What is Ekadashi?

If one fasts on Ekadashi, all his sins are at once burnt and he easily attains the spiritual world. ​


Ekadashi is a day of fasting, which in Sanskrit means “Eleventh”. There are two Ekadashi vratas every month. One during Shukla Paksha and another during Krishna Paksha. In other words, one on the eleventh day after the new moon and another on the eleventh day after the full moon.

So far determining Ekadashi it is counted 11 days after the full moon and 11 days after the new moon.

Who should observe Ekadashi vrata?

Ekadashi should be observed by everyone.

In the Brahma-vaivarta Purana it is said that one who observes fasting on Ekadashi day is freed from all kinds of reactions to sinful activities and advances in pious life. The basic principle is not just to fast, but to increase one's faith and love for Govinda, or Krishna. The real reason for observing fasting on Ekadashi is to minimize the demands of the body and to engage our time in the service of the Lord by chanting or performing similar service. The best thing to do on fasting days is to remember the pastimes of Govinda and to hear His holy name constantly.

How to observe Ekadashi?

Ekadashi may be observed in different levels as given below and one may choose a particular level of fasting depending on one’s age, health and various other factors pertaining to one’s lifestyle.

  • The real way to observe Ekadashi is to fast completely without even taking water. This is called nirjala fast.
  • If you cannot observe a nirjala fast, you can take just water.
  • If you cannot do that, you can also take a little fruit and milk.
  • The next option is that you can also take other non-grain foods like vegetables (except onion and garlic), roots, nuts, etc., only once during the fast.
  • The last option is to take the above items three times like on a regular day.

Just like Ekadashi day—there is no eating sumptuously. Simply you take little fruits and flowers. Try to avoid that also. You don't take even water. That is really Ekadashi. But because we cannot do it—in the Kali-yuga the time is different—therefore we are allowed to take little fruit and milk, which is called anukalpa. These are different methods of Tapasya.

Breaking the fast?

  • Ekadashi fast is broken on the next day, i.e., Dvadashi by taking grain prasadam during the stipulated parana time to complete the vrata.
  • If you have not observed a Nirjala fast (a complete fast without even water), it should be broken by taking grains.
  • In the case of a Nirjala fast, you can break it with even non-grain items like milk or fruits.

What to Eat & not to eat?

  • Food grains, cereals and beans (pulses) must be avoided on Ekadashi.
  • While spices can be used for cooking, mustard seeds should be avoided.
  • You cannot use powdered asafoetida (hing), since it generally contains grains.
  • As far as sesame seeds are concerned, they may be used only on Sat-tila Ekadashi.
  • Take care not to use any cooking ingredients which may be mixed with grains. For example, avoid ghee which you have used to fry puris, and spices which you have touched with hands dusted with chapati flour.
  • You cannot take even Vishnu-prasadam containing the above forbidden foods. But such prasadam may be kept to be honored the following day.

Mood while observing Ekadashi?

Ekadashi is not simply fasting rather it is observed to minimize the demands of the body so that one can do the following: 
  • Remember the pastimes of Lord Krishna or His different incarnations.
  • Chant Hare Krishna maha-mantra as many times as possible.
  • Read scriptures like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam
  • Visit a temple of Lord Vishnu/Krishna.

According to the Vaishnava calendar, there are many fasts, such as Ekadashi and the appearance and disappearance days of God and His devotees. All of these are meant to decrease the fat within the body so that one will not sleep more than desired and will not become inactive and lazy. Overindulgence in food will cause a man to sleep more than required. This human form of life is meant for austerity, and austerity means controlling sex, food intake, etc. In this way time can be saved for spiritual activity, and one can purify himself both externally and internally. Thus both body and mind can be cleansed.

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  1. Very informative..what to all we have to eat and what not is very helpful to me..these days i am fasting on water as i thought it will remove toxins from the body but from next time will do nirjala as rightly said that human life is meant for performing austerity..