Vaikuntha Ekadashi falls on the eleventh day of the Shukla Paksha in Paush month. It is observed with all solemnity in the temples of Lord Vishnu. Vaikuntha Ekadashi is auspicious for Lord Vishnu's devotees as it is believed that ‘Vaikuntha Dwaram’ to Lord Vishnu’s abode opens up on Vaikuntha Ekadashi day. It is believed that a person who keeps a sacred fast on Vaikuntha Ekadashi will reach the ‘Vaikuntha’ without facing Yama Raja, the God of Death. Devotees observe Vaikuntha Ekadashi with enthusiasm and devotion. In the southern states, it is known as ‘Mukkoti Ekadashi’ and celebrated in the month of ‘Margazhi’ as per the Tamil calendar. In Kerala, Vaikuntha Ekadashi is known as ‘Swargavathil Ekadashi.’ Special prayers, discourses, speeches, and yajnas are organized at the temple of Lord Vishnu. The festivities are very grandeur in South Indian temples that are dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Significance of Vaikuntha Ekadashi:
Vaikuntha is the abode of the Lord Vishnu who sleeps on a three-folded serpent Shesha Naga in the Kshira Sagar. Vaikuntha Dwara is kept closed throughout the year. It is thrown open only on this day. It is auspicious to take the darshan of the Lord Vishnu on this day. According to the religious belief, Vaikuntha means without deficiency. One must shed the ego and worship Lord Vishnu to reach Vaikuntha after death. By keeping a fast on the Vaikunta Ekadasi day, devotees prepare themselves to attain salvation. The greatness of Vaikuntha Ekadashi has been described in several Hindu religious scriptures like ‘Padma Purana.’ Devotees perform the Vaikuntha Ekadashi fast to get liberation from their sins and attain salvation
It was on this day during the “Sagara Mathana” when nectar had emerged out of the ocean of milk and was distributed among the Gods. Devotees consider this day very auspicious. It is believed that those who die on this day are freed from the rounds of birth and death and reach Vaikuntha, the abode of Lord Vishnu. It is for this reason that the Lord Bheeshma waited on his bed of arrows, to leave his last breath. Hence it is also known as Bheeshma Ekadasi. As per the Padma Purana, the female energy of Lord Vishnu killed the demon Muran to protect the Devtas. Impressed by the act, Lord Vishnu named her as 'Ekadashi' and gave her the boon that those who observe this day would reach 'Vaikunth.'
Devotees fast during the entire day and offer prayers to Lord Vishnu. Gifting Bhagavad Gita to a deserving person on this day is bestowed with the blessings of Lord Krishna. Vaikuntha Ekadashi is also known as the Guruvayour Ekadashi in Tamil Nadu. Special celebrations are earmarked for 21 days starting ten days before Vaikuntha Ekadashi and ending ten days after the Ekadashi. Vaikuntha Ekadashi is celebrated with the utmost faith in Vaishnava temples. Devotees offer prayers to Lord Vishnu with Tulasi leaves, Payasam, fruits and sweets as Naivadyam. They recite Shri Vishnu Sahasranamam, Vishnu Puranam, and Narayana Kavacham. Devotees recite Ashtakashari mantra and the Narayana Mantra. Devotees stay awake at night and listen to the stories of Lord Vishnu. They sing bhajans in praise of Lord Vishnu. A large number of devotees visit the temple of Lord Vishnu.