Utthana Ekadasi is a major fast day for four reasons.
1) Today all the demigods awake and get up, utho or utthana, from bed after resting for 8 hours of their time, which encompasses four months of earth time i.e. Caturmasya.
2) On this day, Krishna killed the Sakata(cart) demon described in the Srimad Bhagavatam 10th Canto, Chapter 7. Please read this chapter today.
3) Today Baby Gopala Krishna rolled over (Utthana) on His belly after lying on His back for three months after birth. Then due to His intense eagerness to meet Radhika, Gopala began crawling about on His hands and knees searching for His eternal beloved Gopali. Yasoda Maiya observed a special ceremony to celebrate this auspicious event.
Splendidly dressed and decorated, all the Vrajavasis rushed to Yasoda Maiya’s house to witness the wonderful event. Melodious music from rumbling mrdangas, kettledrums and other instruments filled the air. Mother Yasoda put Krishna to rest on a bed which was more like a swing or hammock. It was suspended below a hand cart as big as a house. Vishnu Dharma says the cart was as tall as a palm tree (30 m), very heavy, long and wide. Amidst all the festivities, Baby Krishna started crying due to hunger. But the Vrajavasis could not hear Krishna due to the din of music, singing and merry-making.
Meanwhile, a demon named Sakata sent by Kamsa to kill newborns in Vrindavana invisibly entered that huge hand cart. Fully aware of this, baby Krishna just playfully kicked His tender feet. Simultaneously the cart was demolished and the demon was killed. Although Gopala was only three months old, from the force of Krishna’s kick, the wheels split from the axle, the hubs and spokes fell apart and the hand cart collapsed. The big brass pots on the cart made a tremendous sound as they tumbled on the ground. Upon hearing that shattering sound, the Vrajavasis anxiously ran to the spot. Mother Yasoda was relieved to see Krishna smiling and playfully rubbing his fingers along the cloth of the hammock.
The Vrajavasis thought the cart had fallen apart due to some unknown cause. However, the children who were attending Krishna described the whole event in broken language. They said, “It’s not Krishna’s fault that the huge cart was destroyed. Krishna felt hungry and started crying loudly for His mother’s milk. When Krishna did not get any, He just kicked His little legs while crying and the cart collapsed.”
Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains the Sakata bhanjana lila (Krishna’s breaking the cart) represents smashing of old and new bad habits and the destruction of laziness and vanity. By reading this pastime and praying to Sri Krishna for His mercy Sri Krishna will personally kick these obstacles far away. In Caitanya Shiksamrta , Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes that the twenty-one demons killed by Krishna in His Vrindavana lila represent specific anarthas or unwanted material contaminations.
These create obstacles to serving Sri Krishna in the pure loving mellows of Vraja. One should read the various chapters of the Srimad Bhagavatam 10th canto describing Sri Krishna’s vanquishing these demons. And one should pray to Sri Krishna to give one the strength and determination to cast away all these obstacles to progress in pure Krishna bhakti. One can find the list of the 21 demons and the anarthas they represent in my book Appreciating Vrndavana Dhama available on amazon.com.
4) Lastly, on this day of Utthana Ekadasi, most Gaudiya Vaisnavas end their Chaturmasya or Karttika Niyama Seva Vrata.
In Hari Bhakti Vilasa, Srila Sanatana Gosvami gives specific details on observing the Uttana Ekadasi Vrata, and he encourages everyone to follow it in order to please Radha Damodara. Here, we have listed the main points to help the devotees follow it.
I. BENEFITS OF UTTHANA EKADASI
All Vedic sastras highly emphasize the need to fast completely even from water and stay awake all night on this most important day of Utthana Ekadasi. Observing jagarana (remaining awake all night) gives great pleasure to Sri Krishna and host of other benefits including liberation, destruction of all one’s mental, physical and vocal sins for 1000 lives. One receives unending results or benefits (akshaya phala) from any act of Deity worship, charity, austerity or sacred bathing.
II. DEITY WORSHIP
Begin with bath at sunrise. And then recite the Srimad Bhagavatam (especially Sri Krishna’s balya-lilas, or the Gajendra Moksa chapter), offer fruits and gifts to Your Thakuraji and brahmanas during the day. Circumambulate your Thakuraji and offer dandavats. You should offer aratika to Thakuraji and Tulasi Maharani, and offer a row of ghee lamps before them. In addition, you should offer Thakuraji flowers, fruits, camphor lamps, and sandalwood pulp water in a conch as arghya. Offer an aratika every three hours throughout the night.
III. PERSONAL ACTIONS
Give up all laziness and enthusiastically worship Sri Krishna in a joyful mood throughout the day and night and onto the sunrise. Vrindavana Biharilal ki Jai Ho!
Pass the night singing, dancing and playing musical instruments for the pleasure of Radha and Krishna. Keep an akhanda ghee lamp burning all day and night. This concludes the suggestions from Haribhakti vilasa.
From my side, I recommend that devotees gather together before Tulasi-devi and Thakuraji or in Radha-kunda or Vrindavana and perform akhanda Sri Hari Nama Sankirtana from sunrise of Utthana Ekadasi to sunrise of Dvadasi. In addition, the Hari Nama Sankirtana can be sweetly nourished by periodic reading of Radha Krishna Asta-kaliya Vraja lilas as depicted in Govinda Lilamrita, Bhavana Sara Sangraha, Krishna Bhavanamrita and Krishnahnika Kaumudi.
May Radha Giridhari bless all the devotees with success in performing the Utthana Ekadasi Vrata, which is like the sweet icing on the bliss cake of the Karttika Niyama Seva Vrata.
Jai Jai Sri Radhe!!