Part-4
CHAPTER - 17 - 22

CHAPTER - 17

DESCRIPTION OF FAST FOR LAKSHMINARAAYAN

Sanatkumar says: " O great among the sages! Now I am narrating about an excellent fast, which destroys all the sins. Observing fast on full Moon day is considered excellent among all the fasts. It leads to fulfillment of all the desires and protects the devotee from influence of harsh planets. Like the fast of Dwadashi, this fast is also begun from the month of Maargsheersh and observed continuously on every full Moon day of succeeding months till Kartik when it is closed with proper rituals".

To begin with, one should start worshipping Lord Vishnu since the morning of full Moon day in the month of Maargsheersh wearing white clothes and reciting

NAMO NAARAAYANAA.

After the worship, the devotee must perform a Havan on a square-shaped altar offering oblations with cooked cereals, sesame seeds, ghee etc. White flowers, unbroken rice grains and water are offered to the Lord. In the evening, the same things are offered to the rising full Moon also. A devotee must pass the night engaged in religious discussion, singing of devotional songs etc. Next day, donations are made to the Brahmins after performing usual worship. The same rituals are performed every month to observe the fast.

Rituals for closing this fast in the month of Kartik on full Moon day are also elaborate.

Fist of all, the devotee should build a rectangular canopy and decorate it with floral garlands, arches, lamps, cinnabar, mirrors, whiskers etc. At the center of the canopy, on the ground, Sarvatobhadra wheel should be drawn with five pillars. Then one to twelve urns are kept on this wheel and on these urns, silver or golden idols of Lord Vishnu are placed. These idols are bathed with milk containing curd, ghee, honey and five types of dry fruits. Then a proper elaborate worship is carried out for these idols. Night is passed singing devotional songs. Next morning, after proper worship, these idols are donated to the presiding priest. It is followed by feeding of Brahmins. All these rituals are closed with performing a Havan offering sesame seeds as oblation. Those who perform these worships with proper rituals enjoy worldly comforts lifelong and attain abode of Lord Vishnu.

CHAPTER - 18

FLAGGING IN THE TEMPLE OF LORD VISHNU

Sanatkumar says: "O Narad! Now I am narrating about the flagging fast in order to please Lord Vishnu. He who performs this fast is even worshipped by Brahma and other deities. This fast accords virtues equal to those of donating one thousand carats of gold to a Brahmin or those attained taking bath in the Ganges and worshipping Shivalinga and basil sapling. " The devotee should observe this fast on the tenth day of the brighter phase in the month of Kartik. He should worship Shri Hari since morning after taking bath and wearing fresh clothes. He is expected to sleep before the idol that day. Next day, he should again perform worship, recite Nandishraaddh along with four Brahmins and bathe masts of the two flags. He should then worship the Sun, the Moon and Garud.

Then turmeric, sandalwood paste are smeared on the masts and white flowers are offered on them. Thereafter, the devotee must smear just enough ground with cow dung and produce a fire in an altar. One hundred and eight oblations are made with kheer in this fire. Havan thus performed is directed to Lord Vishnu, Brahma and Lakshmi then eight oblations are offered reciting -

VENTEYAAY SWAHA.

It is followed by oblations offered to the Sun, the Moon and Kaamadhenu.

The night is passed in worship and performing Havans. Next morning, the same rituals are performed to worship Lord Vishnu. At last, the flags are carried to a temple of Lord Vishnu and installed at the pinnacle or on top of a column. Lord Vishnu is worshipped with proper rituals. Circumambulating the temple, one should then present Brahmins with clothes and Dakshina, feed them and should take food after all. It is said that as long as the flag flutters in air, as much sins of the devotee are destroyed and he attains the abode of Lord Vishnu.

CHAPTER - 19

TALE OF THE KING SUMITíS PREVIOUS BIRTH

Narad says: "O Sanatkumar! A king Sumit had performed this flagging fast for the first time. Kindly narrate to me the tale of his life."

Sanatkumar says: During Satayuga, a Somavanshi king Sumit was ruling the entire earth. He was very religious in nature and a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. He served the other devotees with respect and was a down to earth person.

His queen Satyamati was also a chaste woman. Both of them were the great worshippers of Shri Hari and knew everything about their previous birth. They regularly donated cereals and water. Satyamati used to dance in the temple of Lord Vishnu with pure feelings. The king also would install a big and beautiful flag in the temple on the twelfth day of brighter phase of every month. Their reputation had reached all the three worlds. One day, a sage Vibhaandak came to visit the king along with his disciples. The king and the queen treated the sage with respect and the king himself seated on a lower seat before the sage.

The king says: "I am salved O sage! Now order me how can I serve you?"

The sage says: "O king! I am very much pleased with you. Now I will ask you a few questions. Answer them honestly. You regularly install a big and beautiful flag in the temple of Lord Vishnu whereas there are many more rituals to please Him. Tell me the reason for your actions."

The king says: "O sage! I tell the reason for my action. Kindly listen to it. In the previous birth, I was a Shudra named Maalini and always engaged in appalling activities. One day, I abandoned my family and society and migrated to the forest where I sustained myself on deerís flesh. But there too, I used to rob the passersby. One day, I had nothing to eat nor could I lay my hand on any passerby. Scorching sun of the summer was adding to my woe moreover. Thus perplexed by the thirst, hunger and intense heat, I was roaming in the forest when all of a sudden I stumbled upon a temple of Lord Vishnu. It had long been deserted and was very much in dilapidated condition. A small lake was also there beside the temple. In the lake, beautiful birds like swan and ducks were playing and delicious fruits and scented flowers also abounded in the forest. Since I was feeling tired to the point of dropping down, I ate the fruits which had fallen on the ground. Then I took rest at the bank of the lake.

Since that day, I began to live in that temple. There I repaired the walls, cleaned the premises and erected a small hut for myself. But still, I used to hunt small animals to satisfy my hunger. Twenty years passed like that. One day, a Saadhvi (a female hermit) named Avakokila, who hailed from a Nishaad family in Vindhyaachal, came there. Her family members had deserted her because of sinister actions she was involved in. She was thin and lean due to continuous starvation. Feeling pity on her, I gave her some fruits and flesh to eat. When she recovered, she narrated her tale that I am narrating to you as it was."

Saadhvi says: "I was born in the family of oarsman, Daaruk was my father. I was a great backbiter, thief and sinner. My family therefore deserted me. For sometime, my husband fostered me but he too died. Since then, I have been wandering from this place to that and it is because of Lordís grace that I have arrived here."

The king says: "Listening to her tale, I married her and we began to live in the temple. Every day we used to eat flesh and fruit. One day, under the intoxication of wine, we enjoyed our time greatly. We even began to dance forgetting our physical condition. Suddenly, agents of Yama arrived there and began to tighten their noose around us. Simultaneously, Shri Hari too sent His agents."

Vishnuís agents say: "O imprudent Yamadoots! Release this great devotee of Lord Vishnu.

Yamadoots say: "These are abject sinners. We will definitely take them with us."

These words infuriated the agents of Vishnu.

Vishnuís agents say: "They are not sinners. They are great devotees and the servers of Lord Vishnu. This woman has performed a dance while this man has installed a flag in the temple. Thus, their sins have been destroyed and they have now a right to the supreme abode. They have served this temple for the past thirty-two years."

Saying this, the agents of Vishnu snapped the noose and carried us to the abode of Vishnu in a divine aircraft. Hearing this tale from the king Sumit, sage Vibhaandak felt extreme joy and went to the forest.

CHAPTER - 20

DESCRIPTION OF HARIPANCHRATRA VRATA

Sanatkumar says: O Narad! I am now narrating about another fast. It is Haripanchak fast and is rare in all the worlds. It destroys all the sorrows of the devotee, fulfills his all desires and helps him attain the four goals of life. It is observed for five days in the month of Maargsheersh starting from the tenth day of the brighter phase till the full Moon day. On the first day, a day long fast is observed after worshipping Lord Vishnu in the morning. It is broken with a plain meal in the evening.

Next day, Lordís idol is bathed with milk containing ghee, curd, honey and five types of dry fruits followed by usual worship. Vows of the fast are recited and prayers are made for their successful completion. That whole night and also the subsequent nights till full Moon night are passed reciting Lordís name and singing devotional songs. Bathing of Lordís idol with milk containing ghee, curd, honey and dry fruits continues in the morning everyday till full Moon day.

On the full Moon day, Havan is performed with oblations of sesame seeds and donations. On the sixth day, the devotee must drink Panchgavya and worship Shri Hari, feed Brahmins and only then should take meal silently. This fast is observed every month till Kartik and closing rituals are taken up in the month of Maargsheersh next year. During the closing rituals, the devotee should observe day long fast on the eleventh day and take only Panchgavya on the twelfth day. Thereafter he should worship Lord Vishnu, donate honey, ghee, fruits, kheer and an urn filled with water and containing five jewels to the Brahmin. He should then feed the Brahmins before himself taking any meal.

O Narad! Those who observe this Haripanchak fast never return from Brahmaloka. Those who desire for salvation should essentially observe this fast. It destroys all the sins like a fire destroys a forest. Its virtues are equal to those of donating millions of cows

CHAPTER - 21

DESCRIPTION OF THE FRUITS OF FAST

Sanatkumar says:"Now I am narrating about an excellent fast for the benefit of the world. Listen to it carefully O Narad! This fast must be observed in the months of Ashaadh, Shraavan, Bhaadrapad or Ashwin. On any day during the brighter phase of these months, the devotees must drink Panchgavya and pass his time in the vicinity of Lord Vishnuís idol. Then, reciting scriptures in the guidance of learned Brahmins, he should take a vow to observe a month long fast praying Lord Vishnu to protect him from any unforeseen crises. The devotee should since then pass his time in a temple for one month. Everyday, he should bathe the idol with milk containing ghee, curd, honey and dry fruits and light the lamps before the idol. He is also expected to pass his life in a natural way without using any artificial thing like toothpaste or soap. Then he should feed a Brahmin and give them Dakshina.

According to the provision of fast, the devotee should feed at least twelve Brahmins and donate jewelry. Virtues of this fast are enormous. A widow woman who has no son, ascetic, bachelor and Vanaprasthi should essentially observe this fast.

CHAPTER - 22

TALE OF BHADRASHEEL BRAHMIN

Sanatkumar says: "O Narad! A fast on Ekadashi (eleventh day) in both the phases of a month pleases Shri Hari and fulfills all the desires. On the eleventh day of each phase, one should not dine. Those who dine on the eleventh day commit severe sins. Salvation from sins like killing a Brahmin is possible but there is no method to eliminate the sins incurred because of dining on the eleventh day. Brahmins should essentially observe fast on the eleventh day of each phase. The preparations for Ekadashi Vrata start on the tenth day. The devotee should worship Shri Hari in the morning with proper rituals and pass the night in the vicinity of the idol."

On the eleventh day, the devotee should worship Shri Hari in the morning and take an oath to observe fast during the day and pray the Lord to protect him from calamities. The devotee must pass the night singing devotional songs, reciting scriptures and if possible dancing. In the morning of the twelfth day, he should worship Lord Vishnu as usual. Then he should feed Brahmins and make donations as per his powers. Performing five kinds of Yagyas, the devotee should break his fast in the last. During the period of fast, the devotee must not see wretched ones and desist from talking to such people who oppose Brahmins.

As there is no pilgrimage place holier than the Ganges; no teacher greater than the Mother and no deity more virtuous than Lord Vishnu. Similarly there is no fast greater than Ekadashi Vrata is. O Narad! I am now narrating an old tale. Listen to it carefully.

In the ancient times, a great sage Gaalav lived in the dense forest on the bank of the river Narmada. He was very peace loving and truth abiding in nature. The forest surrounding his hermitage was the playground for beautiful fauna, Yakshas, Gandharvas and Vidhyaadhars. Sage Gaalav passed his time engaged in penance. Thus, he lived there for a long time. He had an equally virtuous son named Bhadrasheel who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu and who knew everything about his previous birth. In his childhood, Bhadrasheel used to play with his friends but his plays reflected his religious sentiments. He would make an earthen idol of Lord Vishnu and worship it. He also would tell his friends to always worship Lord Vishnu and observe fast on the eleventh day of every phase in every month. His friends too followed him. During the worship, Bhadrasheel used to wish well for the entire world. His activities pleased the sage Gaalav very much.

Gaalav says: "O fortunate one! You are really Bhadrasheel because even the Yogis rarely have a nature like yours. You always indulge in worship of Hari, benefit of all and observe fast on Ekadashi. You always abstain from forbidden work. How come, you acquired such a peaceful and unconflicting mind. I am very much pleased with you. Kindly tell me, about your achievements."

Bhadrasheel says: "O father! I have some remembrance of my previous birth. During my previous birth, Yama had preached me about religion." These words surprised Gaalav. He says: "O fortunate one! Who were you in your previous birth? What did Yamaraaj said to you and why?"

Bhadrasheel says: "O great sage! I was a king in Soma dynasty. I had received knowledge from Dharmakeerti and Dattatreya. I ruled continuously for thousand years. During this period, I committed various religious as well as irreligious tasks. In the company of imposters, I too became an imposter. Working diplomatically, I destroyed Yagyas. My subjects also followed me and began to behave irreligiously. I received sixth part of their evil deeds. One day, I went to the forest hunting. There, I killed many animals.

After a while, perplexed by thirst and hunger, I reached the bank of Narmada. I had strayed into deeper forests all alone. The intense sun was scorching my body. I was about to drop down because of hunger when I saw that people on the bank of Narmada were observing Ekadashi Vrata. I joined them and stayed awake all along the night without taking any food. But I could not bear the starvation and exertion and died as a result. Fierce looking Yamadoots took me to Yamaraaj. Yamaraaj asked Chitragupt to open the account of my life. Chitragupt thought for a moment and said: "Its true O Yamaraaj that this person is a sinner. But now he is free from his sins due to observing fast on Ekadashi and passing his night in the company of pious devotees." Hearing these words, Yamaraaj greeted me and worshipped me with devotion. Then, he called his servers."

Yamaraaj says: "Listen to me, O agents! I am narrating something to your interest. Never bring to me in future anybody who is engaged in religious task. Stay away from those who always recite the name of Shri Hari. Greet them from a distance. This is my order as well as teaching to all of you. Spare all those who serve their teachers, love their religion, are helpless, serve the pious one and are truly deserving. Bring all such people who abuse their mother, hate the world, steal the wealth of temples and Brahmins, who are killers, who do not observe fast on Ekadashi, who are short tempered, criticize me and nurture hostility with others."

Hearing such words from Yamaraaj, fire of penance began to burn within me. More intense this fire grew, more of my sins were destroyed. I acquired an appearance of Shri Hari. Even, Yamaraaj greeted me with respect. His action even surprised the Yamadoots. Worshipping me, Yamaraaj sent me on a divine aircraft to the abode of Vishnu.

O father! I was passing my time happily. I did not know how and when crores of years passed. Then I arrived in Indraloka. There I stayed with the gods for many Kalpas. It was after such a great experience that I have arrived on the earth. Having the knowledge of my previous birth, I always engaged in the worship of Hari and inspire others to follow suit. Earlier, I didnít know the virtues of Ekadashi Vrata. But now, because of the knowledge of my previous births, I have come to know about it. I observed it without any desire and without knowing that I was actually observing a fast and received so much in return. Hence, I cannot tell how much will one receive if he observes Ekadashi Vrata with some desire. Those who devotedly worship Shri Hari and observe Ekadashi Vrata attain even the supreme abode of Lord Vishnu."

The words of his son gladdened sage Gaalav. He says- "My birth has been successful because I got such a devotee son like you who told me the complete method of worshipping Lord Vishnu."