Mokshada Ekadasi is the auspicious day when Lord Sri Krishna spoke His epic discourse, Srimad Bhagavad Gita, to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra five thousand years ago.
The glories of Mokshada Ekadasi are found in a conversation between Maharaja Yudhishthira and Lord Krishna in the Brahmanda Purana.
Yudhishthira Maharaja said, “O Vishnu, supreme Lord, Joy of the three worlds, creator of the Universe, primordial being, greatest of all, I offer my prostrated obeisances unto You!
“O Lord of lords! Kindly fulfil my enquiries for the benefit of all souls. What is the name of the sin-eradicating Ekadasi that occurs during the bright fortnight of the month of Margashirsha (November-December)? What is the way to observe it properly, and which Deity is to be worshipped? O my Lord please fully explain this to me.”
Lord Sri Krishna replied, “O Yudhishthira! Your enquiry is very auspicious and will bring you fame. This Ekadasi is famous as Mokshada for it purifies the faithful devotee of all sinful reactions and bestows upon him liberation. The presiding Deity of this day is Lord Damodara. One should attentively worship Him with incense, ghee lamp, fragrant flowers, and Tulsi manjaris (buds).
“O best of saintly kings! Please hear me narrate the ancient history of this auspicious Ekadasi. By hearing this narration one can attain the merit earned by performing a horse sacrifice. By its influence, one’s forefathers and other relatives who may have fallen to hell can rise to the heavenly kingdom.
“There once was a beautiful city named Champakanagar, adorned with devoted Vaishnavas. An exalted saintly king named Maharaj Vaikhanasa, ruled there. He cared for his subjects as a father. The brahmins in that city were expert in the four Vedas.
“The king once dreamt of his father suffering torture in a hellish planet.
Overwhelmed he shed pitiful tears. The next morning, Maharaj Vaikhaanasa described his dream to his council of learned brahmins.
“He addressed them saying, ‘O brahmanas, in a dream last night I saw my father be tortured in a hellish planet. He was crying out in anguish, “O son, please save me from this torment!” I have since lost my peace of mind. This beautiful kingdom has become unbearable to me. My horses, elephants, and chariots and vast wealth that used to give me such pleasure, please me no more. O best of the brahmins, even my wife and sons have become a source of unhappiness. O brahmins! What can I do to alleviate this misery? My body is burning with fear and sorrow! By what charity, fasting, austerity, meditation, or Deity service can I deliver my father from that agony and liberate my forefathers? O best among the brahmins, what use is it being powerful if one’s father must suffer in hell? The life of a son incapable of delivering his forefathers must be utterly useless.
“ The brahmins advised, ‘O king, in the mountainous forest not far from here is the ashram of the great sage Parvata Muni. Please go to him, for he is trikalajna (knower of past, present, future). He will surely guide you out of this misery.’
“The distressed king immediately set out for the ashram of Parvata Muni. The ashram was big, housing many learned sages expert in chanting the sacred hymns of the four Vedas (Rg, Yajur, Sama, and Arthava). Approaching the holy ashram, the king saw Parvata Muni seated among the assembly of sages like another Brahma or Vyasa.
“Maharaj Vaikhaanasa offered his humble obeisances to the muni, prostrating his entire body before him. After the king sat down in the assembly Parvata Muni asked him about the welfare of the seven limbs of his extensive kingdom (his ministers, his treasury, his military forces, his allies, the brahmins, the sacrificial offerings, and the needs of his subjects). The muni also asked him if his kingdom was free of troubles and whether everyone was peaceful, happy and satisfied.
To these enquiries the king replied, ‘By your mercy O glorious sage, all seven limbs of my kingdom are well. Yet there is a problem that has recently arisen, for the resolution of which, O brahmana I seek your expert guidance.’
“Then Parvata Muni, the best among sages, closed his eyes and meditated on the king’s past, present and future. After a few moments he opened his eyes and said, ‘Your father is suffering the results of committing a great sin. I have discovered that in his previous life he sexually forced himself on his wife during her menstrual period. She tried to protest and resist his advances and even yelled out, “Someone please save me! Please, O husband, do not interrupt my monthly periods in this way!” He paid no heed and did not stop and on account of this grievous sin your father has now fallen into such a hellish condition of suffering.’
“King Vaikhaanasa then said, ‘O greatest of sages, by what fasting or charity may I liberate my dear father from such a condition? Please tell me how I may relieve the burden of his sinful reactions, which are great obstacles to his progress towards ultimate spiritual liberation.’
“Parvata Muni replied, ‘During the light fortnight of the month of Margashirsha there occurs an Ekadasi called Mokshada. If you observe this sacred Ekadasi strictly, fasting fully, and transfer the merit you obtain to your suffering father, he will be freed from his pain and instantly liberated.’
“Hearing this, Maharaj Vaikhanasa thanked the great sage and returned to his palace resolute to perform the recommended vrata (rite).
“O Yudhishthira, when the bright fortnight of the month of Margashirsha finally arrived, Maharaj Vaikhaanasa faithfully waited for the Ekadasi tithi. He then observed the Ekadasi fast faithfully along with his wife, children, and other relatives. He dutifully offered the merit from this fast to his father, and as he made the offering, the devas (demigods) showered beautiful flowers from the sky. The messengers of the demigods then glorified the king’s father and escorted him to the celestial region. As he traversed from the lower to middle planets reaching for the higher planets, he passed by his son and exclaimed, ‘My dear son, all auspiciousness to you!’ At last he reached the heavenly realm from where by performing devotional service to Krishna, he can eventually return to Godhead.
“O son of Pandu, one who strictly observes the sacred Mokshada Ekadasi, meticulously following the established rules and regulations, achieves complete liberation after death. There is no better day of fasting than this Ekadasi. Whoever faithfully observes this Ekadasi fast, which is like chintamani (touchstone), obtains merit that is incalculable, because it can help him elevate from the hellish to the heavenly planets. One who observes this Ekadasi for spiritual benefit goes back to Godhead, never to return to this material world.”