The glories of Phalguna-Shukla Ekadasi, or Amalaki Ekadasi, are found in the Brahmanda Purana in a conversation between sage Vasishtha and the great King Mandhata.
King Mandhata’s Query
King Mandhata asked Vasishtha Muni, “O great sage, kindly be merciful and tell me of a holy fast that will bestow me eternal benefit.”
Vasishtha Muni replied, “O king, listen as I describe the best of all days of fasting, Amalaki Ekadasi. One who faithfully observes a fast on this Ekadasi obtains wealth, is freed from the effects of all kinds of sins, and attains liberation. Fasting on this Ekadasi is even more purifying than donating one thousand cows in charity to a pure brahmana. So please hear me attentively as I tell you the story of a cruel hunter who, though killing innocent animals daily for his living, achieved liberation by inadvertently observing the fast of Amalaki Ekadasi.”
The Kingdom of Vaidisha
“There was once a kingdom named Vaidisha, where all the brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas, and Shudras were equally endowed with Vedic knowledge, bodily strength, and fine intelligence. O lion among kings, the whole kingdom reverberated with Vedic chants, there was no atheist or sinner. The ruler of this kingdom was King Pashabinduka of the lunar Soma dynasty. Also known as Chitraratha he was truthful and religious. He was known to possess the strength of ten thousand elephants. He was wealthy and learned in the six branches of the Vedas.”
“In his kingdom everyone engaged in executing their own dharmas strictly. They were ideal brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas, or Sudras. Misers and paupers did not exist in that land. There were no droughts or floods. The citizens were health and the kingdom was disease free. Following their king, they all engaged themselves in devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vishnu. The king also offered special service to Lord Shiva. In the kingdom, everyone fasted on the two Ekadasis of every month.
“In this way, O best of kings, the citizens of Vaidisha lived long years in happiness and prosperity. Avoiding materialistic religion, they completely dedicated themselves to the loving service of the Supreme Lord, Hari.”
King Chitraratha Observes Amalaki Ekadasi
“Once, in the month of Phalguna (February – March), the holy fast of Amalaki Ekadasi arrived, conjoined with Dvadasi. Realizing this particular Ekadasi to be especially auspicious, King Chitraratha and the citizens of Vaidisha carefully observed the fast, meticulously following the rules and regulations.”
“After bathing in the river, the king and his subjects went to the temple of Lord Vishnu, where an Amalaki tree grew. First, the king and his leading priests offered the tree a pot filled with water, a fine canopy, shoes, gold, diamonds, rubies, pearls, sapphires, and aromatic incense. Then they worshiped Lord Parashurama with these prayers: ‘O Lord Parashurama, O son of Renuka, O all-pleasing one, O liberator of the worlds, please come beneath this holy Amalaki tree and accept our humble obeisances.’ Then they prayed to the Amalaki tree: ‘O Amalaki, O offspring of Lord Brahma, you can destroy all kinds of sinful reactions. Please accept our respectful obeisances and these humble gifts. O Amalaki, you are the form of Brahman and were once worshiped by Lord Ramachandra Himself. Whoever circumambulates you is immediately freed from all sins.’
“After offering these excellent prayers, King Chitraratha and his subjects stayed awake throughout the night, praying and worshiping in accordance with the regulations of a sacred Ekadasi fast. At this auspicious time of fasting and prayer, an irreligious man approached the assembly. He maintained himself and his family by killing animals. Saddled with fatigue as well as sin, the hunter saw the king and the citizens of Vaidisha perform their all-night vigil, fasting, and worshiping Lord Vishnu in the beautiful forest setting, brilliantly illuminated with lamps. He hid nearby, marveling the extraordinary sight before him.
The Fortunate Hunter
“‘What is going on here?’ he thought. He saw in that lovely forest beneath the holy Amalaki tree was a Deity of Lord Damodara being worshiped on a water pot asana and heard devotees singing sacred hymns extolling Lord Krishna’s transcendental forms and pastimes. Despite himself, that unholy killer of innocent birds and animals spent the entire night in amazement watching the Ekadasi rituals and hearing the glorification of the Lord.
“At dawn, the king with his royal retinue – including the court priests and citizens – concluded their observance of Ekadasi and returned to the city of Vaidisha. The hunter returned to his hut and ate his meal. In due course, the hunter died. However, by the merit he had gained by fasting on Amalaki Ekadasi and hearing the glorification of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as well as remaining awake all night, he became eligible to be reborn as a great king endowed with chariots, elephants, horses, and soldiers. His name was Vasuratha, the son of King Viduratha, and he ruled over the kingdom of Jayanti.
“King Vasuratha, strong and fearless, was effulgent as the Sun, and handsome as the Moon. In strength, he was like Sri Vishnu, and in forgiveness like the Earth. Charitable and truthful, King Vasuratha constantly offered loving devotional service to the Supreme Lord, Sri Vishnu. He was well versed in Vedic knowledge. Dynamic in affairs of the state, he enjoyed caring for his subjects as his own children. He disliked pride and would crush it in anyone he saw proud. He performed many sacrifices and ensured that the needy received charity.”
“Once, while hunting in the jungle, King Vasuratha lost his way. Wandering around he eventually grew weary. Using his arms as a pillow, he fell asleep beneath a tree. Meanwhile, some barbarian tribesmen arrived there. Long inimical to the king, they began discussing ways of killing him. One of them said, ‘He has killed our fathers, mothers, brothers-in-law, grandsons, nephews, and uncles, and so we are forced to aimlessly wander like madmen in the forest.’
The King Saved
They then attempted to kill King Vasuratha with various deadly weapons, including spears, swords, arrows, and mystic ropes. However, none of these weapons could even touch the sleeping king. Out of sheer fright, the uncivilized, dog-eating tribesmen were sapped of all strength. Losing whatever little intelligence they had, they were rendered almost unconscious with bewilderment and weakness.
“Suddenly a beautiful woman effulgent with ornaments, emitting a wonderful fragrance, with an excellent garland around her neck, eyebrows drawn in fierce anger, and eyes fiery red, leaped out of the king’s body. She looked like death personified. With her blazing chakra discus, she quickly killed all the tribal hunters.”
“The king awoke and was astonished to see dead tribesmen lying all around him. He wondered, ‘Who has slain these great enemies of mine so violently? Who is my benefactor?’ At that moment a voice from the sky spoke, ‘You wanted to know who helped you! Who is that person who alone can help one is distress? It is none other than Sri Keshava, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the one who protects all who take complete shelter of Him without a tinge of selfish motive.’ King Vasuratha was overwhelmed with love for the Personality of Godhead Sri Keshava (Krishna).
“He returned to his capital and ruled like Lord Indra without any obstacles.
“Therefore, O King Mandhata,” the venerable Vasishtha Muni concluded, “anyone who observes this holy Amalaki Ekadasi will undoubtedly attain the supreme abode of Lord Vishnu. Such is the unfathomable religious merit earned by observing this sacred day of fasting.”
Click here to know – “How to observe ekadasi as per Srila Prabhupada’s instructions?”