Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja said, “O Janārdana, O protector of all beings, what is the name of the Ekādaśī that occurs during the dark fortnight of the month of Kārtika [October-November]? Please impart this sacred knowledge to me.”
The Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, replied, “O lion among kings, please listen: The Ekādaśī that occurs during the dark part of the month of Kārtika is called Ramā Ekādaśī. It is most auspicious, for it at once eradicates the greatest sins and awards passage to the spiritual abode. I shall narrate its history and glories to you.
“There once lived a famous king named Mucukunda, who was friendly with Lord Indra, the king of heaven, as well as with Yamarāja, Varuṇa, and Vibhīṣaṇa, the demon Ravaṇa’s pious brother. Mucukunda always spoke the truth and constantly rendered devotional service to Me. Because he ruled according to religious principles, there were no disturbances in his kingdom.
“Mucukunda’s daughter was named Candrabhāgā, after a sacred river, and the king gave her in marriage to Śobhana, the son of Candrasena. One day, Śobhana visited his father-in-law’s palace on the auspicious Ekādaśī day. This visit made Śobhana’s wife, Candrabhāgā, quite anxious, for she knew that her husband was physically very weak and unable to bear the austerity of a day-long fast. She said to him, ‘My father is very strict about following Ekādaśī. On Daśamī, the day before Ekādaśī, he strikes a large kettledrum and announces, “Nobody should eat on Ekādaśī, the day of Lord Hari!”‘
“When Śobhana heard the sound of the kettledrum, he said to his wife, ‘O beautiful one, what am I to do now? Please tell me how I can save my life and obey your father’s strictures at the same time!’
“Candrabhāgā replied, ‘My dear husband, in my father’s house nobody–not even the elephants and horses, what to speak of human beings–eats on Ekādaśī. Indeed, none of the animals are given their ration of grains, leaves, or straw–or even water!–on Ekādaśī, the day of Lord Hari. So how can you escape fasting? My beloved, if you must eat something, then you should leave here at once. Now, with firm conviction decide what to do.’
“Prince Śobhana replied, ‘I have decided to fast on the sacred Ekādaśī day. Whatever my fate is, it will surely come to pass.’
“Deciding thus, Śobhana attempted to fast on that Ekādaśī, but he became unbearably disturbed with excessive hunger and thirst. Eventually the sun set in the west, and the arrival of the auspicious night made all the Vaiṣṇavas very happy. O Yudhiṣṭhira, all the devotees enjoyed worshiping Lord Hari and remaining awake through the night, but to Prince Śobhana that night became absolutely unbearable. Indeed, when the sun rose on Dvādaśī, Śobhana was dead.
“King Mucukunda observed his son-in-law’s funeral, ordering a large stack of wood assembled for the fire, but he instructed his daughter Candrabhāgā not to join her husband on the funeral pyre. Thus Candrabhāgā, after performing all the purificatory processes honoring her deceased husband, continued to live in her father’s house.”
Lord Kṛṣṇa continued, “O best of the kings, even though Śobhana died because of observing Ramā Ekādaśī the merit he accrued enabled him, after death, to become the ruler of a kingdom high on the peak of Mandarācala Mountain. This kingdom was like a city of the demigods: very lustrous, with unlimited jewels set in the walls of its buildings. The pillars were made of rubies, and gold inlaid with diamonds shone everywhere. As King Śobhana sat upon a throne beneath a pure white canopy, servants fanned him with yak-tail whisks. A stunning crown rested upon his head, beautiful earrings adorned his ears, a necklace graced his throat, and bejeweled armlets and bracelets encircled his arms. He was served by Gandharvas [heaven’s best singers] and Apsarās [celestial dancers]. Verily, he resembled a second Indra.
“One day, a brāhmaṇa named Somaśarmā, who lived in Mucukunda’s kingdom, happened upon Śobhana’s kingdom while traveling to various places of pilgrimage. The brāhmaṇa saw Śobhana in all his resplendent glory and thought he might be the son-in-law of his own king, Mucukunda. When Śobhana saw the brāhmaṇa approaching, he immediately rose from his throne and welcomed him. After Śobhana had paid his respectful obeisances, he asked the brāhmaṇa about his well-being and about the health and welfare of his (Śobhana’s) father-in-law, his wife, and all the residents of the city.
“Somaśarmā replied, ‘O king, all the subjects are well in your father-in-law’s kingdom, and Candrabhāgā and your other family members are also quite well. Peace and prosperity reign throughout the land. But, O king, I am astonished to find you here! Please tell me about yourself. Nobody has ever seen such a beautiful city as this! Kindly tell me how you obtained it.’
“King Śobhana said, ‘Because I observed Ramā Ekādaśī, I was given this splendid city to rule. But for all its grandeur, it is only temporary. I beg you to do something to correct this deficiency. You see, this is only an ephemeral city. How may I make its beauties and glories permanent? Kindly instruct me.’
“The brāhmaṇa asked, ‘Why is this kingdom unstable, and how will it become stable? Please fully explain this to me, and I shall try to help you.’
“Śobhana answered, ‘Because I fasted on Ekādaśī without any faith, this kingdom is impermanent. Now hear how it can become permanent. Please return to Candrabhāgā, the beautiful daughter of King Mucukunda, and tell her what you have seen and understood about this place and about me. Surely, if you tell her this, my city will soon become permanent.’
“Thus the brāhmaṇa returned to his city and related the entire episode to Candrabhāgā, who was both surprised and overjoyed to hear this news. She said, ‘O brāhmaṇa, is this a dream you have seen, or is it actually a fact?’
“Somaśarmā replied, ‘O princess, I have indeed seen your late husband face to face in that wonderful kingdom, which resembles one of the demigods’ realms. But he says that his entire kingdom is unstable and could vanish into thin air at any moment. Therefore he hopes you can find a way to make it permanent.’
“Candrabhāgā said, ‘O sage among the brāhmaṇas, please take me to my husband at once, for I greatly desire to see him again! Surely I shall make his kingdom permanent with the merit I have acquired by fasting on every Ekādaśī throughout my life. Please reunite us once again. It is said that one who reunites separated people obtains very great merit.’
“The brāhmaṇa Somaśarmā then led Candrabhāgā to Śobhana’s effulgent kingdom. Before reaching it, however, they stopped at the foot of Mount Mandarācala, at the sacred āśrama of Vāmadeva. Upon hearing their story, Vāmadeva chanted hymns from the Vedas and sprinkled holy water on Candrabhāgā. By the influence of that great ṛṣi’s rites, the merit she had accrued by fasting for so many Ekādaśīs made her body transcendental. Ecstatic, her eyes beaming in wonder, Candrabhāgā continued her journey.
“When Śobhana saw his wife approaching him high on Mandarācala Mountain, he was overwhelmed with joy and called out to her in great happiness. After she arrived, he seated her on his left, and she said to him, ‘O dearest one, please listen as I tell you something that will benefit you greatly. Since I was eight years old I have fasted regularly and faithfully on every Ekādaśī. If I transfer to you all the merit I have thus accumulated, your kingdom will surely become permanent, and its prosperity will grow and grow until the coming of the great inundation!”‘
Lord Kṛṣṇa continued, “O Yudhiṣṭhira, in this way Candrabhāgā, who was beautifully decorated with the finest ornaments and had an exquisite transcendental body, at last enjoyed peace and happiness with her husband. By the potency of Ramā Ekādaśī, Śobhana found his kingdom on the peaks of Mandarācala Hill able to fulfill all his desires and bestow upon him everlasting happiness, like that achieved from the Kāma-dhenu cow.
“O greatest of kings, I have thus narrated to you the glories of Ramā Ekādaśī.
“Anyone who observes sacred Ekādaśī during both the light and the dark fortnight of each month is undoubtedly freed from the reactions to the sin of killing a brāhmaṇa. One should not differentiate between the Ekādaśīs of the light and the dark part of the month. As we have seen, both can award pleasure in this world and liberate even the most sinful and fallen souls. Just as black cows and white cows give milk of equal quality, the Ekādaśīs of the dark fortnight and the light fortnight award the same high degree of merit and eventually liberate one from the cycle of birth and death. Anyone who simply hears the glories of this sacred day, Ramā Ekādaśī, is freed from all kinds of sin and attains the supreme abode of Lord Viṣṇu.”
[Ekādaśī, The Day of Lord Hari, by Śrī Kṛṣṇa Balarām Swāmījī, KBS0109]