Shaanta-kaaram bhujaga-shayanam padma-naabham suresham, vishwa-dhaaram gagana-sadrisham megha-varanam shubhaangam.
Lakshmi-kaantam kamala-nayanam yogi-bhi-dhyaana-agamyam, vande vishnum bhava-bhaya-haram sarva-lokaika-naatham.
“You are of peaceful demeanour and sleep on serpent. You bear a lotus shaped navel and are a master of all. You hold the entire universe in your hands with vision beyond the skies. Your skin bearing the colour of dark clouds and your body filled with goodness. O’ the husband of the goddess of wealth, you have the eyes like petals of lotus flower and every saint yearns to meet you. I bow to you Lord Vishnu, the creator of this cosmos, as you take all my fears away.”
Devshayani Ekadashi falls on the eleventh day of dark fortnight of Ashada month as per Hindu calendar. It is known by many names like Ashadi Ekadashi, Toli Ekadashi, Hari Shayana Ekadashi and so on. Ashada month also marks the beginning of holy four months of ‘Chatur Mas’ which is sacred amongst Vaishanavas.
It is believed that on the day of Devshayani Ekadashi, Lord Vishnu fell asleep in the Kheer Sagar – the ocean of milk, on the back of a serpent. He remained in hibernated sleep for a period of four months and woke up on the day of Prabhodini Ekadashi falling in the month of Kartik as per Hindu calendar. Hence Vaishanavas observe Devshayani Ekadashi to honour Lord Vishnu as he did not abandon his devotees even in his sleep. Devotees observe fast and pray to Lord Vishnu with elaborate rituals to seek his blessings.
The story of Devshayani Ekadashi fast is narrated by Lord Brahma to Narad.
Once there was king named Mandata who ruled over a wealthy kingdom. Unfortunately, there came a time when the kingdom faced severe drought and people were dying as a result of starvation. The more the king tried to help, the more suffering it brought. Few dejected people even pointed out to the king ’This is all because of your sins; we are suffering because of your misdeeds’.
King Mandata vowed to find the way to overcome this and left his kingdom to search and seek help from holy men. He then met a learned Sage Angira, who learnt of the king’s situation and his quest.
Sage Angira guided him ‘Hei Raja, if you want to please gods and bring the glory back to your kingdom, you need to worship Lord Vishnu’
He continued ‘On the eleventh day of coming Ashadha month falls Devshayani Ekadashi. Observe a fast on this day. Follow all the rituals strictly and you and your kingdom shall be blessed with prosperity and peace’.
Relieved to hear some remedy, King Mandata nodded in affirmation and asked ‘Hei Guru, Please guide me through all the rituals and I shall do anything for the welfare of my people’.
Sage Angira recounted all the rituals to the King. ‘Once you wake up early in the morning, bathe in the holy river water and wear fresh clothes. Then bathe the idols of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi with milk and water. Adorn Lord Vishnu with yellow clothes and all his weapons and accessories like conch shell, chakra and so on. Remember you need to worship both Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi together. Once they are seated on aasanas, light a diya and incense. Offer flowers, betel leaves along with your Bhog – food offerings’.
He continued ‘Once puja is done, observe a fast all through the day and avoid grains, pulses and other food items on the day’.
King Mandata followed the ritual as guided by the Sage and the miracle happened. The rains returned to the kingdom. Over time, the trade flourished. People were happy once again, content and living their lives in glorious riches, reaffirming the people’s belief in Lord Vishnu. Knowing that he will answer every prayer of a true devotee.
He is after all, the Loknath – Master of the universe.