On October 13, Hindus in India will be observing the Parama Ekadashi which falls on the Krishna Paksha or new moon day of the Adhika Mass. This day is devoted to the worship of Lord Vishnu.
How it is celebrated?
On this day, the devotees observe fast for the whole day and break it the next day. Breaking the fast also has defined time and is known as Parana. This year the time of Parana is 06:21:33 to 08:39:39 on 14th October. It is believed that people who perform the puja on Parama Ekadashi receive happiness, financial gains, prosperity and freedom from miseries. Donation of cow, gold, food, land and knowledge on this day is also considered favourable.
It is also suggested that the fast of Parama Ekadashi should be observed for two consecutive days. The devotees who have a family should observe the fast on the first day. While the fast of the second day is observed by sanyasi, widows or people who need moksha. Some devotees who are an ardent follower of Lord Vishnu observe the fast on both the days.
History behind it
It is believed that Lord Krishna first narrated the story of Parama Ekadashi to the Pandava Arjuna in Mahabharata. According to the legend, a Brahmin named Sumedha lived with his vestal and virtuous wife Pavitra in Kampilya town. They weren’t financially in a good condition but for their religious beliefs never shied away from serving the guests and indulging in donations. However later as poverty began disturbing their regular life, Sumedha expressed worries about how they can alleviate poverty. But Pavitra had a firm faith in God and believed that things will happen for good. So one day, Maharishi Kaudilya came to their house and as usual, the Brahmin couple served him wholeheartedly. Impressed by their hospitality, Kaudilya suggested them to fast for Parama Ekadashi if they want to get rid of poverty. So the couple together observed the fast. It is believed that the next morning a prince came to their house and bestowed the couple with house, prosperity and all riches.
The fast is meant to be observed by all people irrespective of their gender, which is a good thing.
But what I find problematic is the fact that how widows are counted under ascetics or people who are waiting for moksha. Hindu religion is known for considering widows as impure and subjecting them to unjust practices like social exclusion, Sati, plain apparels, bald heads and a life of misery. If it is rooted in the religious beliefs that are upheld even today in India, can we get rid of the stigmatisation around widowhood?