Shukla Paksha Chaturdashi of the Kartik month is also known as Vaikuntha Chaturdashi. Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva are worshipped on this day. It is also known as Baikunth Chaudash. Devotees keep a fast on this day which ends at the time of dawn on the next day.
According to Shiva Purana, Once, the Lord Vishnu left his abode Vaikuntha and went to Varanasi to worship Lord Shiva on Vaikuntha Chaturdashi. He pledged to worship Lord Shiva with one thousand Lotuses. While singing hymns to Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu found that one Lotus was missing. Lord Vishnu, whose eyes are often compared to Lotus, plucked one of them and offered it to Lord Shiva. Pleased by his devotion, Lord Shiva restored his eye and rewarded him with the Sudarshana chakra, discus, and sacred weapon. Kartik Shukla Chaturdashi is also known as Kartik Baikunth Chaudas. Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva promised to open the doors of heaven on Vaikuntha Chaturdashi for their devotees.
According to a legend of Vaikuntha Chaturdashi, Dhaneshwar, a Brahmin who had spent his life committing sins, visited the bank of the river Godavari to take a holy dip and wash off his sins. It was Vaikuntha Chaturdashi, and a large number of devotees were offering earthen lighted lamps to the river. Dhaneshwar mingled with the crowd of devotees. After the death of Dhaneshwar, his soul was taken by Yama to hell for punishment. However, Lord Shiva intervened and told Yama that Dhaneshwar's sins were cleansed due to the touch of the devotees on Vaikuntha Chaturdashi. Dhaneshwar got a place in the Vaikuntha.
Significance of Vaikuntha Chaturdashi:
Observing fast on Vaikunth Chaturdashi has an immense importance. A bath should be taken early in the morning. Clean clothes should be worn. Lord Vishnu should be worshipped with flowers, lamps, and sandalwood. According to an ancient belief, Lord Vishnu took a pledge that he would offer one thousand Lotus flowers to Lord Shiva in Kashi. Those who offer one thousand Lotus flowers to Lord gets relief from all sufferings and go to Baikunth Dham after death. The devotees should light 14 lamps at the bank of the river in the evening. Kartik Shukla Chaturdashi is a symbol of the unity between Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.
Celebrations and Rituals:
Devotees of Lord Vishnu offer him a thousand Lotuses and recite Vishnu Sahasranama. The festival is also celebrated as Kartik Snan by Vishnu devotees. In Rishikesh, the day is observed as Deep Daan Mahotsav to mark the occasion of Lord Vishnu waking up out of his sleep. On Vaikuntha Chaturdashi, Lord Vishnu is given a special honour in the sanctum of Kashi Vishwanath temple, Varanasi. The temple is described as Vaikuntha. Both the deities are ritually worshipped. Lord Vishnu offers Tulsi leaves to Lord Shiva, and Lord Shiva offers Bael leaves to Lord Vishnu. Devotees perform puja after taking a bath. They fast for the whole day and offer Turmeric mixed rice, sandalwood paste, the sacred water of the Ganges, flowers, incense, earthen lamps and camphor to the deities.