The glories of Ashada-Shukla Ekadasi – also known as Padma Ekadasi or Deva-sayani Ekadasi – are found in the Bhavishyottara Purana in a conversation between Lord Krishna and King Yudhishthira.
Yudhishthira Maharaj, the saintly king, asked Lord Krishna, “O Keshava, what is the name of the Ekadasi that occurs in the bright fortnight of the month of Ashada (June – July)? Who is the presiding Deity of the auspicious day, and what are the observances of this day?”
Lord Sri Krishna replied, “O caretaker of the Earth, I shall narrate to you a historical event that Lord Brahma once related to his son Narada when he asked him about this Ekadasi.
“Lord Brahma said, ‘O exalted seer, best of sages, pure devotee of Lord Vishnu, your question is highly beneficial to humanity. There is no day better than Ekadasi, the day of Lord Sri Hari, in this or any other world for it nullifies the greatest sins of the sincere observer.
“’Fasting on this Ekadasi purifies one of all sins and fulfills all one’s desires. Hence, those who neglect to observe this sacred day of fasting are likely candidates for hell. Ashada-Shukla Ekadasi is also famous as Padma Ekadasi. In order to please the Supreme Lord Hrishikesha-master of the senses-one must fast on this day. Listen carefully, O Narada, as I relate to you a wonderful historical event from the scriptures regarding this Ekadasi. Merely hearing this account destroys all sins, as well as hindrances in the path of spiritual perfection.
“‘O son, there was once a saintly king in the Surya Vamsha (Sun Dynasty) named Mandhata. He always stood for righteousness and was therefore appointed the emperor. He cared for his subjects as family members and children. On account of his piety and devout religiosity, there were no hazards like pestilence, drought, or disease in his entire kingdom. Not only this, the subjects lived in much opulence. His treasury had no ill-gotten monies, and so he ruled happily for many years.
“‘Once, however, because of some sin in his kingdom, there was a drought for three continuous years. The kingdom was beset with famine. Due to lack of food grains citizens were unable to perform prescribed Vedic sacrifices, offer oblations of ghrita (ghee) to forefathers and the devas(demigods), engage in ritualistic worship, or even study Vedic literature. Finally, in a great assembly, they addressed the king thus, “O king, you have always seen to our welfare, so now we humbly beg your assistance. In this world water is an essential need. Without it, almost everything becomes lifeless. The Vedas term water ‘nara’, and because the Supreme Personality of Godhead sleeps on an ocean of water, He is called Narayana- The Lord who resides on water! It is said three things cannot exist without water-pearls, humans, and dough. The essential quality of a pearl is luster, which is due to water. The essence of man is semen, mainly constituted of water, and without water, flour cannot be made into dough and cooked into various forms of bread. Sometimes water is called ‘Jala-Narayana’- the Supreme Lord as life sustaining water. In His form as clouds, the Supreme Lord is present throughout the sky and pours rains, from which grow grains that maintain living entities. O king, severe drought has caused a great dearth of essential grains and we are all miserable. Even the population is diminishing as people die or leave the kingdom. O best ruler on Earth, please resolve this crisis and restore peace and prosperity.”
“‘The king replied, “What You say is right, for grains are like Brahman. The Absolute Truth lives within grains and sustains all beings. Scriptures tell why a kingdom suffers from drought. They say that if a king is irreligious both he and his subjects undergo sufferings. I have pondered over this problem for long, but studying my past and present I can honestly say that I have committed no sin. Still, for your good, I will fervently try to remedy the situation.”
“‘King Mandhata then gathered his entourage, paid obeisances to me, and entered the forest. He wandered about, seeking great sages in Ashrams and inquired about resolving his kingdom’s crisis. Eventually, he arrived at the ashram of one of my other sons, Angira Muni, whose effulgence spread in all directions. Seated in his hermitage, Angira looked like another Brahma. King Mandhata was very pleased to see the exalted sage, whose senses were fully controlled. The king dismounted his horse and offered his respectful obeisances at the lotus feet of Angira Muni. With joined palms, he prayed for the Muni’s blessings. The exalted sage blessed the king with sacred mantras and asked him after the welfare of the seven limbs of his kingdom.’”
The seven limbs of a king’s domain are
1. the king himself;
2. the ministers;
3. his treasury;
4. his military forces;
5. his allies;
6. the Brahmins;
7. the sacrificial performances for fulfilling the needs of the subjects.
“’After telling the sage about the state of the seven limbs of his kingdom King Mandhata inquired after the sage’s own well-being. Then Angira Muni asked the reason why the king had undertaken the difficult journey into the forest. The king told him of the severe drought in his kingdom. He said, “O great sage, I rule my kingdom strictly underVedic injunctions. I do not know why we still suffer from drought. I seek your help in resolving this crisis. Please help me relieve the sufferings of my subjects.”
“‘Angira Rishi said, “The present age, Satya yuga, is the best of all ages, for in this age all four legs (Truthfulness, Austerity, Mercy, and Cleanliness) of Dharma are intact. Brahmins are respected as the topmost members of society, everyone fulfills his occupational duties, and only the twice-born Brahmins are allowed to perform Vedic austerities and penances. Although this is the Vedic standard, O lion among kings, there is a shudra (uninitiated, untrained person) who is unlawfully performing rites of austerity and penance in your kingdom. This is the reason there is no rain in your land. You must punish this person with death, in order to remove the contamination inflicted by his actions and restore peace to your subjects.”
“’The king replied, “I feel incapable of killing an inoffesinve performer of austerity and sacrifice? I request you to please give me a spiritual alternative.” The great sage Angira Muni then said, “O king, in that case, you must observe a fast on the Ekadasi that occurs during the bright fortnight of the month of Ashada.This auspicious day is called Padma Ekadasi. By performance of the austerities prescribed for this Ekadasi, sufficient rains and abundant grains will return to your kingdom. This Ekadasi bestows life’s perfection upon its faithful observers, removing all obstacles in their spiritual journey. O king, you along with your relatives, and subjects should together observe this sacred Ekadasi fast. Everything in your kingdom will undoubtedly return to normal.
“‘Upon hearing these words, the king gratefully offered obeisances to the exalted sage and then returned to his palace. On the day of Padma Ekadasi, King Mandhata instructed all the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras in his kingdom to strictly observe the important fast. After they all performed the ritual, rains fell, just as the sage had predicted, and in due course, there were abundant crops and a rich harvest of grains. By the mercy of the Supreme Lord Hrishikesha, the master of the senses, the subjects of King Mandhata were extremely happy and prosperous once again.
“‘Therefore, O Narada, everyone should observe this Ekadasi fast very strictly, for it bestows all happiness as well as ultimate liberation, upon the faithful devotee.’”
Lord Sri Krishna concluded, “My dear Yudhishthira, Padma Ekadasi is so powerful that one who simply reads or hears its glories becomes completely sinless. O Pandava, one who wishes to please Me should strictly observe this Ekadasi, which is also known as Deva-sayani Ekadasi.”
Deva-sayani, or Vishnu-sayani, indicates that Lord Vishnu along with the demigods goes to sleep on this day. From this day, new auspicious ceremonies should not be performed until the day of Devotthani Ekadasi (Haribodhini (Probodhini) Devotthaani (Utthana) Ekadasi), which occurs during the month of Kartika (October – November). This is because the devas (demigods), being asleep, cannot be invited to the sacrificial arena. Also, at this time, the Sun travels along its Southern course (Dakshinayana).
Lord Sri Krishna finally stated, “O lion among kings, Yudhishthira Maharaja, whoever wishes liberation must fast on this Ekadasi.”