Haribodhini Ekadashi is one of the biggest Ekadashi (events) of Nepal which falls on the 11th day of the bright fortnight of kachalathwa. Here, kachalathwa means the very first month of the Nepal Sambat which generally occurs in October/November.
This Haribodhini Ekadashi is thought to be the time when Lord Vishnu awakens from his four-month cosmic sleep. According to the available Puranas and holy scriptures, on Hari Sayani Ekadashi, Lord Vishnu sleeps on the shesh-naag, a bed of serpents in sheersagar, and wakes up on Hari Bodhini Ekadashi.
Also, during these four months, Mangal religious acts such as weddings, sacred thread ceremonies, hair-cutting ceremonies, the marriage of ficus religiosa trees (pipal), and initiation as the construction of a new house are not performed because it is believed that the god himself is sleeping and cannot bestow his blessings.
People from all across Nepal do celebrate this festival. Some people take fast and some tried to reach out to the possible temples of Lord Vishnu. Especially the four major Narayan temples of Kathmandu Valley. There are four famous Narayan temples scattered throughout the city. They are as follows:
Changu Narayan temple on the east
Ichangu Narayan on the west
Bishankhu Narayan on the north
Shesh Narayan on the south
Lord Vishnu is also called Narayan, that’s why his temples are called Narayansthan.
The following day of the Haribodhini Ekadashi is known as the Tulasi Vivaha, which refers to the marriage of a plant named Tulasi. Tulasi is assumed and prayed to as the goddess Laxmi, Lord Vishnu’s consort. On that day, Tulasi marries Damodar, a whole other manifestation of Lord Vishnu.
What is the legend behind Tulsi Vivah?
There is a story of Lord Vishnu which gave rise to the celebration of Tulsi Vivah. A demon king named Jalandhar was famous for his evil acts but the secret of his great success was his wife Brinda’s virtuous character. Brinda was also a devotee of Lord Vishnu and prayed constantly for her huband’s well-being. To stop Jalandhar’s evil acts and power, Vishnu took the form of Jalandhar and took away Brinda’s celibacy.
Soon after, Jalandhar lost in a fight and died. When Brinda got to know of what Vishnu did, she cursed him to turn into the Shaligram stone and then immolated herself on her husband Jalandhar’s pyre. Lord Vishnu turned Brinda’s soul into a Tulsi plant with the promise to marry her.
The Tulsi plant is said to be a form of Goddess Lakshmi, and Brinda is one of her incarnations. In the next birth, on the day of Prabodhini Ekadashi, Lord Vishnu in the form of Shaligram married Tulsi. Thus, the Tulsi Vivah ritual includes the marriage of a Shaligram stone to a Tulsi plant.
How is Tulsi Vivah celebrated?
Tulsi Vivah can be celebrated either in temples or at home. Usually, a fast or Tulsi Vivah vrat is kept till the evening when the rituals are started.
The ceremony begins with bathing a Tulsi plant and a Vishnu idol and decorating both with garlands and flowers. The Tulsi plant is decorated like a bride with a red sari, jewellery and bindi. The Vishnu idol is dressed in dhoti. A thread is then tied to link the couple.
The ceremony ends with people showering vermilion and rice on the couple. After that, Prasad is distributed among the devotees.
This day is believed to be the one when Lord Vishnu wakes up from his slumber and presides over the religious rites across the universe. On this occasion, the Seshnarayan temple, along with the other three of the Char Narayan temples are crowded with the devotees to pay their homage to the Lord.
Legend has him guarding the gates of the King Bali in Pataal (the land under earth according to the Hindu literature) as was his turn. It is believed that the folks in heaven (gods and saints) were suspicious of Bali’s generosity and had him deported, literally, down to Pataal, however, the three supreme gods impressed with his generosity and selfless acts, agreed to be his gatekeeper. The holy Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva took turns, each diving three months in between shifts and according to the holy scriptures, it was Vishnu’s turn.
The major festive celebration on this day happens in the city of Kathmandu itself. Some of the most important shrines of Lord Vishnu are situated in the valley since the time immemorial as the ancient rulers of the city did all they could to make the city prosperous, like designing the city in a way that the four cardinal points would have the shrines of Lord Vishnu guarding the valley. In the past, devotees used to visit all the four temples on this day and that too, on foot, however, with the fast growing modernization and work load, people would be lucky if they could manage to visit any one of them.
However, in the past, despite of where they began their holy quest, they always tend to finish it at Sesh Narayan temple as Sesh also meant ‘final’. Those who could not visit all the four temples situated at the four cardinal points of the valley visited the Char Narayan temple in Mangal Bazaar. Also, the Nepali month of Baishak (April- May) is considered auspicious to visit Lord Vishnu‘s shrine in Budanilkantha.