The importance of Vaikunta Ekadasi and the vrat katha or story about why it is also known as Mukkoti Ekadasi, Swargavathil Ekadasi is given here. It is one of the very few festivals which are celebrated among all Hindus as per the Solar Hindu calendar.
It is not included in 24 Ekadashi vratas of the year as it considered as per solar calendar (especially followed in Tamil Nadu & Kerala).
In 2017, Vaikunta Ekadashi dates are is January 8 & December 29.
Story behind Vaikunta Ekadasi
The Vaikunta loka, Lord Vishnu’s abode, has two classes: Karya Vaikuntham and Karana Vaikuntam. All the maharshis (sages), gods, and all the devotees are allowed into Karya Vaikunta only. ‘Karana Vaikunta’ is Vishnu’s personal place which can be allowed only to enter for those who qualify to unite with the Lord. It is called ‘Janma Rahitya Prapti’ or ‘Vaikunta Prapthi’. ‘Nammalwar’ (Nammazhwar, one of the 12 Alwars of Vaishnavas), was prayed to Lord for blessing him with Vaikunta Prapthi. The affection of Lord Vishnu to Nammalwar and Alwar’s eternal devotion to the Lord made Shri Hari to bless him with the Karana Vaikuntha Prapthi.
Due to the above legend mentioned in Puranas, in many Vaishnava temples including Srirangam, ‘Nammalwar Paramapadotsavam’ is held during this festival and hence it is referred to as Vaikunta Ekadasi.
Mukkoti Ekadasi Vrat Katha
As we all know, Uttarayana is the day time and Dakshinayana is the night time for Gods. A year for us is equal to a day for Gods. Based on these calculations, Dhanurmasam is the ‘Brahmi Muhurtha Time’ for Gods. All the Gods visit Lord Vishnu during this time. Hence darshan of Lord Sri Hari during this period gives us the punya or merit of visiting all three crore Gods (Mukkoti Devatas).
Why this Ekadasi is Swarga Vathil Ekadasi (Uttara Dwara Ekadasi)
On Vaikunta Ekadasi in all Vaishnava temples, devotees visit the Lord from Uttara dwara (Northern entrance of the temple is opened only on Vaikunta Ekadasi). It is also mentioned as ‘Swargadwara Ekadasi’. The origin of this name explained with a legend in Puranas.
To catch the demon Madhu & Kaitaba (who had stolen the Vedas) and to protect the Vedas, Lord Vishnu left the Vaikunta through Uttara Dwara (Northern entrance) and came in from the same entrance after killing the demons and protecting the Vedas. All the Swarga dwaras (entrances of Vaikunta) were opened for Vishnu at the time when he was returned to his abode. This is the only day when all the entrances of Vaikunta remain opened. The story is all about why Vaikunta Ekadasi is also known as Swarga Vathil Ekadasi.
The story explains that how meritorious is visiting Lord Vishnu from North entrance on Vaikunta Ekadasi. The temporary north entrance is made for Vaikunta Ekadasi festivities in some temples which do not have northern entrance.