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Rangbhari Ekadashi – The beginning of Holi

(Picture by Amar Ujala)
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The eleventh day of the waxing moon according to the Hindi month of Phalgun is celebrated as Rangbhari Ekadashi in Varanasi. It is a Hindu festival that marks the beginning of the festival of colours, five days before Holi. Particularly celebrated in the Northern region of India, it is commonly known as Phalgun Shukla Ekadashi. It is the only Ekadashi that is dedicated to Lord Shiv while the rest of them are associated with Lord Vishnu. On the day of Rangbhari Ekadashi, Rudrabhishek, special worship of Lord Shiv is performed.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Rangbhari Ekadashi is also known as Amalaki Ekadashi, Amla Ekadashi or Amalaka Ekadashi. It is dedicated to amalaka or amla tree (Indian gooseberry) which is ritually worshipped on this day. Lord Vishnu who is revered on this day, is believed to dwell in this tree. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Why is Rangbhari Ekadashi celebrated?

According to the traditions, Lord Shiv got married to Goddess Parvati on Mahashivratri and stayed back at Parvati’s maternal home for a few days. Two weeks later, it was on Rangbhari Ekadashi that Mahadev brought her to his city Kashi for the first time after his marriage. Rangbhari Ekadashi is celebrated to commemorate the reunion of Shiv and Shakti. Since it was the first visit of Goddess Parvati, all the Gods joined in the celebration and showered petals and colours from heaven on the newly married couple. The ceremony of Gauna (a tradition practised in UP and Bihar when the bride returns to her maternal home after marriage) with all its customs starts a few days before the Ekadashi. The bridegroom arrives at the house of the Mahant (the chief priest) of Shri Kashi Vishwanath temple a day prior to the Ekadashi.

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On the day of Rangbhari Ekadashi, a procession is carried out every year on this day. Devotees charged up with infinite energy dance and play with colours. The procession starts from Mahant’s house in Tedhi Neem and ends at the Kashi Vishwanath temple. The silver idols of Shiv and Parvati are taken on a palanquin to the main temple which is a few yards away. The pair enters the sanctum sanctorum of the main temple for special puja and prayers. The narrow lanes of Vishwanath Gali are packed like sardines with people and colours as the procession moves along. The very next day of Rangbhari Ekadashi, Shiv visits masaan to celebrate the same holi with his Ganas, ghost, and spirits that live at the cremation ground which is called Masaan ki Holi. Thereafter, the festivities are continued for the next six days in the city until holi. 

Rangbhari Ekadashi will be celebrated on the 14th of March this year.

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