The glories of Kamada Ekadashi are found in the Varaha Purana in a conversation between Maharaja Yudhishthira and Lord Krishna.
Referring to this conversation to some great sages of the universe, Sri Suta Goswami said, “O sages, let me offer respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord Hari, Bhagavan Sri Krishna, the son of Devaki and Vasudeva, whose mercy allows me to describe the day of fasting that removes all kinds of sins. It was the great devotee Maharaja Yudhisthira to whom Lord Krishna narrated the glories of the twenty-four primary Ekadashi, which destroy sin. Exalted sages have selected these twenty-four narrations from the eighteen Puranas, for they are truly sublime. Now I shall recount to you one of them.”
Following is the narration of Sri Shukadeva Goswami.
Yudhishthira Maharaja said, “O Lord Krishna, O Vasudeva, please accept my humble obeisances. I desired to know from you of the Ekadasi that occurs in the bright fortnight of the month of Chaitra [March-April]. What is it named, and what are its glories?”
Lord Sri Krishna replied, “O Yudhishthira, listen attentively as I relate the ancient history of this sacred Ekadashi which Vasishtha Muni once narrated to King Dilipa, the great-grandfather of Lord Ramachandra.
“King Dilipa asked the great sage Vasishtha, ‘O wise brahmana, please educate me about the Ekadashi that comes during the bright fortnight of the month of Chaitra.’
“Pleased with the query Vasishtha Muni replied, ‘O king, your inquiry is glorious. I am happy to narrate that which you wish to know. The Ekadashi that occurs in the bright fortnight of Chaitra is named Kamada Ekadasi. It destroys all sins, as a forest fire consumes a supply of dry firewood. Extremely purifying, it bestows the highest merit upon one who faithfully observes it. O king, I will now relate to you an incident from ancient history so admirable that it removes all sins merely on being heard.
“‘Long ago, there once existed a city-state named Ratnapura. Steeped in opulence, it was bedecked with gold and jewels. Here, sharp-fanged snakes would enjoy getting intoxicated. King Pundarika was the ruler of this beautiful kingdom, which had numerous Gandharvas, Kinnaras, and Apsaras among its citizens. Lalit and his wife Lalita were Gandharvas. Lalita was a celebrated danseuse. The two were intensely attracted to each other and their home was abundant with wealth and fine food. Lalita loved her husband dearly, and Lalit likewise always held her within his heart.
“‘Once, at the court of King Pundarika, some Gandharvas danced while Lalit sang. On this occasion, Lalita was not present. Due to his strong affection, he was lost in thoughts of her. Distracted, he lost track of meter and melody. He even spoilt the ending of the song, and one of the envious snakes in attendance complained to the king that Lalit was absorbed in thinking of his wife instead of his sovereign. The king became furious upon hearing this, and his eyes turned crimson with rage.
“‘Suddenly he shouted, “Foolish knave, lustfully thinking of a woman instead of reverentially thinking of your king you have grossly neglected your court duties, I curse you to at once become a cannibal!” O king, Lalit immediately became a fearsome cannibal with a terrifying appearance. His arms were eight miles long, his mouth big as a huge cave, his eyes were tremendous as the sun and the moon, his nostrils resembled enormous pits in the earth, his neck was a veritable mountain, his hips were four miles wide, and his gigantic body stood sixty-four miles high. Poor Lalit, the loving Gandharva singer, thus suffered the terrible results of his offense to King Pundarika.
“‘Seeing her husband so grotesquely transformed, Lalita was grief-stricken. She wailed miserably, “Now that my dear husband is in such suffering, woe is my lot. What am I to do? Where am I go?’
“‘Lalita grieved day and night wandering in the thick jungle with her monstrous husband instead of enjoying the lavish life of a Gandharva wife. Her husband Lalit, under the spell of the king’s curse, engaged in horribly sinful acts. He roamed fitfully in the forbidden regions, a once-beautiful Gandharva now reduced to a ghastly man-eater. Utterly distraught to see her dear husband suffer in his dreadful condition, Lalita piteously cried as she followed him in his manic wanderings.
“‘However, good fortune struck one day when they came upon the great sage Shringi who was sitting on the peak of the famous Vindhyachala Hill. Approaching him, Lalita immediately offered the ascetic her respectful obeisances. The sage noticing her bowing down before him said, “O beautiful one, who are you? Whose daughter are you? Why have you come here? Tell me in truth.”
“‘Lalita replied, “O great age, I am the daughter of the great Gandharva Viradhanva, and my name is Lalita. I roam the forests and plains with my unfortunate husband, whom King Pundarika has cursed to become a man-eating demon. O Brahmana, I am deeply aggrieved to see his ferocious form and intolerably sinful activities. O master, please guide me on what the atonement for my husband is. O best of Brahmanas, what pious acts can I perform to free him from his demonic form?”
“‘The sage replied, “Heavenly maiden, there is an Ekadashi named Kamada that occurs in the bright fortnight of the month of Chaitra. It is coming soon. Whoever fasts on this day has all his desires fulfilled. If you observe the fasting for this Ekadashi, strictly following its rules and regulations and then transfer the merit you earn to your husband, he will be freed from the curse at once.”
“‘Overjoyed to hear these words from the sage, Lalita faithfully observed the fast of Kamada Ekadashi strictly following the instructions of the sage Shringi. On the following day, Dvadasi, she appeared before the sage and the Deity of Lord Vasudeva and said, “I have faithfully observed Kamada Ekadashi. By the merit I earned by observing this fast, may my husband be free from the curse that has turned him into a demonic cannibal. May the merit I have gained free him from his misery.”
“‘No sooner had Lalita finished speaking, her husband, standing nearby, was at once freed from the king’s curse. He regained his original form as the Gandharva Lalit, a handsome heavenly singer adorned with beautiful ornaments.
“‘Thereafter with his wife Lalita, he enjoyed an opulence even greater than before.
“‘All this was accomplished by the power and glory of Kamada Ekadashi. In the end, the Gandharva couple boarded a celestial airplane and ascended to heaven.’
Lord Sri Krishna concluded, “O Yudhishthira, best of kings, anyone who hears this wonderful narration should certainly observe the holy Kamada Ekadashi to the best of his ability for the great merit it bestows upon the faithful devotee. I have thus described its glories to you for the benefit of all humanity. There is no better Ekadashi than Kamada Ekadashi. It can eradicate even the sin of killing a Brahmana, and also nullify demonic curses. It purifies the consciousness. In all the three worlds, for movable and immovable living entities, there is no better day.”