Determining Ekadasi and Mahadvadasi

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Madhudvisa 69-09-30 England:
"Regarding you first question, we observe Ekadasi from sunrise to sunrise. The 12 midnight is western
astronomical calculation, but the Vedic astronomical calculation begins either from the sunrise or the moonrise.
Generally it is sunrise. Our calculation is like this: when the sunrise is there, Ekadasi tithi (date) must be there.
If Ekadasi tithi is not in the sunrise and the tithi begins, say after a few minutes after the sunrise, then we
accept that day as previous to Ekadasi. All our ceremonies are calculated in that way. This means we must see
the tithi during sunrise. Therefore, sometimes our dates of ceremonies do not exactly coincide like the western
calculations. Just like Christmas Day they have fixed up on the 25th December, but our Janmastami tithi is not
fixed up like that. My birthday is on the 1st September, 1896, but this year the tithi of my birthday was fixed for
the 4th September. So it is very difficult to calculate, therefore we have to take help from the Indian expert
almanac astronomers."

The tithi at sunrise rules the day

If the tithi begins after sunrise and ends before sunrise of the next day (lost) it is combined with the next tithi.

If the same tithi falls on sunrise two days in a row, observances are scheduled on the first day; except Ekadasi,
Amavasya, or Purnima tithis which are scheduled for the second day.

Ekadasi must come in prior to the brahma muhurta (1 hour 36 min before sunrise). When it does so it is called
Suddha Ekadasi, pure Ekadasi. If it begins after that, it is considered impure and is therefore to be observed on
the Dvadasi (making Mahadvadasi or compounded) on the next day.

If Ekadasi falls on sunrise two days in a row, fasting is observed on the second day.

If Ekadasi begins after sunrise and ends before sunrise the next day it is considered Lost, too short, thus not
full, and impure. Therefore the next day is called Unmillani Mahadvadasi.

If Dvadasi begins after sunrise and ends before sunrise on the next day (Trayodasi), it is also lost, and is to be
observed as Trisprsa Mahadvadasi.

If Dvadasi falls on the sunrise two days in a row the first Dvadasi becomes Vyanjuli Mahadvadasi.

When the following Amavasya or Purnima falls on sunrise two days in a row the preceding Dvadasi becomes
Paksa-Vardhini-Mahadvadasi, Paksa based. Parama Ekadasi in the month of Purusottama.

Breaking Time

Q: If one was fasting on Ekadasi and breaks the fast too early by eating grains at let’s say six o’clock instead of
eight o’clock the next morning, did one actually break the Ekadasi, or does one just lose the results of having
observed the complete fast? In other words, when does the grain fasting start and stop?

A: (Bhanu Swami) Technically speaking a day begins at sunrise. That means that before sunrise is a part of the
previous day. So the Ekadasi vrata starts at sunrise and lasts until the next sunrise. If one eats grains during
this period, one breaks the fast and the vrata and the results, and gets bad results as well. This also does not
allow one to get up and eat grains before the sunrise of the day on which the Ekadasi vrata begins, for those
early hours are meant for japa and prayer, not for eating.

A: (Krsna Ksetra Das, ISKCON monitor for Deity worship): Ekadasi bhoga should be offered up until the time the
fast is to be broken.

Note: The time given in the calendar is the time up to which the fast should be broken, after sunrise. In other
words, between sunrise and the time given in the calendar – within that interval the fast should be broken.
Therefore in most cases only the balya-bhoga offering would come into consideration: no sweet rice for Sri Sri

A: (Bhakticaru Swami) Ekadasi begins/ends at the sunrise according to smartas but according to the Gosvamis
at the beginning of brahma-muhurta (two muhurtas, i.e. 96 min before the sunrise) Hari Bhakta Vilasa 12.316:

udayat prak yada vipra muhurta dvaya samyuta
sampurna ekadasi nama tatraiva upasaved grhi

"Oh brahmana, two muhurtas before sunrise, if there is an Ekadasi available, it is called a complete and pure
Ekadasi. On this Ekadasi, even every householder should fast."

Offering Grains to the Spiritual Master and Lord Caitanya

In a conversation, Srila Prabhupada said that grains should not be offered to either the spiritual master or Lord
Caitanya and His associates on Ekadasi.

Devotee: On Ekadasi, we can offer the Deity grains?

Prabhupada: Oh, yes. But not guru. Ekadasi observed by jiva-tattva, not by Visnu. We are fasting for clearing
our material disease, but Radha-Krsna, Caitanya Mahaprabhu… Caitanya Mahaprabhu also may not be offered
grains because He is playing the part of a devotee. Only Radha-Krsna, Jagannatha can be offered grains.
Otherwise, Guru-Gauranga, no. And the prasadam should not be taken by anyone. It should be kept for the
next day. [Srila Prabhupada Room Conversation, Tokyo, April 22, 1972]

If there is only one plate for all Deities and the main Deity is Krsna or Jagannatha, grains should be offered as
on normal days. If the main Deities are Gaura-Nitai, offer only non-grain preparations.* It is best to replace the
normally offered grain preparations with non-grain preparations so that there are the same number of
preparations as on normal days. If, however, grain preparations are being cooked for Krsna or Jagannatha, it
may be difficult to cook additional non-grain preparations for the spiritual master and Gaura-Nitai. In that case
serve larger quantities of the non-grain preparations to the spiritual master and Gaura-Nitai, and prepare the
offering plate for Krsna or Jagannatha as on normal days.
If you are cooking for a restaurant where grains will be served on Ekadasi, you may offer the grains to
Gaura-Nitai with the understanding that They will offer the bhoga to Krsna.

Mahaprasadam on Ekadasi

On Ekadasi, strict followers of Vaisnava regulations avoid eating any mahaprasada from an offering that
includes grains. The sastra explains that the papa-purusa (sin personified) takes shelter in grains on Ekadasi,
and therefore we avoid grains at all cost on that day, not even taking non-grain preparations of mahaprasada
from an offering plate. Ekadasi mahaprasada should be stored until the next day; if that is not possible it can
be distributed to persons not strictly following Vaisnava regulations or to animals. In fact, mahaprasada
maintains its purity on Ekadasi despite the presence of the papa-purusa, and therefore it will purify anyone
who eats it. Nevertheless, the followers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, being strict followers of Vaisnava regulations,
avoid mahaprasada on that day because their strict sadhana will be hampered by the presence of the

Ekadasi Feast on Holidays other than Ekadasi

Q: When we have a feast after a fast, like the Janmastami feast, Nrsimhacaturdasi feast or Gaurapurnima feast,
it’s said that that feast should be an "Ekadasi feast". However, considering that the papapurusa only enters
grains and beans on Ekadasi days, there seems to be no logical reason for this. Or is there?

A: (B.V. Tripurari Swami) Actually the tithis (astrologically calculated times) commemorating the appearance of
God are to be observed by worship and worship is to be done before eating. Therefore eating, which principally
involves taking grains, should be done following the tithi and usually this means on the following day. Taking
food or honoring prasada that does not consist of grains is somewhat of a concession and perhaps a practical
consideration as well, as feasting directly following fasting is not the best practice. You may find more
information in Hari-bhakti-vilasa, and the method for observing Krsna Janmastami is discussed in Sat-sandarbha.

A: (Dhyanakunda dd) Krsna-ksetra Prabhu explained that to the Indian mind "feast" MEANS grains. There is no
question of a non-grain feast. Rice and bread are essential ingredients of any full meal, what to speak of a
feast. Therefore "Ekadasi feast" is an oxymoron, something that was invented by ISKCON in the West.

Q: If the reason is that the feast should be light (considering that usually these feasts are taken between
6:PM and midnight) then it also doesn’t make that much sense, because potatoes and cheese (especially when
combined) are much more difficult to digest than rice and corn for example. And considering how many sweets
are taken during these feasts and the quantity of these feasts in general, is this really a rational reason?

A: (Dhyanakunda dd) You are completely right. The original standard (and the one Srila Prabhupada (SP) taught
– there are some letters to this effect) is: you fast the whole day, take a *light meal* at night to break the fast
("Ekadasi meal" is synonymous to "light meal"), and you have the real feast, with grains etc., the day after. It
has nothing to do with the papapurusa.

Krsna-ksetra Prabhu explained that we Westerners made the "Ekadasi break-fast" into the feast because it
was impractical for us, and required too much patience to wait until the next day. Read the Lilamrta, the first
Janmastami SP made in New York in 1966: at midnight, the disciples expected a real meal, when he entered
with a tray of apple slices! The real feast was on the next day. But we the Westerners have missed the point
and invented all kinds of Ekadasi foodstuffs which are actually defying the goal of Ekadasi. I have heard
potatoes are not indigenous to India – this is why they are not used in Jagannatha offerings at Puri.

Prasadam Prayer on Ekadasi

Q: If you accidentally start singing "sarira avidya-jal" on Ekadasi it’s likely that some devotees start screaming:
"No! No! It’s Ekadasi!" The reason is that in this prayer the word "grains" is there (anna). But then I wonder
about the Gurvastaka: catur-vidha-sri- bhagavat-prasada-svadvanna-trptan… And besides that, many times anna
is translated as "food", "foodgrains", etc. Monier-Williams translates anna as that which is "eaten". Thus I
wonder where the tradition not to sing this song exactly comes from, and whether it’s necessary to skip this
prayer on this day.

A: (Dhyanakunda dd) I have heard it first from Kurma Prabhu. I speculate it is the same as with the word
"meat" in English. Originally, it meant "any food," but later it came to mean that food which was regarded as
most essential, namely flesh. I guess the word anna also initially meant ‘any food’ (like in ‘annamaya stage’,
which is basically milk), but then it came to mean the essential food, i.e. grains. The role of rice in the tropical
cultures is much greater than in ours. So, theoretically, you could persist in chanting the song on Ekadasis, but
it would make a really strange impression.

Non-observance of Ekadasi

Gaura Keshava das: According to Gaudiya Vaisnava sastras non- observance of Ekadasi Vrata is a sin equal to
killing one’s guru. (Different sampradayas have different ways of dealing with sins that are committed. Some
advocate prayascitta. In general though Gaudiya Vaisnavas tend towards not performing specific prayascittas
but simply continuing with their main form of sadhana i.e. chanting the holy name of the Lord. Of course, one
also has to remember not to committed sins on the strength of chanting. Therefore no one should think that
"because I am chanting therefore I will be forgiven for breaking Ekadasi, etc." The proper attitude if or when
one commits a sin like "breaking" Ekadasi, it to think of oneself as a sinner.)
I have never seen anything in sastra that states that "if one breaks Ekadasi one can do such and such and be
relieved of that sin". However in Deity worship we often advise people to do some form of atonement for
offenses. Normally a devotee will fast for one day in atonement. That fasting should not be done on the
Dvadasi (12th) day (the next day to Ekadasi when one is supposed to break the fast) but usually on the next
day, on Trayodasi (13th day).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: