Ekadashi which falls on the Shukla Paksha of Kartik month as per the Hindu calendar is called Prabodhini Ekadashi. It marks the beginning of marriage season in India. Tulsi Vivaha is also celebrated on the same day.
On this day, Varkaris in Maharashtra come to Pandharpur for a celebration of five days till Kartik Purnima. The Chief Minister of Maharashtra performs the Sarkari Mahapuja on this day at the Temple of Vithoba.
Pushkar Fair also starts on this day and continues till the full moon which is Kartik Purnima. People come to Pushkar for trading their livestock and also to participate in various cultural events and competitions.
Prabodhini Ekadashi also marks the beginning of the harvest of sugarcane. In many parts of India, farmers perform puja at their fields as well as their homes.
A fast on this day is considered most auspicious.
Lord Vishnu wakes up from his sleep
Vishnu enters into his four month yog nidra on his serpent Shesh nag on Shayani Ekadashi. There is an interesting story behind this sleep period. Made invincible by the power of amrit, Bali had become invincible and ruled all of the universe. Gods came to Vishnu who was initially reluctant to do anything to Bali since he was a staunch disciple. But finally Vishnu decided to intervene to restore the natural balance of things. Bali meanwhile was celebrating his victory by performing the ashvamedha yajna and was distributing gifts to everyone. Vishnu came to Bali in Vaman avatar and asked for three steps of land. With two steps he conquered the heavens and earth. When nothing was left for the third step, Bali offered Vaman to place it on his head. Vishnu was so pleased with his forthrightness and devotion, that he offered a boon to Bali.
Everyone knew that Vishnu will banish Bali to Patal-lok with his foot, but what Bali did next struck fear in everyones heart. He asked Vishnu to accompany him to the underworld and stay with him. Goddess Laxmi devised a plan for her husband to come back within a finite time. This duration is known as Chaturmas, the time when Vishnu sleeps while visiting Bali.
From that day on, Bali was made to stay in the underworld. Ravan unsuccessfully tried to bring him back to earth.
Fasting and other rituals during Chaturmas
Chaturmas is considered inauspicious for various events like marriage. People during this period follow some strict rituals. For example people observe one meal a day during this four month period.
Some people refrain from eating oily, salty or sweet food. Others refrain from eating onion and garlic.
This type of food restrictions and fasting is followed to avoid the spread of disease during the monsoon when the sun is out of the sky for most of the time.
The ban applies to certain vegetables like raddish and eggplant. These vegetables breed the most bacteria and insects during the monsoon season.
Some monks prefer to stay at one place during this period and observe a maun vrat.
Many people observe a nirjala fast on this ekadashi.
Lord Vishnu is the happiest on this day
Whether Prabodhini Ekadashi marks the return of Vishnu from Patal or waking up from his four month sleep, this day he is at his happiest.
Also the connection of sugarcane is that people being this period with eating sugarcane juice or jaggery which is symbolic of spreading sweetness.
Try to spread happiness and doing good work on this day. It is reminder to balance your karma by spreading goodness and happiness to others.
Fasting plan for Prabodhini Ekadashi
For first time fasters, beware that you cannot straightway jump into a fast. Even though you have tremendous will power, it will cause a lot of discomfort.
Prepare well for this fast by having an early meal of 22 Nov by avoiding any kind of sweets or carbs. Drink plenty of water mixed with electrolytes. Finish off your meal with dry fruits and at least one spoon of desi ghee. Make sure you have sufficient amount of vegetables.
The ekadashi timings begins at 11:03 pm. If you had an early meal of 22 Nov, you already are into a 12 hour fast.
Ekadashi ends on 23 Nov at 9 pm. If you are feeling fine, you can plan to break your fast on 24th Nov, early morning. That way you can have close to a 48 hour fast which will be incredible.