Pandava Nirjala Ekadasi

By : 
Jana Janmadi dasa

The 100 sons of Dhrtarastra (the Kurus) wanted to murder Emperor Yudhistira and his four brothers (the Pandavas) so that one of the Kurus could be the emperor. The Kurus tried, and failed, in six ways to murder the Pandavas. One of the Kurus, Duhsasana, devised a plot to steal the emperor’s throne by cheating Emperor Yudhistira in a dice game. The ksatriyas are allowed to gamble against one another.

The last bet of the gambling match was that if the Pandavas won the bet then they would regain everything they had lost in the game, but if they lost they would go into exile in the forest for thirteen years. In the thirteenth year they would not live in the forest but would live incognito. If they were identified they would suffer exile for another thirteen years.

Although there was cheating in the dice game, Emperor Yudhisthira accepted that he lost the bet. The Pandavas went into exile accompanied by their mother, Queen Kunti Devi (Sri Krishna’s paternal aunt).

While in exile, Queen Kunti and the Pandavas ate whatever fruits, roots, berries, plants, and vegetables they could find and sometimes they ate a dangerous animal they killed. Daily, they would each gather whatever edibles they could find, put it all together and divide it amongst each other. However, they did not equally divide it.

They gave extras portions to the second eldest Pandava, Bhima, because he needed it for this bodily maintenance. Bhima was so big and powerful just like an elephant. Sometimes he would walk through the forest carrying Queen Kunti on his head, one of his brothers on each of his broad shoulders, and one of his brothers under each of his powerful arms.

Following ekadasi in the forest was very difficult for Bhima because sometimes no food could be found that devotees are allowed to eat. Krsna conceded to Bhima that if once a year the Pandavas followed an ekadasi by fasting from all food, and not even drinking water then this would make-up for breaking any ekadasi during the previous year, giving the benefit of following all the other ekadasis even if they were not otherwise observed.

This ekadasi is now called Pandava Nirjala Ekadasi (nir = not and jala = water) and it usually occurs during the end of May or the beginning of June.

Following ekadasi is one of the ten basic practices of devotional service. Srila Prabhupada writes in The Nectar of Devotion that a person cannot even be considered to be a devotee without following the ten basic practices of devotional service.

It is necessary to fast from beans and grains on every ekadasi. If one inadvertently does not follow an ekadasi it can be rectified by following the full fast, including all food and water, on Pandava Nirjala Ekadasi.