Yudhisthira Maharaj said, “Oh Keshava, what is the name of the Ekadashi that occurs during the light fortnight of the month of Ashadha (June – July) and what is the process for observing this event?”
Lord Sri Krishna replied, “I shall tell you a wonderful historical event that Lord Brahma once narrated to his son, Narada Muni. One day Narada Muni asked his father, ‘What is the name of the Ekadashi that comes during the light part of the month of Ashadha? Kindly tell me how I should observe this Ekadashi and thus please the Supreme Lord, Sri Vishnu.’
Lord Brahma replied, ‘Your question is as usual excellent for all mankind. For this reason I shall tell you about this Ashadha-shukla Ekadashi. Fasting on this Ekadashi purifies one of all sins and fulfills all desires. Ashadha-shukla Ekadashi is also known as Padma Ekadashi. Just to please the Supreme Lord Hrishikesha, the master of the senses, one should fast on this day. Listen carefully, Oh Narada, as I relate to you a wonderful historical event that was recorded in the scriptures regarding this Ekadashi. Just hearing this account destroys all kinds of sins.
There was once a saintly king in the Surya Vamsha (Sun dynasty) whose name was Mandhata. Because he always stood up for the truth, he was appointed emperor. All his subjects were very wealthy. The king’s own treasury was free of any ill-gotten money, and thus he ruled happily for many years.
Once, however, because of some sin in his kingdom, there was a drought for three years. The lack of food grains made it impossible for the people to perform the prescribed Vedic sacrifices, etc. Finally, they all came before their beloved king and said, ‘Oh king, we humbly beg your assistance now. Everyone and everything in this world needs water. The Vedas call water Nara, and because the Supreme Personality of Godhead sleeps upon water, His another name is Narayana. In His form as the clouds, the Supreme Lord is present throughout the sky and pours forth rains, from which grow the grains that maintain every living entity. The severe drought has caused a great lack of valuable grains; thus we are all miserable, please find some solution to this problem.’
The king replied, ‘Grains are like Brahman, the Absolute Truth, who lives within grains and thereby sustains all beings. If a king (or head of the country) is irreligious, both he and his subjects suffer. After searching my past and present character I can honestly say that I find no sin. Still, I shall try to remedy the situation.”
King Mandhata assembled his army and entourage, paid his obeisances to Me, and then entered the forest. He wandered here and there, seeking great sages in their ashrams and inquiring about how to resolve the crisis in his kingdom. At last he came upon the ashram of one of my other sons, Angira Muni, whose effulgence lit up all directions. King Mandhata was very pleased to see that exalted sage, whose senses were completely under control.
The king immediately dismounted his horse and offered his respectful obeisances at the lotus feet of Angira Muni. Then Angira Muni asked the king why he had undertaken such a difficult journey into the forest, and the king told him of the affliction his kingdom was suffering. The king said, ‘Oh great sage, to solve this mystery, I have approached you for help.’
Angira Rishi said to the king, ‘The present age, Satya yuga, is the best of all ages, for in this age Dharma stands on all four legs (Truthfulness, Austerity, Mercy, and Cleanliness). In this age everyone respects Brahmins as the topmost members of society. Also, everyone fulfills his occupational duties, and only twice-born Brahmins are allowed to perform Vedic austerities and penances. Although this is a standard, there is one shudra (uninitiated, untrained person) who is thus unlawfully performing the rites of austerity and penance in your kingdom. This is why there is no rain in your land. You should therefore punish this labourer with death, for by so doing you will remove the contamination inflicted by his actions and restore peace to your subjects.’
The king then replied, ‘How can I kill an offenseless performer of austerity and sacrifice? Please give me some spiritual solution.’
Angira Muni then said, ‘Oh king, you should observe a fast on the Ekadashi that occurs during the light fortnight of the month of Ashadha. This auspicious day is named Padma Ekadashi, and by its influence plentiful rains and thus grains and other foodstuffs will surely return to your kingdom. This Ekadashi bestows perfection upon its faithful observers, removes all kinds of bad elements, and destroys all obstacles on the path to perfection.’
The king offered his obeisances and then returned to his palace. When the Padma Ekadashi arrived, King Mandhata and all his subjects strictly observed it, the rains fell, just as the sage had predicted, and in due course of time there were abundant crops and a rich harvest of grain. By the mercy of the Supreme Lord Hrishikesha, the master of the senses, all the subjects of King Mandhata became extremely happy and prosperous.
Therefore, Oh Narada, everyone should observe this Ekadashi fast very strictly, for it bestows all kinds of happiness, as well as ultimate liberation, upon the faithful devotee.’
Lord Sri Krishna concluded, “My dear Yudhishthira, Padma Ekadashi is so powerful that one who simply reads or hears its glories becomes completely sinless. Oh Pandava, one who wishes to please Me should strictly observe this Ekadashi, which is also known as Deva Shayani Ekadashi.”
This year Shayana Ekadashi falls on July 23.