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Ekadashi is the eleventh day of the fortnight, dedicated to Lord Vishnu. There are twenty four Ekadashis in every year. In case there is an extra month in the year, known as Adhika masa according to Hindu calender, then there are twenty six Ekadashis in the year.
These Ekadashis are named differently according to their significance. The Ekadashi that falls in the month of Ashadh, during Shukla Paksh is known as Yogini Ekadashi. Shukla Paksh is the brighter half of the month, the phase of the waxing moon. This year, Yogini Ekadashi will be observed on July 9, Monday.
It is believed that observing a fast on this Ekadashi washes away all the sins. The importance of this Ekadashi was told by Lord Krishna to Arjuna.
Lord Krishna told a story which goes like this. There was a king named Kubera. A staunch devotee of Lord Shiva, he used to get up early, take bath and offer prayers to Lord Shiva.
He used to offer flowers as worship. There was this gardener who used to get flowers for him every day without fail. However, the gardener lived with his wife, who was a beautiful lady, more than anything else.
One day he got up early, and went to get the flowers for the king. Since there was still some time for the king to come to the temple, he thought why not rest for some time, as his house was on the route to the temple from the garden.
With this idea, he went back to his house. Happy to see his wife, he felt she looked more beautiful than ever, and forgot to notice when the time for the puja passed away.
When it had been quite long, the king ordered his men to go and look for the man. There the gardener was afraid of the King, fearing that he might be punished for the mistake. When the king's men returned with the gardener, they told the king that trapped in lust, he forgot to get the flowers.
The king declared that since he had ignored Shiva, because of his desire, he would suffer from diseases.
The man was sent away. He suffered for many days, but since he had some good deeds and virtue to his credit as he used to get flowers for Lord Shiva, he met a sage one day.
Tired, desperate and unhappy, he fell on the feet of the sage. He told the whole matter to him and pleaded for a remedy. The sage was none other than Rishi Markandeya, a big devotee of Lord Shiva who was the first man to know the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra.
He advised the gardener that he should observe the Ekadashi fast which falls on the eleventh day of Shukla Paksh in the month of Ashadh. This would help him get all his mistakes washed off. The gardener observed the next fast, and further, Ekadashi fasts as well. Gradually, he recovered from the illness.
Benefits Of Observing Yogini Ekadashi
This Ekadashi, as Krishna told Arjuna, gives benefits equal to those reaped by donating 88,000 cows. The devotee should get up early and take bath during the Brahma Muhurta.
Brahma Muhurta is the time before sunrise. People take a holy bath too on this day. Holy bath refers to the one taken in a holy river. Offer prayers to lord Vishnu and distribute the prasad.
One must abstain from eating rice on this day. Some people do not wash their hair or cut their nails or even do not get a haircut as well.
People observe a vigil for the whole night and sing prayers to lord Vishnu.