods, O master of the universe, O holder of the conch, disc, club, and lotus, please allow me to bathe in all the holy places of pilgrimage.”
“Reciting these excellent prayers, chanting mantras to Lord Varuṇa, and meditating on all the places of pilgrimage located on the banks of the Ganges, one should bathe in whatever body of water is at hand. Then, O Yudhiṣṭhira, the devotee should rub his body, thus purifying his mouth, back, chest, arms, and waist as a prelude to worshipping the Supreme Lord, who wears brilliant yellow garments and gives pleasure to all creatures. By so doing, the devotee will destroy all his sins. Afterwards, he should chant the sacred Gāyatrī mantra, offer oblations to his forefathers, and then enter a Viṣṇu temple to worship Lord Nārāyaṇa, the husband of the Goddess of Fortune, Laxmi-devi.
‘If possible, the devotee should then fashion mūrtīs of Śrī Rādha and Kṛṣṇa or Śiva and Pārvatī out of gold and offer them nice devotional worship. He should fill a copper or clay pot with pure water mixed with scents, and then he should cover the pot with a cloth lid and a gold or silver lid, in this way preparing an āsana upon which the Rādha-Kṛṣṇa or Śiva-Pārvatī mūrtīs may sit for worship. According to capacity, the devotee should then worship these mūrtīs with fragrant incense, a bright ghee lamp, and sandalwood paste along with camphor, musk, kuṅkuma and other scents, as well as selected aromatic flowers like white lotuses and other seasonal blooms, and also very nicely prepared foods. On this special Ekādaśī the devotees should dance and sing ecstatically before the Deity. He should avoid prajalpa (talking unnecessarily of ordinary, mundane conversational topics) at all costs and should not talk to or touch low-born persons or a woman in her menstrual period, or others so absorbed. On this day he should be especially careful to speak the truth and certainly not criticize anyone before the Deity of Lord Viṣṇu, the brāhmaṇas, or the spiritual master. Rather, with other devotees he should be absorbed in listening to Vaiṣṇavas read the glories of Lord Viṣṇu from the Purāṇas. One should not drink or even touch water to his lips on this Ekādaśī, and one who is unable to perform this austerity should drink only water or milk. Otherwise, the fast is considered broken. One should remain awake that Ekādaśī night, singing and playing musical instruments for the transcendental pleasure of the Supreme Person.
“During the first quarter of the Ekādaśī night the devotee should offer some coconut meat to his worshippable mūrtī, during the second part he should offer soothing bel fruit, during the third part an orange, and as the night draws to a close some betel nut. Remaining awake during the first part of the Ekādaśī night bestows on the devotee the same merit as that gained by performing the Agnistoma-yajña. Staying awake during the second part of the night bestows the same merit as that gained by performing a Vājapeya-yajña. Stay awake during the third part gives one the same merit as that attained by performing an Aśvamedha-yajña. And one who remains awake throughout the night receives all of the above mentioned merit, as well as the grand merit of having performed a Rājasūrya-yajña. Thus there is no better fasting day in the year than Padminī Ekādaśī. Nothing can compare to it as a giver of merit, whether it be a fire sacrifice, knowledge, education, or austerity. Indeed, whoever observes this sacred Ekādaśī fast receives all the merit attained by bathing in all the places of pilgrimage in the world.
“After remaining awake throughout the night, the devotee should bathe at sunrise and then worship Me nicely. He should then feed a qualified brāhmaṇa and respectfully give him the mūrtī of Lord Keśava and the pot filled with pure scented water. This gift will guarantee the devotee success in this life and liberation in the hereafter.
“O sinless Yudhiṣṭhira, as you have requested, I have described the rules and regulations, as well as the benefits, regarding the Ekādaśī that occurs during the light fortnight of the extra, leap-year month. Fasting on this Padminī day bestows merit equal to that gained by fasting on all other Ekādaśīs. The Ekādaśī that occurs during the dark part of the extra month, which is known as Paramā Ekādaśī, is as powerful at removing sin as this one, Padminī. Now please listen to Me carefully as I narrate to you a fascinating account connected with this sacred day. Pulastya Muni once recited this history to Nāradaji.
“Pulastya Muni once had occasion to rescue the ten headed demon Rāvaṇa from the prison of Kārtavīryārjuna, and upon hearing of this event Nārada Muni asked his friend, “O greatest of sages, since this Rāvaṇa defeated all the demigods, including Lord Indradev, how could Kārtavīryārjuna defeat Rāvaṇa, who was so skilled in battle?”
“Pulastya Muni replied, “O great Nārada, during the Tretāyuga, Kārtavīrya (Kārtavīryārjuna’s father) took birth in the Haihaya dynasty. His capital city was Māhiṣmatī and he had one thousand queens, whom he loved very dearly. None of them, however, was able to give him the son he wanted so badly. He performed sacrifices and worshipped the demigods and forefathers, but due to the curse of some sage he was unable to beget a son – and without a son, a king cannot enjoy his kingdom, just as a hungry man can never really enjoy his senses.
“King Kārtavīrya carefully considered his plight and then decided to perform severe austerities to achieve his goal. Thus he donned a loincloth made of bark, grew matted locks, and turned over the reins of his kingdom to his ministers. One of his queens, Padminī – who was born in the Ikṣvāku dynasty, who was the best of all women, and who was the daughter of King Hariścandra – saw the king leaving. She felt that, since she was a chaste wife, her duty was to follow in the footsteps of her beloved husband. Removing all the regal ornaments from her beautiful body and donning but one piece of cloth, she thus followed her husband into the forest.
“At last Kārtavīrya reached the summit of Mount Gandhamādana, where he performed severe austerities and penances for ten thousand years, meditating and praying to Lord Gadādhara, who wields a club. But still he did not get a son. Seeing her dear husband waste away to mere skin and bone, Padminī thought of a solution to the problem. She went to the chaste Anasūyā. With great reverence, Padminī said, ‘O great lady, my dear husband, Kārtavīrya, has been performing austerities for the last ten thousand years, but Lord Keśava, who alone can remove one’s past sins and present difficulties, has not yet become pleased with him. O most fortunate one, please tell me a fast day we can observe and thus please the Supreme Lord with our devotion, so much so that He will bless me with a nice son who will later rule the world as emperor.’
“Upon hearing the appealing words of Padminī, who was very chaste and deeply devoted to her husband, the great Anasūyā replied to her in a very cheerful mood: ‘O beautiful, lotus-eyed lady, usually there are twelve months in a year, but after every thirty-two months an extra month is added, and the two Ekādaśīs that occur during this month are called Padminī Ekādaśī and Paramā Ekādaśī. They fall on the Dvādaśīs of the light and dark part of the month, respectively. You should fast on these days and remain awake throughout the night. If you do so, the Supreme Personality of God, Śrī Hari, will bless you with a son.’
“O Nārada, in this way Anasūyā, the daughter of the sage Kardama Muni, explained the potency of these special Ekādaśīs. Hearing this, Padminī faithfully followed the instructions to fulfill her desire for a son. Padminī fasted completely, even from water, and remained awake all night, chanting the glories of God and dancing in ecstasy. Lord Keśava thus became most pleased with her devotion and appeared before her, riding on the back of the great Garuḍa. The Lord said, ‘O beautiful one, you have greatly pleased Me by fasting on the special Ekādaśī of the extra month. Please ask Me for a benediction.’
“Hearing these sublime words from the overseer of the entire universe, Padminī offered the Supreme Lord devotional prayers and asked Him for the boon her husband desired. Lord Kṛṣṇa was moved to reply, ‘O gentle lady, I am very happy with you, for there is no month dearer to Me than this, and the Ekādaśīs that occur during this month are the most dear to Me of all Ekādaśīs. You have followed My devotee Anasūyā ‘s instructions perfectly, and therefore I shall do what will please you. You and your husband will have the desired son that you wish.’
“The Lord, who removes the distress of the world, then spoke to King Kārtavīrya: ‘O King, please ask of Me any boon that will fulfill your heart’s desire, for your dear wife has pleased Me greatly with her devotional fasting.’
“The king was very happy to hear this. Naturally he asked for the son he had desired for so long: ‘O master of the universe, O killer of the Madhu-demon, kindly grant me a son who will never be conquered by the demigods, human beings, snakes, demons, or hobgoblins, but whom only You can defeat.’ The Supreme Lord immediately replied, ‘So be it!’ and disappeared.
“The king became so very pleased with his wife and returned to his palace in her company. Padmini soon became pregnant, and the mighty-armed Kārtavīryārjuna appeared as her son. He was the mightiest person in all the three worlds, and thus even the ten-headed Rāvaṇa could not defeat him in battle. Except for Lord Nārāyaṇa, who holds a club, a disc, and other symbols in His hands no one could overcome him. By the merit that resulted from his mother’s strict and faithful observance of Padminī Ekādaśī, he could defeat even the dreaded Rāvaṇa. This is not at all surprising, O Nāradaji, for Kārtavīryārjuna was the fulfillment of the benediction of the Supreme Personality of God.” With these words, Pulastya Muni departed.’
“The Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, concluded, ‘O sinless Yudhiṣṭhira, as you have enquired from Me, I have explained to you the power of this special Ekādaśī. O best of kings, whoever observes this fast will surely attain to My personal abode. And similarly, if you want all your desires fulfilled, you should do likewise.’
“Hearing these words from the mouth of his beloved Keśava, Dharmarāja (Yudhiṣṭhira) became filled with joy, and when the time came he faithfully observed Padminī Ekādaśī.”
Sūta Gosvāmi concluded, “O sage Śaunaka, I have explained to you all about this meritorious Ekādaśī. Anyone who devotedly fasts on the Ekādaśīs that occur during the extra, leap-year months, carefully following all the rules, becomes glorious and happily goes back to God. And one who merely hears or reads about these Ekādaśīs will also obtain great merit and ultimately enter the abode of Lord Śrī Hari.”
[Ekādaśī, The Day of Lord Hari, by Śrī Kṛṣṇa Balarām Swāmījī, BDS0143]