ॐ नमोः भगवते वासुदेवाय ||
Ekadashi fast has always been considered as the supreme way to attain salvation especially among the Vaishnava. Among all the twenty four Ekadashis occurring in a year, Nirjala Ekadashi is the most significant and important Ekadashi. It occurs on the 11th day of the lunar fortnight in the month of Jyestha. It is also called as the Pandava Ekadashi or Bhimseni Ekadashi after the historic legend behind it relating to the Pandava prince Bhimsen.
Nirjala means without water, thus taking even a single drop of water is prohibited while performing the vrata (fast) of Nirjala Ekadashi. The legendary tale behind the Nirjala Ekadashi as described within Brahma Vaivarta Puran dates back to the time of Dwapar Yuga. One day the most powerful Pandava Prince Bhima who was fond of eating food asked Guru Ved Vyas, “O great sage, my all four brothers, mother Kunti and wife Draupadi observes fast on the pious day of Ekadashi and also ask me to do the same. But as you know that I can’t bear the hunger so I can only perform religious prayers to the god and donations to the needy. So, guru Vyas please tell me the way to attain the salvation and achieve all the benefits without fasting on Ekadashi dates. Guru Vyas told him, “O Bhimsen if you consider heaven as good and hell as worst so prohibit eating food and perform religious fast on both the Ekadashi dates occurring every month.” Fearing of the evils of hell prince Bhimsen pleaded to Guru Vyas and asked him the other way round, as he could not fast a single day then how could he fast two days in a month. He asked Guru Vyas about any single day fast in a year which he could perform and get the benefits equivalent to all the Ekadashis. Then Guru Vyas said, “O Bhimsen, Veda is the only religion for the humans, but in Kaliyug no-one has the power enough to follow that religiously. So, now I will tell you the most efficient and simple means to attain salvation just bearing little sufferings which has also been well described in the Puranas.”
Then Guru Vyas told him about the significance of Ekadashi occurring in the Shukla Paksha (Lunar fortnight) of the Jyestha month. This Ekadashi is also known as Nirjala Ekadashi as water is prohibited while performing the fast of Nirjala Ekadashi. Guru Vyas told him, that one should not take water starting from the sunrise on the day of Ekadashi till the sunrise of the next day following Ekadashi. The water should only be used for bathing and just a sip of water while performing achaman before starting morning prayers to Lord Vishnu because having more water than a sip could break the fast and is considered as sin. One should perform the prayers to Lord Vishnu and chant the mantras dedicated to him on this day. So, performing this fast religiously without food and water will grant the benefits of all the Ekadashis. On following day of dwadashi one should perform the morning prayers and should donate the pots of water and gold to Brahman and offer him food and then should break his fast. ‘O Bhimsen, thus performing this one fast religiously one could have the benefits of all the 24 Ekadashis occurring in the year and attains salvation and goes directly to the abode of Lord Vishnu.’
Thus after listening to the words of Guru Ved Vyas, Pandava prince Bhimsen started performing the fast of Nirjala Ekadashi religiously every year and thus attained salvation at the end of his life and thus Ekadashi is also known as Bhimseni Ekadashi. Those who perform the fast on this Ekadashi without food and water are graced by the ultimate blessings of Lord Vishnu. .