Ekadashi is considered to be a very holy day.On this auspicious day,devotees take sacred bath,eat minimum food and spend most of their time worshipping the God.This is the day when Sathvik nature in a person blossoms more easily and opens up the way for full enlightenment.
The Bhishma Ekadashi falls in the Uttarayana Punyakalam, which has many auspicious days dedicated to Bheeshma, like the Bhishma Ashtami and Bhishma Dwadasi.It is widely acknowledged that Bheeshma selected this period of Uttarayana Punyakalam to leave his mortal body and merge with the Supreme Power.
The virtues and significance of observing Bhishma Ekadashi is mentioned in puranas,including Haribhakti Vilas,The Padma Purana and Skanda Purana.In northern India, Jaya Ekadasi is observed on this special day.
Bhishma Ekadasi is an auspicious occasion,observed on Shukla Paksha Ekadashi of Magh (Jan-Feb) month. According to lunar calendar, on the 11th day of waxing moon,it comes exactly after 2 months of Githopadesa.It is the birth day of "Shri Vishnu Sahasra Nama Stotram".This stotra was revealed to Pandavas by Bhishma Pitamaha ,while he was on 'Sharashaiyya' (on the bed of arrows) after the Mahabharatha war.
Bheeshma who was a learnrd personality of Action and Sacrifice, mastered the entire Dharmashastra and practiced it regularly.Bheeshma served the Sages for long periods and observed all the teachings imposed by them and convinced them that he deserved to be revealed the secret they learned after severe efforts. Later on, the great sages blessed Bheeshma and revealed all those secreats of universe.Bheeshma assembled all those teachings from various sages and composed Shri Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram.
Krishna was sarathi (charioteer) for Arjuna in the Kurukshethra war, between Pandavas and Kauravas.When they came back to the camp,after the battle of the day, Arjuna told Krishna to open the gate.This attitude of Arjuna disturbed Lord Krishna,feeling that all His teachings of Bhagwat Gita,were in vain,since Arjuna insulted the Guru.
Krishna therefore thought of engaging a learned Acharya, who could explain "Dharma" to Pandavas.Further Krishna realized that the most learned person to preach about Dharma would be Bheeshmacharya.At that time Bheeshma was lying on the bed of arrows in the battlefield, ready to leave his mortal body.
Krishna accompanied Pandavas to Bheeshma and requested him to give knowledge to Pandavas about Dharma.Krishna therefore restored memory of Beeshma which was affected due to severe injuries during the battle.When Dharmaraja asked him to reveal the greatest of secrets, Bheeshma explained Pandavas on this auspicious day,that Shri.Vishnu is Lord of all Lords and praying Him with all 1000 names is all one can ever do to please Him,leading to salvation.Reciting or even listening to regularly is also a great achievement, that empowers one with the strength to overcome all the difficulties and get on to the right path of Salvation.
It is strongly beleived that he who chants "Shri Vshnu Saharanama Stotra" three times a day,regularly,is freed from all worries and gets moksha.Many scholars have written bhashyam on Vishnu saharanamam,which are Sankara bhasyam, and Ramanuja bhashyam while other bhashyam also exists.
On this day,in most of the temples,"Vishnu saharanama stotra" chanting continues for 24 four hours, with archana every hour or two.The Lord Vishnu is the essense of everything. He is panchanga-tithi, vaara, nakshatra, yoga and karana.He is time, space, and causation. He is the one who controls maya.
It is well known fact that, during the end rights of all poojas,only lord Visnu is worshipped who gives moksha,which is his decision.We need to be Vishnumay,which is possible only when we get drowned ourself into the ocean of his "Sahasra Nama".As it was originated from a great Acharya selected by the Lord Himself, Shri Vishnu Sahasra Nama is considered the essence of Bhagvat Gita.One can also continuously listen to the audio CD of "Vishnu Sahasra Nama".
It is believed that Demon Mura found a dwelling place in a grain of rice.Lord Vishnu,therefore appreared in the form of Ekadashi to destroy him.Hence dissiples fast on the day of Ekadashi and completely avoid grains. On Bheeshma Ekadashi devotees observe the diet of milk products,vegetables,nuts and dry fruits.
Anushasan Parv of Mahabharat tells about the instructions of Bhishma to Yudhistra about the 9 duties of all varnas as under-
1- suppression of anger
5-Getting children from legally wed wife
7- avoidance of quarrel
9- maintenance of dependents
The last message of Bhishma to Yudhishtra was - "You must strive for truth. Truth is the supreme strength. One should be ever compassionate. People should be ever devoted to the Veda, righteous conduct and austerities".
We see another side of Bhishma as a great savant and devotee. Lord Shri Krishna Himself praises him in unique terms.The great saints, stages and savants of the times such as Vyasa, Naradha, Paila, Shandilya, Devala and others had assembled around Bhishma and seeing Shri Krishna their Lord there, Bhishma praised Him. This praise is celebrated as 'Bhishma sthavaraja'.
Being permitted by Bhishma, Yudhishtra put him a number of questions to know the supreme secrets of Dharma and Bhishma answered patiently and expounded the tenets of Dharma. Bhisma taught Yudhishtra Shri Vishnu Sahasra nama and other supreme truths. At the end, Bhishma set his eyes on Shri Krishna and sought the Lord's permission to cast his body.
The Lord said : "You shall attain the state of Vasus. There is nothing sinful in you. You are a great lover of your father. You are a royal sage. So death is under your control."
Bhishma's experience and wisdom were so vast that that his teachings are universal and invaluable. He taught that non-violence, truth, forgiveness and conquest over anger are the charactrestrics of Dharma and that only by following the path of Dharma can one gain happiness. "Mercy towards all beings and giving protection to all beings form the supreme dharma.
That Dharma is conducive to the good of all and which leads the universe to right action. Man should neither talk nor think carelessly of four things (viz) ., evil deeds, harsh deeds, carrying tales and uttering falsehoods". Bishma Ekadashi is rememberance of that great soul and his great teachings and birth of Vishnu Sahasaranaam
TithirVishnustatha varo nakshatram
Vishnureva cha l
Yogashcha karanam chaiva sarvam
vishnu mayam jagat ll
Gurur Brahma l
Gurur Vishnu l
Gururdevo Maheshwara l
Gurur sakshat parabrahma l
Tasmai Shri. Gurave namaha: ll