Ekadasi Devi: Goddess, Warrior, Protector
***This is an adaptation of the story of Ekadasi Devi found in the Garga Samhita. While this story needs no re-telling, I have tried to parrot it here with love and devotion. Any mistakes or discrepancies found in this story are all my own, and I pray for the forgiveness and blessings of all who read this story, and of course for the blessings of Ekadasi Devi herself that she may be pleased with me.***
Sri Radha sat in a beautiful forest grove among Her many girl friends, looking like the vibrant moon surrounded by twinkling stars. They were laughing with one another, seeking shelter from the hot afternoon sun, under the benevolent, wish-fulfilling trees of Vrindavan. The gopis, the maidens of the village of Vrindavan looked to their princess, Sri Radha and spoke.
"Oh Radha, beautiful, gentle-natured, lotus eyed daughter of King Vrishabhanu, please tell us what vow we may follow to attain the favor of Sri Krishna."
At the mention of Krishna's name Radha bent Her head shyly, a crimson blush blooming gently across Her cheeks. The Prince of Vraja was the hero of every young girl's heart, the gopis included. It was no secret that although every maiden, young and old, ran to Krishna, He ran to Radha. They knew that there must have been some secret to the hold that She had over the charming gopa and they yearned to know how they too could possibly catch his attention. They would do anything, take up any austerity, pray to any God, and endure any hardship if it meant that their Krishna would be pleased with them.
"Radhe, You have made Krishna, whom even great demigods like Brahma and Mahadeva cannot approach, just like Your submissive servant!"
Sri Radha covered Her face with the gauzy fabric of Her veil, momentarily humbled by their praise. After a heartbeat, She recovered Her composure and with a sweet, compassionate smile the goddess who accepted the role of a simple milkmaid in the transcendental village of Vraja, spoke to Her assembly of friends.
"To attain Sri Krishna's mercy you should follow the vow of fasting on Ekadasi. In that way you will make the Lord into your submissive servant. Of this there is no doubt." The gopis looked at their princess with rapt attention. They hung on to Her every word as She described to them the vow which would grant them the perfection of their lives. Sri Radha held up Her hand as She instructed Her friends to listen carefully. The eleventh day of each waxing and waning lunar cycle was reserved as a fasting day where one voluntarily took on penance to please the Supreme Lord, but it also held the story of a compassionate goddess.
With a wide smile which shone like sun rays from the brilliant sun of Sri Radha's face, She began: "During the waning moon, the dark fortnight, of the month of Margasirsa, in order to kill the demon Mura, the divine goddess Ekadasi Devi was born from the body of Lord Vishnu."
Indra, king of the heavens, along with all of the other celestial demigods approached the shore of the milk ocean and Svetadvipa, the effulgent island which was home to the Supreme Lord Vishnu along with the goddess Lakshmi. This place was their safe haven, and the assembled demigods could feel their fears and anxieties washing off of them just as the waves from the ocean of milk receded from the shore of the ethereal Island. Indra was sure that the Lord would be able to help them, and with that faith, he put forth his appeal.
"Oh Lord of the universe, oh Supreme Personality of Godhead, we offer our respectful obeisances to you." Indra paused to close his eyes and touched his forehead to his joined palms in salutation. All of the accompanying devas followed, offering Lord Vishnu their respects.
"You are the creator, maintainer, and destroyer, of this entire cosmic manifestation. You are the mother, father, and the supreme shelter of everyone.” Indra glanced back and the dejected look of the other demigods who were in trouble gave him the strength to continue. Indra extended his arms in supplication to the Lord who was his only savior.
“Although it may appear as though we are controllers of the many universal affairs, actually, we are merely Your servants, put into our positions by You. We are always subordinate to You, our master, and are forever dependent on Your abundant grace. You are the Supreme Person! You are the protector of surrendered souls who rely on Your shelter just as the beautiful pearls of Your necklace rest on Your broad chest. Oh Supreme Mystic, the demigods have been driven out of our heavenly kingdom and have lost our home. We were ousted by a cruel and vicious demon and have fled to the Earth Planet. We are now plunged into an ocean of miseries without our kingdom. We beg for Your aid! Lord, be pleased with us!” Indra was aware that with each plea, his voice rose and became more and more urgent.
On hearing such a pathetic prayer from the king of the devas, Lord Vishnu began to understand their dire situation. In a deep voice that seemed to come from everywhere all at once, He spoke to Indra. “Who is this invincible demon who has defeated even the demigods? What is his name and what is the source of his prowess? Please explain everything to Me in detail. Do not fear.” Lord Vishnu held His right hand up to Indra to give him the encouragement to speak, His soft, red palm facing the demigods and blessing them with fearlessness.
Indra took a breath feeling instantly relieved. “There is a fierce demon named Mura. The great city of Chandravati is the capital of this horrible being, but he has now taken over our capital city of Amaravati and we have been unable to withstand his attacks. Not has he overtaken our city, but he is living in our palaces and has even dared to take over the post of some of the most important devas like Agnideva, Yamaraja and Varuna. He has rendered us ineffective. Although we have all joined forces, it has been impossible to defeat him. Completely exhausted and with no other recourse, we have come to You. You are our only hope.”
Lord Vishnu’s soft smile vanished. His eyes looked intense and His gracefully curved eyebrows drew close together in annoyance. He cast a grave and sober glance over all of the demigods. When the Lord’s beautiful eyes, usually so full of love, came to rest on Indra again, the king of the heavens could see the fire blazing behind them. The Lord was angry.
“My dear Indra, do not worry. I will personally kill this enemy of yours. All of you should travel along with Me to the city of Chandravati.”
The demigods released a collective sigh of relief and gratitude and all at once, they raised their clasped palms above their heads and murmured chants of thanks to the Lord who would once again come to their rescue.
The demigods, rejuvenated by the presence of Lord Vishnu marched on the city of Chandravati to do battle once again with Mura and his army of demons. The Lord defeated the demon horde, dispersing them as if they were nothing more than a swarm of gnats. However, when He engaged in battle with Mura himself, the Supreme Lord used various weapons but the demon refused to die.
Finally, Lord Vishnu engaged in hand to hand combat, wrestling with the demon for ten thousand years. Their blows sounded like the planets themselves were being crushed into powder, but the battle raged on and on, the devas watching with bated breath, hoping that their Lord would bring and end to their suffering soon.
Overcome by the punishing blows of the Supreme Lord, Mura was defeated and lay unconscious on the blood-stained battlefield. Feeling tired, Lord Vishnu left Mura and the battlefield and journeyed to Badarikasrama high in the Himalayas to rest. Once in Badarikashrama, He entered a beautiful cave called Hemavati and laid down. He entered a deep slumber, His beautiful lotus eyes closing against the fatigue He felt from fighting so long with the demon.
Suddenly, the demon Mura who had regained consciousness shortly after Lord Vishnu departed for the ashrama, followed the Lord to His resting place and entered the cave. It was dark and quiet inside the cave, but Mura could easily see the effulgent form of Lord Vishnu. Seeing his opponent sleeping so peacefully, the demon smiled evilly. This would be the perfect opportunity to put an end to Vishnu who had destroyed all of his plans and many of his demon soldiers, not to mention countless demon rulers before him. Raising a sword, which glinted menacingly in the reflected light from the Lord’s many jewels and shining armor, Mura could almost taste victory as he brought it down with a swoosh!!
Mura was momentarily blinded by a fierce, bright light which was almost as hot as it was intense. The light lit up every corner of the cave, but Mura was not to be deterred. He pressed forward with the edge of his sword thinking this to be another trick of that crafty Vishnu, but no matter. There was nothing that would defeat him. As the light dimmed, Mura glanced down to see Vishnu with his eyes still closed, resting just as peacefully as he had been before. The demon’s eyes widened as he wondered who or what it was that was currently stopping him. He looked up and into the furious face of a woman.
The brightness of her form was still illuminating the inside of the cave. She had dazzling armor and was holding a sword firmly against the one he brought down to behead the savior of the demigods. She had various weapons, but it seemed as though the longer Mura looked at her to try and decipher all of the details of his opponent the brighter her effulgence became until it was too painful to try and look directly at her. No matter, whoever it was, Mura would do battle with them, and he would win. He would stop at nothing until he killed Vishnu.
Time was lost to both the demon and the warrior goddess as they fought, the clang of their swords relentlessly echoing off of the inner walls of the cave, but Vishnu never stirred. Finally Mura raised his sword high above his head, ready to deliver a death blow to the goddess, but she was quicker than the demon, and with blurring speed, her sword slashed through the air with and Mura’s head rolled at her feet while his body was suspended in motion, freezing for a moment in his last battle stance before crumpling to the floor of the cave in a lifeless heap.
The goddess stood back and gazed at the sleeping form of her beautiful Lord with folded hands. His eyes opened, and her eyes dropped to the ground before her, overcome with shy reverence. Lord Vishnu looked at the beautiful woman who stood before Him. She had a beautiful face with what the Lord knew were wide lotus eyes even as she glanced down and away from Him. A golden crown adorned her head and her black hair hung free in waves that flowed around her. She had many weapons which she held at rest, but her sword was dripping with blood. Lord Vishnu followed the trail of blood and saw the body of the demon Mura lying, forgotten on the floor of Hemavati cave. Astonished, Lord Vishnu looked toward the goddess again.
“Devi, who are you?” His tone was gentle and she looked up at him timidly, but in her eyes was the unmistakable courage and competence of a born warrior.
“My Lord, I am born from Your very own body, the moment this demon raised his sword to kill You. I have killed this wretched demon who sought to kill You as he saw You sleeping.” She cast one last fierce glance at the demon before returning her gaze back to the Lord. A beautiful smile curved onto His lips.
“Oh goddess, I am very pleased with you. Please ask for any benediction you desire.” Vishnu looked at the beautiful girl waiting to hear her desire.
“Oh my Lord, if You are pleased with me and wish to give me a boon, then just as You have allowed me to protect You who protects the entire universe, with my very essence, by laying waste to this sinful demon, please give me the power to deliver any person who honors me on this day by eradicating any and all of their greatest sins.” The goddess smiled once she asked for the benediction which immediately brought joy to her heart.
“So be it, Devi. You are My spiritual energy. Since you have appeared on this day of Ekadasi, your name shall be Ekadasi Devi. Anyone who follows the vow of Ekadasi, honoring you, will be relieved from all sinful reactions and attain inexhaustible heavenly and transcendental happiness.” The Lord raised his right hand, benevolently fulfilling the wishes of the compassionate goddess Ekadasi Devi.
Sri Radha looked at the group of stunned gopis. Their faces were bright with joy, hearing the pastimes of Lord Vishnu. Sri Radha smiled, full of secret joy.
“Even today, one can attain a kingdom like Kuvera, the god of wealth and more, simply by following Ekadasi. This day is most dear to Lord Hari. My dear gopis, please know that Ekadasi is the queen of all holy days. No other holy day is her equal.”
Clapping in appreciation of Radha’s words, the other gopis began to speak amongst themselves all resolving within their hearts that very moment to strictly and earnestly follow the words of their very own queen and observe the fast of Ekadasi which would grant them their heart’s desire, the favor of Govinda.
All glories to Ekadasi Devi who appeared as a daughter from the body of Lord Vishnu to save Him and whose only wish was to joyfully extend her protection to all those who honor her sacred day. I pray for her protection and her blessings to receive the favor of the divine couple Sri Sri Radha Govinda.