Festival of Ashadi Ekadashi and Pandharpur Wari

Ashadi Ekadashi or Toli Ekadasi is one of the most important holidays in Maharashtra and Goa. It is celebrated on the eleventh day of the lunar phase of the Ashada month, which corresponds to June-July. The festival is also known by a variety of names such as Harivasara Ekadasi, Devshayani Ekadasi, Harisayani Ekadasi and Sayana Ekadasi. In Maharashtra, the Ashadi Ekadasi marks the beginning of the Pandharpur Palki Yatra in the Vithoba Temple.

The 17-day Pandharpur Wari Palki Yatra ends the day of Aashadi Ekadasi at the Pandharpur Vithal Temple. A large number of devotees are accustomed to taking a dip in the Godavari River on this day. Kartika Ekadasi or Utthana Ekadasi also called the Deva Prabodhini Ekadasi is celebrated afterward. Kartika Ekadasi Yatra is again a pilgrimage festival to the Pandharpur Vithoba Temple.

Vaikuntha Ekadasi or more precisely, Amrita Ekadasi is the day when the gates of the house of the legendary deva King Vishnu was opened for the annual feast. It was held during the winter solstice celebrations that lasted for 12 days. It also celebrated the victory over the Asuras after the Deva kings gained miraculous healing and cleansing powers after drinking the Amrita or nectar made from churning of the foam of the ocean during Samudra Manthana.

At the beginning of time, the devas and asuras fought among themselves for domination. The Asuras, led by Bali, attacked the devas, killing many of them and gradually seized control of the kingdoms. Indra and the other deva kings rushed to Vishnu for help, who in turn advised them to seek alliance with the Asuras to churn the magical ocean to extract the nectar from the ocean through the Kshirasagara Manthana that will give them strength.

The deva kings agreed because Vishnu told them that he would make sure they would only get the nectar and regain their strength and power to defeat the asuras. Both the devas and asuras proceeded to churn the ocean of nectar. All kinds of herbs were thrown into it. The task was so arduous that Vishnu devised many ways to aid in this process and prevent it from going anywhere. He also took the help of his wife Laxmi, after having been separated for many decades.

The ocean shake initially produced a deadly poison that Shiva drank unknowingly, changing the color of his neck to blue because of its poisonous content.

As the Asura saw the nectar they rushed upon it and stole the pot before devas could intervene. Filled with greed and pride, the Asuras began arguing over who of them would drink the nectar in the first place and grabbed the pot from each other. Seeing how busy they were fighting each other, Vishnu did not miss the opportunity to deceive them. He fooled them by sending Mohini, a beautiful woman who fascinated the asuras. As the asuras were ecstatic and paralyzed, Vishnu remove the pot and gave it to the devas.

As soon as the devas drank it, they got strengthened with energy and defeated the Asuras. Then they accepted Vishnu as the king, who again took up the position in the royal palace.

Kamada Ekadashi falls in the period of the waxing moon of the Chaitra month (March-April). Nirjala Ekadashi falls in the fortnight of the waxing moon of the month of Jyestha (May-June).