English meaning of the festival
The word Ekadashi means eleventh and refers to the “thithi” (Hindu date) on which it is observed.
How the date is decided monthly
Each Hindu month has two “pakshas” comprising 15 thithis each. We therefore have two Ekadashi in every Hindu month, one in the dark fortnight and one in the bright fortnight on which devotees observe fast and worship Lord Vishnu.
Significance of the festival to Hinduism
Hindus believe that on Ekadashi the gate to the Lord’s Inner Sanctum is opened. According to scriptures such as the Padma Purana the observance of Ekadashi grants freedom from the cycle of birth and death. Devotees perform the Ekadashi fast to be liberated from their sins and attain salvation.
How to observe/practice
While on other the Ekadashi abstinence of food is observed, on Nirjala Ekadashi, an absolute fast is observed, without partaking even water. The fast is observed 24 hours from sunrise on Nirjala Ekadashi to sunrise the next day. On the day before Nirjala Ekadashi, the devotee performs the evening prayer and takes only one meal, without rice – as rice eating is prohibited. The devotee is however permitted to have a single tiny drop of water as part of the Achamana purification ritual. Water more than that equals breaking the vow. The next morning (on Nirjala Ekadashi), having risen before sunrise and having completed personal routines and bathing, on should make a declaration (sankalp) of observing the fast. The ideal is not to take any food or even water throughout the day and night, to be truthful, and to give up activities relating to material desire, anger, pride and greed. According to the Krishna Janma Kaanda (Chapter 26) of the Brahmavaivarta Purana the devotee observing the Nirjala Ekadashi fast should chant the Swasthi Vachan, offer worship to Ganesh & Gauri, Kalash & Varuna, Surya & Navagraha, Vishnu, Krishna, Shiva and Parvathi and Agni Puja. The devotee should also perform hawan, chant the name of Sri Hari, and meditate on Sri Krishna. The next day, after Nirjala Ekadashi the devotee should breakfast with food offered to the Lord (food left over from the yajna).
Synonyms between major Indian languages
Egadashi in Tamil, Agiyaras (Gujarati)