In February millions of Hindus would be fasting and pledging their faith towards Lord Vishnu as mark of observing Vijaya Ekadashi. It is a significant event in the Hindu calendar where fasting begins on the day of Phalgun Krishna Paksha Ekadashi and continues for 24 hours. It occurs during the waning phase of the moon in the Krishna Paksha. It is mentioned in the scriptures that those who perform Vijaya Ekadashi can conquer their fears and their senses. It gives the power to overcome difficulties.
Vijaya Ekadashi is a highly revered event in most parts of North India and Bengal. In Orissa, Vijaya Ekadashi is known as Pankoddhar Ekadashi. Sages and devout Hindus take bath in Yamuna, Ganges, Mahanadi and Padma rivers to begin their fasting.
In South India, it is called Baikuntha Ekadashi owing to its connection with Lord Vishnu. It is believed that those who observe fasting on this day are blessed with an entry into Vishnulok, the abode of Lord Vishnu. In Andhra Pradesh, it is called Mukkoti Ekadashi.
Fasting on Vijaya Ekadashi is equivalent to fasting on the remaining 23 other Ekadashis in Hindu calendar. It liberates a human from the cycle of birth and death. Hence, it is also called as Mokshadeyi Ekadashi. It is only auspicious date when Baikuntha Dwara is open for mortals.
Vijaya Ekadashi is an auspicious Hindu event venerating the fast observed by Lord Rama before he marched towards Lanka with his monkey army. In Skanda Purana, Brahma narrated the importance of fasting and praying during Vijaya Ekadashi to Sage Narada.
In Ramayana, when Rama saw no means to cross the mighty ocean with his army and reach Lanka, he began praying to the sea God and fasted for a day on Ekadashi. It was sage Bakadalabhya who advised Lord Rama and Laxman to observe fast. He also mentioned that his victory is imminent and his fast would be source of inspiration for millions of Vishnu devotees. It came to be called as Vijaya Ekadashi after Rama defeated Ravana in Lanka.
Vijaya Ekadashi is strictly followed for 24 hours. In temples, a door is erected to imitate the Baikuntha Dwara so that devotes can enter the Vishnulok. When the day falls into the muhurat, it is advised to take bath with coconut oil and turmeric and then slip into fresh pair of clothes. Food grains like rice, grains, honey and fired items are prohibited. Only fruits, dried nuts and milk are allowed. Chick peas and jaggery are also allowed. After chanting Gayatri Mantra and offering prayers to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi, a lamp is lit in ghee and cotton. Vishnu Sahashranama is recited for the whole day on Vijaya Ekadashi. Fasting also includes abstinence from bad thoughts, evil actions, deviations and sleep. Sex and utterance of worldly pursuits are taboo. Offering alms and food to Brahmins is considered as pious and frees the life from past sin. The fast is broken at dawn on Dwadashi with cereal and jaggery snack.
Vijaya Ekadashi is a step towards Satvic Yog and ensures purity of mind, body and soul from Rajasic and Tamasic factors.