Ekadashi is the eleventh day of the fortnight of the waxing or waning moon and occurs twice in a month . Vaikuntha Ekadashi is the Shukla paksha Ekadashi that occurs during the [Dhanur] month in the Hindu calendar (corresponding to late December – January in English calendar). ‘Vaikuntha Dwaram’ or ‘the gate to Lord’s Inner Sanctum’ is opened on this day. Special prayers, yagnas, discourses and speeches are arranged on this auspicious day.
The significance of Vaikunta Ekadasi is mentioned in the ‘Padma Purana’. As per the legend, the Devas unable to bear the tyranny of ‘Muran’, a demon, approached Lord Shiva, who directed them to Lord Vishnu. A battle ensued between Lord Vishnu and the demon and the Lord realised that a new weapon was needed to slay Muran.
According to the Vishnu Purana, fasting on Vaikuntha Ekadashi is equivalent to fasting on the remaining 23 Ekadashis of the year. Devotees of Lord Vishnu observe Ekadashi Vrata and engage in remembering the Supreme Lord by chanting His Holy Names and singing His glories.. But the Ekadashi that occurs in the month of Margashirsha (December – January) during the fortnight of waxing moon is of special significance, and is glorified as Vaikuntha Ekadashi. This is a major festival of South India celebrated in all the temples of Lord Vishnu. Vaikuntha Ekadashi is one of the important and auspicious days for Devotees of the Lord Vishnu . It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. When observed, it bestows liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
In order to take rest and create a new weapon, the Lord retired to a cave called ‘Himavati’ in Badrikashrama. When Muran tried to slay the Lord, who was sleeping, the female energy that emerged from the Lord burnt him to ashes in one look.
Lord Vishnu who was pleased, named the female energy ‘Ekadasi’ and asked her to claim a boon. Ekadasi, instead beseeched the Lord that people who observed a fast on that day should be redeemed of their sins. The Lord thus declared that people who observed a fast on that day and worshiped Ekadasi, would attain Vaikunta. Thus came into being the first Ekadasi, which was a Dhanurmasa sukla paksha ekadasi.
Vishnu opened the gate of Vaikuntham (his abode) for two demons in spite of their being against him. They also asked for the boon that whoever listens to their story and sees the image of Vishnu coming out of the door (called Dwar), called Vaikunth Dwar, will reach Vaikunth as well. Temples all over India make a door kind of structure on this day for devotees to walk through.
‘Vaikuntha‘ (referring to the abode of Lord Vishnu) means, Vaikuntha is a place where there is no lack, or shortage; there is only abundance.
It is widely believed that the gates to the heaven open – the Gate of Vaikuntha – on the Vaikunta Ekadasi day. It is one of the most auspicious days in Lord Vishnu Temples.
The ‘Vaikunta Dwaram’ or ‘the gate to the heaven’ is opened on this day. This is the passage encircling the innermost sanctum of the Lord. Scores of devotees queue up to pass through the Gate of Vaikunta in the temples.
Nammalwar, one of the great devotees in the Sri Sampradaya (the disciplic succession descending from Lakshmi Devi) went back to Godhead on this day. To commemorate this event, in all the Vishnu temples, the Vaikuntha Dwara (the gate to Vaikuntha) a special entrance in the north side of the temple is opened once in a year on this particular day. It is believed that anyone who enters the Vaikuntha Dwara on this day is guaranteed to attain the spiritual abode.