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January 14, 2017: Makara Sankranthi, Start of Uttarayanam
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Vaikunta Ekadasi, also popular as Mukkoti Ekadasi has a special significance in the Hindu traditions and is one of the best days to pray to Lord Vishnu. The Dhanurmaasa Sukla Paksha Ekadasi day is considered as the Vaikunta Ekadasi day.
Ekadasi is the eleventh day in both the halves of the lunar month - Sukla Paksha and Krishna Paksha. Ekadasi falls two times in a month once in Sukla Paksham and later in Bhaula Paksham. So, for the 12-month year, there will be approximately 24 Ekadasis occuring. Puranas say that these days are auspicious and are some of the best days to pray to get the blessings of Vishnu.
Each of the Ekadasi day has a distinct name. The 24 Ekadasi days are: Kamadhaikadasi, Varoodhinai Ekadasi, Mohonaiekadasai, Aparaikadasi, Nirjalaiekadasi, Yoginaiekadasi, Sayaniekadasi, Kamikaiekadasi, Putradaiekadasi, Ajaikadasai, Parivarthanikadasi, Indraikadasi, Suklapakshaikadasi, Ramaikadasi, Prabhodhinaikadasi, Mokadaikadasi, Safalaikadasi, Putradaikadasi, Shatilaikadasi, Jayaikadasi, Vajaikadasi, Amalaikadasi are termed as auspicious ones.
Out of all, Ashada sudda ekadasi is very important one and this is called as Pradaikadasi. Ashada sudhha ekadasi to Kartika sudda ekadasi is called as Chaturmasam and after that, the Mukkoti Ekadasi is very important. The Ekadasi in Mrugasira Sukla Paksh is known as Vaikunta Ekadasi.
Vaikunta (or Vaikuntam as it is spelt in Telugu), is the abode of the Lord Vishnu. The Lord sleeps on a three-folded serpent called Sesha Nagu. Many Indian mythological pictures and paintings depict Vaikunta with the picture of the Lord on Sesha Nagu in the Kshira Sagar (the Ocean of Milk), his consort Lakshmi at his feet and Lord Brahma sitting on a lotus that emerges from the navel of the Lord. One of the main doors i.e., Vaikunta dwara which is normally kept closed throughout the year is thrown open only on the day. Devotees believe that taking the darshan of the Lord on this day would pass through the door of the Lord to reach the Vaikunta.
The Vaikunta Ekadashi day is also called as Putrada Ekadashi / Putratai Ekadasi. Scriptures say that devotees who are issueless (childless) praying to Lord Vishnu and fasting on this day will be blessed with an offspring. Hence the fast of this day is the begetter of offspring.
King Suketu is the ruler of the city of Bhadravati. Shaivya is his wife. The couple are childless. Unhappy and sad with this, the couple decided to leave their kingdom and go into the forests. The royal couple hands over the affairs of the kingdom to a trusted minister and leaves to the forest. At one point of time, they even consider committing suicide but they withdraws back thinking it to be a cowardice act. One day, the couple hears vedic chants and moves towards the direction. They see few sages praying to Lord Vishnu on the bank of a lotus pond. After the recital, the couple gets to know about the Putrada Ekadashi fast and upon observing it with utmost devotion, they are blessed with a son.
During this month, Sun transits through Dhannus Rasi. Ancient texts recommend that the mornings in this month are ideal for worship of the Lord Vishnu. People fast during the entire day and offer prayers to him. Gifting a copy of Bhagavad Gita to a deserving person on this day is bestowed profuse blessings by Lord Krishna.
This auspicious day is more popular as the Guruvayour Ekadasi in Tamil Nadu. Special festival celebrations mark the day at the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple of Srirangam. Special celebrations are be earmarked for 21 days starting ten days prior to Vaikunta Ekadasi and ending ten days after the Ekadasi at the Lord Ranganatha temple at Srisailam. Traditional and spiritual programs will also be held at Tirumala.
Vaikunta Ekadasi/Mukkoti Ekadasi/Swarga Dwaram, devotees celebrate the festival with utmost faith in Vaishnava temples across the country. Every year, in Dhanurmasam, Ekadasi that falls well before Sukla Paksha Poornima is celebrated as Vaikunta Ekadasi. Sri Mahavishnu along with Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi, arrives on Garuda vahanam on North entrance and three crore devatas visits swamy and that is the reason this Ekadasi is called as Mukkoti Ekadasi according to texts. In all vaishnava temples, the northern doors remains open on this day and it is on this day, devotees visit the Lord through this northen entrance.
In Andhra Pradesh, in Tirupati, Bhadrachalam and the temple Sri Rangam in Tamil Nadu and other Vaishnava temples, the day is celebrated with utmost faith and devotion. Ekadasi Upavasa thithi is the swaroopa of Lord Vishnu.
On this day, devotees observe strict fast. On devotees should not food on the night of Dasami day and have to take food only before dwadasi ghadiyas goes. Now-a-days, doctors too says that this type of fasting is good for health.
Devotees offer prayers to Lord Vishnu on this very auspicious day. They pray to Lord with Tulasi leaves and offer payasam, green fruits and sweets as Naivadyam. They recite Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam, Vishnu Puranam and Narayana Kavacham. Devotees recite Ashtakashari mantra, the Narayana Mantra, Om Namo Narayanaya.
Vaikunta Ekadasi generally falls in the English calendar months of December / January. Vaikunta Ekadasi falls on the following days in the respective years:
2014: January 11, 2014
2012: Wednesday, January 4, December 23
2010: Friday, December 17, 2010
2009: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 & Monday, December 28
2008: Tuesday December 9
2006: Saturday, December 30
2004: Wednesday, December 22