Mentioned in numerous Puranas, Ekadashi is also known as ‘Harivasara’ and ‘Hari din’. The significance of Ekadashi fasting has been listed even in the Padma Purana and Skanda Purana. A bimonthly occasion, Ekadashi is generally observed by the Vaishnavas, though it is open to non-Vaishnava followers as well. All Vishnu devotees observing the Ekadashi fasts strictly refrain from consuming grains, beans, cereals, and certain vegetables and spices. The Ekadashi vrat is observed with regional variations. Preparations for the vrat begin on the Dasami day, that is, a day before Ekadashi. Devotees who intend to observe this vrat wake up early in the morning on Dasami and take a ritual bath. They also perform the other daily routines required to deliver the pujas or prayers. On this day, they take up only a single meal and keep away from salt.
The most preferred food consumed during this vrat includes fresh and dried fruits, milk products, vegetables and nuts. In western parts of India, potatoes and ground nuts, is consumed. However, it does not contain onion and garlic. Furthermore, alcohol, non-vegetarian food and sex are also avoided. Additionally, some Puranas state the abstinence from dal and honey also on Dasami day. The next day is Ekadashi day which is meant for complete fasting. The entire day is spent in worshipping Lord Vishnu through pujas, prayers and mantras. Some devout devotees even keep awake during the night by hearing religious speeches and performing Aartis.
The day after Ekadashi is called Dwadashi day. The routine followed on Dasami day is practiced on this day as well. After taking a bath, prayers are offered to Lord Vishnu and a lamp is lit. The fast is broken with the food prepared eaten on Dasami day. One should avoid overeating. Moreover, the food consumed on Dwadashi should be prepared at home. Medically speaking, fasting on Ekadashi cleanses the body and gives the much required rest to the digestive organs. As for people suffering from various ailments, those on medications, pregnant women and those who have just delivered a baby should avoid fasting. If intending to observe the vrat, such people should consult a doctor prior fasting.
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