Chaturmaas 23rd July – 19th November

Prayer to the Lord prior to taking Niyam:

‘Oh Lord! (or Swami!) – Please give me strength and courage so that I may follow my chosen niyam. Confide in the saints of which niyam you are taking and request them to remind you frequently about your niyam.

Oh Lord! with your grace, I will do….

Devshayni Ekadashi is also known as Padma Ekadashi or Devpodhni Ekadashi. It falls on the eleventh lunar day of the bright fortnight of the month of Ashadh (June – July). It is of special significance to all Vaishnav Devotees; followers of Lord Vishnu.

A fast is observed with an aim to control the ten senses and the mind, engaging them in the service of the Lord. A spiritual vigil is performed the entire night where songs in praise of the Lord are sung. This Ekadashi marks the start of Chaturmaas (the holy four month period of rainy season) and devotees take vows on this day to be observed until Prabodhani Ekadashi. In the seventy sixth shlok of The Shikshapatri, Lord Swaminarayan Himself instructs His disciples to undertake extra religious activities during Chaturmaas. These may include, any eight religious activities mentioned by Him in Shikshapatri shloks 77-78.

During Chaturmaas, Lord Vishnu takes rest in Ksheersagar- cosmic ocean of milk – on His serpent bed (Shesh naag) hence this day is known as Dev-Shayani Ekadashi (God-sleeping). The Lord awakens from His rest on Prabodhani Ekadashi (Dev Diwali); eleventh day of bright fortnight of Kartik Month (October–November). This period is known as chaturmaas (“four months”) and coincides with the rainy season.

In the Bhavishyotar Puran, authored by Sage Ved Vyas, Lord Shree Krishna narrates the significance of Dev Shayni Ekadashi to King Yudhishthir just as Brahma; the creator once narrated the significance to his son Sage Narad. The saga of King Mandhata is narrated in this context. His Kingdom faced drought for three years. Unable to find a solution he consulted Sage Angira who advised him to observe the austerities of Dev Shayani Ekadashi. Through the benediction of the Lord, the Kingdom finally received rain after successful completion of the King’s vow.

The following are the best methods of observances to be adopted and followed daily;

1.    Reading religious scriptures

2.    Listening to religiuos scriptures

3.    Reciting songs in praise of his divine qualities

4.    Performing Mahapuja of the Lord’s images

5.    Chanting His Mantra

6.    Reciting His hymns

7.    Performing Pradakshina

8.    Prostrating before God’s image.

 

The Origins of Chaturmaas

King Bali was the grandson of Prahladji, and grew up with the guidance of his grandfather which gave him a good sense of righteousness and bhakti. When King Bali succeeded his grandfather, he became King of the Demons. Bali Raja’s kingdom expanded quickly in all directions, even up towards heavens and this made the Demi-gods (Devtas) very nervous. There was peace and prosperity in Bali Raja’s kingdom, with all the people living happily and without fear from any crime.
With guidance from his Guru (Sukracharya), Bali Raja decided to conduct an Ashwamedh Yagna. The fruits of this yagna included being able to banish Indra and take over his world (lok). Indra and the other demi-gods went to Lord Vishnu and it was at this time that He said that He would take care of everything. During this yagna Bali Raja had vowed that he would not refuse anything that anyone asked from him. It was at this time that Vaaman Bhagwan came to Bali Raja’s kingdom and asked for 3 steps of land from him. Even though his Guru told him not to agree, Bali Raja stuck by his vow and agreed to give the 3 steps of land promptly. Vaaman Bhagwan then increased His physical size to the extent that with the 1st and 2nd step He measured all the worlds and the sky. For the 3rd step Bali Raja offered himself and was banished to Paataal when Vaman Bhaghwan placed His foot on his head. Vaaman Bhagwan was impressed with Bali Raja’s unselfish devotion and unwavering dharma, and so granted him a boon where he was allowed to visit his kingdom once every year to make sure his subjects were still happy. Thus Bali Raja is one of a few who are chiranjivis (lives for eternity).
As Bali Raja was a true devotee of Vishnu, Vishnu Bhagwan brought him back from Paataal and promised to protect him until the next era. Here, Bali Raja would be crowned as Indra. Vishnu Bhagwan disguised Himself as a doorman and protected Bali Raja from all dangers. As a result of this, Vishnu Bhagwan was not in Vaikunth and Laxmiji became restless. She took on the form of a Brahmin woman and claimed that her husband had gone away for a large length of time for work, and that she has nowhere to stay. Bali Raja took her in whole heartedly and protected her like she was his sister.
Finally, on the Purnima day of Shravan, the Brahmin woman tied a colourful string of cotton on the wrist of Bali Raja, praying for protection and happiness (this is how Raksha Bandhan came to be). Bali Raja was touched by this and granted her a wish. She immediately looked at the guard and asked for Him, as that was her husband. It was at this point that both Vishnu Bhagwan and Laxmiji revealed their true identities. As Bali was a virtuous man, and a protective brother he requested that Lord Vishnu go back to Vaikunth with Laxmiji, but for the Lord to return as a guard for the 4 months of the year during the monsoon months (Chaturmaas).
Sadguru Premanand Swami sings glories of Devshayni Ekadashi in Ekadashi Mahatmya – A Scripture authored by him.