Vaikunta Ekadasi – A Path to Moksha
The significance of Vaikunta Ekadasi is mentioned in the Padma Puranam. The legend says that the Devas were unable to bear the atrocities of Murana, a demon. They approached Shiva, who directed them to Vishnu. Vishnu raged a battle with the demon and He realized that a new weapon was needed to kill Murana. In order to create the weapon, Vishnu retreated to a cave named after the goddess Haimavati in Bhadrikashrama. When Murana tried to slay Vishnu, who was sleeping, the female power which emerged out of Vishnu burned Murana to ashes by her glance. Vishnu was pleased and named the goddess ‘Ekadasi’ and asked her what did she wanted as a boon. Ekadasi, instead, asked Vishnu that people who observed a fast on that day should be redeemed of their sins. Vishnu thus declared that people who observed a fast on that day and worshiped Ekadasi, would reach Vaikuntam, the heaven. Thus the Dhanurmasa Shukla Paksha Ekadasi was observed.
Vishnu opened the gate of Vaikuntam (his abode) for two demons in spite of their being against him. They also asked for the boon that whoever listens to their story and sees the image of Vishnu coming out of the door (called Dwaram), called Vaikunta Dwaram, will reach Vaikuntam as well. Temples all over India make a door kind of structure on this day for devotees to walk through.
When observed, it bestows liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
The demon Murana stands for the Rajasic and Tamasic qualities in people, attributed to lust, passion, greed, violence, etc. When one conquers these qualities and attains purity of mind, Satva, the quality necessarily required for attaining moksha, the final emancipation or real consciousness. For such a sacred process, purity of mind is required. Fasting helps to keep away tendencies which could be onset by intake of certain foods. Being awake at night or being watchful of the thoughts in the mind signifies awareness. When the mind is concentrated, it becomes still which is helpful for the mind in coming together with the self consciousness. This indicates that the mind is being absorbed on seeing Vishnu after the fast and vigil.