Yudhishthira Maharaj said, “Oh Madhusudana, what is the name of the Ekadashi that occurs during the dark fortnight (Krishna-paksha) of the month of Ashwina (September-October)? Please describe its glories to me.”
Lord Sri Krishna then replied, “This holy day is called Indira Ekadashi. If a person fasts on this day, all his sins are eradicated and his forefathers who have fallen into hell are liberated. Oh best of kings, one who simply hears about this sacred Ekadashi achieves the great merit earned by performing a horse sacrifice.
In the Satya-yuga there lived a king named Indrasena, who was so powerful that he destroyed all his enemies. His kingdom was called Mahishmati-puri. The religious King Indrasena took good care of his subjects and was greatly devoted to Lord Sri Vishnu as well.
One day, as King Indrasena presided over his assembly, Sri Narada Muni, was seen descending. The king offered Devarishi Narada, great respect and washed his feet, etc. Then Narada Muni asked, ‘Oh king, are the seven limbs of your kingdom prospering?’
The seven limbs of a kingdom being; the king’s well being, his ministers, his treasury, his military forces, his allies, the brahmanas, the sacrifices performed in his kingdom, and the needs of the king’s subjects. ‘Is your mind absorbed in thinking of how you can properly perform your occupational duty? Are you becoming more and more devoted to the service of the Supreme Lord, Sri Vishnu?’
The king replied, ‘By your kind grace, everything is quite well. Today, just by your presence all the sacrifices in my kingdom are successful! Please explain the reason for your visit here.’
Sri Narada, then said, ‘When I descended from Brahmaloka to Yamaloka, Lord Yamaraja praised me and offered me an excellent seat. As I glorified his wonderful service to the Supreme Lord, I noticed your father in Yamaraja’s assembly. Though he had been very religious, because he broke an Ekadashi fast prematurely, he had to go to Yamaloka. Your father gave me a message for you. He said, “In Mahishmati lives a king named Indrasena. Please tell him that because of my past sinful deeds I have somehow been forced to reside in Yamaraja’s kingdom. Please give him this message from me: ‘Oh son, kindly observe the coming Indira Ekadashi and give much in charity so I can go upward to heaven.’ “
As stated in Garuda Purana, someone who is suffering in hell cannot practice Krishna consciousness, because this requires some mental peace, which the reactionary tortures of hell make impossible. If a relative of a sinner suffering in hell gives some charity in the name of the sinner, he can leave hell and enter the heavenly planets. But if the sinner's relative observes this Ekadashi fast for his suffering kinsman, the kinsman goes directly to the spiritual world, as stated in Brahma-vaivarta Purana.
Narada continued, ‘Just to deliver this message, have I come to you. You should help your father by observing the fast of Indira Ekadashi. By the merit you gain, your father will go to heaven.’
King Indrasena asked, ‘Oh great Narada, please be merciful and tell me specifically how to observe a fast on Indira Ekadashi, and also tell me during what month and on what day it occurs.’
Narada Muni replied, ‘Oh king, please listen as I describe to you the full process of observing the Indira Ekadashi. This Ekadashi occurs during the dark fortnight of the month of Ashwina. On the Dashami tithi, the day before Ekadashi, rise early in the morning, take bath, and then do some service for God with full faith. At noon, bathe again in running water and then offer oblations to your forefathers with faith and devotion. Be sure not to eat more than once on this day and at night sleep on the floor.
When you awaken on Ekadashi morning, cleanse your mouth and teeth thoroughly and then with deep devotion for the Lord, take this sacred vow: ‘Today I shall fast completely and give up all kinds of sense enjoyment. Oh lotus-eyed Supreme Personality of Godhead, please give me shelter at Your lotus feet.” At noon, stand before the sacred form of the Sri Shaligram Shila and worship Him faithfully, following all the rules and regulations; then offer oblations of ghee into the sacred fire, and tarpana directed to help your forefathers. Next, feed qualified Brahmins (non-grain prasadam) and offer them some charity according to your means. Now take the food pindas you offered to your forefathers, smell it, and then offer it to a cow. Next, worship Lord Hrishikesha with incense and flowers, and finally, remain awake the whole night near the Deity of Lord Sri Keshava.
“Early in the morning of the next day, worship Sri Hari with great devotion and invite Brahmin devotees to a sumptuous feast. Then feed your relatives, and finally take your meal in silence. Oh king, if you strictly observe a fast on Indira Ekadashi in this way, with controlled senses, your father will surely be elevated to the abode of Lord Vishnu.’ After saying this, Devarishi Narada immediately disappeared.
“King Indrasena followed the great saint’s instructions perfectly, observing the fast in the association of his relatives and servants. As he broke his fast on the Dvadashi tithi, flowers fell from the sky. The merit that Indrasena Maharaj earned by observing this fast released his father from the kingdom of Yamaraja and caused him to attain a completely spiritual body. Indeed, Indrasena saw him rising to the abode of Lord Hari on the back of Garuda Vahana.
Oh Yudhishthira, these are the glories of the Indira Ekadashi, which occurs during the dark fortnight of the month of Ashwina.”
Thus ends the narration of the glories of Ashwina-krishna Ekadashi or Indira Ekadashi, taken from the Brahma-vaivarta Purana.
This year Indira Ekadashi falls on September 25, 2019.