Vaikunta Ekadasi is an important festival dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the Tamil month of Margazhi (December-January). Vaikunda Ekadesi festival is of great significance at the Tirupati Balaji Temple, Srirangam Sri Ranganatha Temple and at the Bhadrachalam Temple. In Kerala, it is known as Swarga Vathil Ekadashi.
The significance of Vaikunta Ekadasi can be traced back to the Padma Purana. The Purana indicates that Lord Vishnu took the form of ‘Ekadasi’ – female energy – to kill demon Muran. This happened during the month of Margazhi. Impressed by ‘Ekadasi,’ Lord Vishnu told her that whoever worships him on this day will reach ‘Vaikunta’ (heaven).
Like all Ekadasi days, devotees fast on this day and observe vigil the whole night. Some people indulge in meditation, Japa and singing of Hari Kirtan. Rice is avoided during ekadashi days as it is believed that the demon Mura finds a dwelling in the rice eaten on Ekadasi day.
It is widely believed that the gates to the heaven open – the Gate of Vaikuntha – on the Vaikunta Ekadasi day. It is one of the most auspicious days in Lord Vishnu Temples in South India.
The ‘Vaikunta Dwaram’ or ‘the gate to the heaven’ is opened on this day. This is the passage encircling the innermost sanctum of the Lord. Scores of devotees queue up to pass through the Gate of Vaikunta in the temples.
Vaikunta Ekadasi usually occurs in the month of December or early January. Next Vaikunta Ekadasi date is on December 28, 2009.