Nirjala Ekadashi falls on the eleventh day (Ekadashi) of the waxing fortnight in Jyestha month. The Ekadashi derives its name from the water-less (Nir-jala) fast observed on this day. It is considered most sacred Ekadashi. It is the most rewarding Ekadashi. Nirjala Ekadashi Vrat is one of the toughest fasts of Ekadashi that is observed by the devotees as the intake of both, food and water is strictly prohibited. Nirjala Ekadashi is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is also known as ‘Jyestha Shukla Ekadashi,’ Pandava Nirjala Ekadashi’ or ‘Pandava Bhima Ekadashi.’ Nirjala Ekadashi washes all the sins and connects the devotees to the supreme creator. The fasting is observed without drinking water and eating food. Nirjala Ekadashi is the toughest and significant Ekadashi that is undertaken by staunch Vishnu devotees.
According to the Markandeya Purana and Vishnu Purana, the day of Ekadashi itself is a form of Lord Vishnu. Those who completes the Vrata of Nirjala Ekadashi gains the favour of Vishnu, who grants them happiness, prosperity, and forgiveness for sins. The observer gains longevity and salvation. He is believed to be taken by messengers of Vishnu to Vaikuntha, the abode of Vishnu, after death. Lord Vishnu blesses his devotees with wealth, prosperity, and health. He also fulfils all the wishes of his devotees and removes all the sins. Observing fast on Nirjala Ekadashi is equivalent to observing all the Ekadashis. It is also considered as Lord Vishnu's most favourite one. By performing Nirjala Ekadashi, one can get rid of the cycle of birth and death. The devotee who observes the fast of Nirjala Ekadashi attains Moksha.
Nirjala Ekadashi is also known as Pandava Bhima Ekadashi or Pandava Nirjala Ekadashi. The Brahma Vaivarta Purana narrates the story behind the Nirjala Ekadashi Vrata. Bhima, a food lover, wanted to observe all Ekadashi fasts, but could not control his hunger. He approached the sage Vyasa for a solution. The sage advised him to observe an absolute fast on Nirjala Ekadashi. Bhima attained the virtue of all 24 Ekadashis by observing Nirjala Ekadashi.
Celebration and Rituals:
Nirjala Ekadashi, an absolute fast is observed, without partaking even water. The water-less fast is extremely difficult to follow, and thus, it is deemed as very pious austerity. The fast is observed from sunrise on Nirjala Ekadashi to sunrise the next day. Some observe it from sunrise to sunset. On the day before Nirjala Ekadashi, devotees perform the evening prayer and take one meal, without rice. The devotee is permitted to have a single tiny drop of water as part of the Achamana purification ritual. Puja is offered to Lord Vishnu. An image of Vishnu or Saligrama stone is bathed with Panchamrita, a mixture of five foods: milk, curd, ghee, honey, and sugar. The idol is then washed with water and dressed in royal finery. A hand-fan, flowers, incense, water and arati (lamps) are offered. Devotees meditate before the image of the god. They worship Lord Vishnu with Durva grass. Devotees remain awake the whole night and sing Bhajans. Clothes, food grains, umbrellas, hand-fans, pitchers, gold are donated on Nirjala Ekadashi. Devotees also visit Vishnu temple to offer prayers.