Yudhisthira Maharaja said, “O Supreme Lord, I have heard the glories of Nirjala Ekadasi, which occurs during the light fortnight of the month of Jyestha. Now I wish to hear about the Ekadasi that occurs during the dark part of the month of Asadha [June-July]. Kindly describe it to me in detail, O killer of the Madhu demon.”
The Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, replied, “O king, I shall tell you about the best of all fasting days, the Ekadasi that comes during the dark part of the month of Asadha. Famous as Yogini Ekadasi it removes all kinds of sinful reactions and awards supreme liberation.
“O best of kings, this Ekadasi delivers people who are drowning in the vast ocean of material existence and transports them to the shore of the spiritual world. In all the three worlds, it is the chief of all sacred fasting days. I shall reveal this truth to you by narrating a history recounted in the Puranas.
“The king of Alakapuri-Kuvera, the treasurer of the demigods-was a steadfast devotee of Lord Siva. He employed a servant named Hemamali as his personal gardener. Hemamali, a Yaksa, was very lustfully attracted to his gorgeous wife, Svariipavati, who had large, enchanting eyes.
“Hemamali’s daily duty was to visit Manasarovara Lake and bring back flowers for his master, Kuvera, which were then used in the worship of Lord Siva. One day, after picking the flowers, Hemamali went to his wife instead of returning directly to his master and fulfilling his duty. Absorbed in loving affairs with his wife, he forgot to return to the abode of Kuvera.
“O king, while Hemamali was enjoying with his wife, Kuvera began worshiping Lord Siva in his palace and soon discovered that there were no flowers ready for the midday puja. The lack of such an important item angered the great demigod, and he asked a Yaksa messenger, ‘Why has dirty-hearted Hemamali not come with the daily offering of flowers? Go find out the exact reason and report back to me in person.’ The Yaksa returned and told Kuvera, ‘O dear lord, Hemamali is freely enjoying sex with his wife.’
“Kuvera became extremely angry when he heard this and at once summoned lowly Hemamali before him. Knowing that he had been remiss and dawdling in his duty, Hemamali approached his master in great fear. The gardener first paid his obeisances and then stood before his lord, whose eyes had become red with anger and whose lips trembled. Enraged, Kuvera cried out to Hemamali, ‘O sinful rascal! O destroyer of religious principles! You are an offense to the demigods! I therefore curse you to suffer from white leprosy and to become separated from your beloved wife! Only great suffering is deservedly yours! O lowborn fool, leave this place immediately and betake yourself to the lower planets!’
“And so Hemamali fell at once from Alakapuri and became ill with the terrible affliction of white leprosy. He awoke in a dense and fearful forest, where there was nothing to eat or drink. Thus he passed his days in misery, unable to sleep at night due to pain. He suffered in both winter and summer, but because he continued to worship Lord Siva faithfully, his consciousness remained pure and steady. Although implicated by great sin and its attendant reactions, he remembered his past life because of his piety.
“After wandering for some time here and there, over mountains and across plains, Hemamali eventually came upon the vast Himalayan range. There he had the wonderful good fortune to come upon the great saint Markandeya Risi, the best of ascetics, whose duration of life, it is said, extends to seven days of Brahma.’ Markandeya was seated peacefully at his asrama, looking as effulgent as a second Brahma. Hemamali, feeling very sinful, stood at a distance from the magnificent sage and offered his humble obeisances and prayers. Always interested in the welfare of others, Markandeya saw the leper and called to him, ‘O you, what sort of sinful deeds have you done to earn this dreadful affliction?’
“Hearing this, Hemamali replied, ‘Dear sir, I am a Yaksa servant of Lord Kuvera, and my name is Hemamali. It was my daily service to pick flowers from Manasarovara Lake for my master’s worship of Lord Siva, but one day I was late in returning with the offering because I had become overwhelmed with passion for my beautiful wife. When my master discovered why I was late, he cursed me in great anger. Thus I am now bereft of my home, wife, and service. But fortunately I have come upon you, and now I hope to receive from you an auspicious benediction, for I know that devotees of the Supreme Lord always carry the interest of others uppermost in their hearts. That is their great nature. O best of the sages, please help me!
“Markendeya Risi replied, ‘Because you have told me the truth, I shall tell you about a fast day that will benefit you greatly. If you fast on the Ekadasi that comes during the dark fortnight of the month of Asadha, you will surely be freed of this terrible curse.’ Upon hearing these blessed words from the renowned sage, Hemamali fell to the ground in complete gratitude and offered him his humble obeisances. But Markendeya stood and lifted Hemamali up, filling him with inexpressible happiness.
“Thus, as the sage had instructed him, Hemamali dutifully observed the Ekadasi fast, and by its influence he again became a handsome Yaksa. Then he returned home, where he lived very happily with his wife.”
Lord Krsna concluded, “So you can readily see, O Yudhisthira, that fasting on Yogini Ekadasi is very powerful and auspicious. Whatever merit one obtains by feeding eighty-eight thousand pious brahmanas is also obtained simply by observing a strict fast on Yogini Ekadasi. For one who fasts on this sacred Ekadasi, she destroys heaps of past sinful reactions and makes him most pious. O king, thus I have explained to you the purity of Yogini Ekadasi.
[Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari, by Sri Krsna Balaram Swamiji, KBS0120]