Tomorrow is Nirjala Ekadasi.  Ekadasi is the Vaishnava fast-day that occurs on the eleventh day of the waxing or waning moon.  Pandava Nirjala Ekadasi is observed on the bright fortnight of the moon (sukla-paksha) in the month of Jyestha (May-June).  It is called Nirjala Ekadasi because one should not even drink water on this Ekadasi.  It is also called Jyestha-sukla Ekadasi.

The Mahabharata, relates to us how the Pandavas strictly observed all Ekadasis.  Bhima, however, who was known for his herculean strength and for being a ‘voracious eater’ (Bhagavad-gita 1.15), was not able to fully observe Ekadasi like his brothers.  He approached Vyasadeva to ask him how he could avert incurring sinful reactions as a result of not being able to follow Ekadasi strictly.  Vyasadeva, in turn, advised him to strictly observe Nirjala Ekadasi once a year and in this way derive the full benefit of following all the Ekadasis in the year.  Nirjala Ekadasi, therefore, became Pandava Nirjala Ekadasi.  It is also referred to as Bhima Pandava Nirjala Ekadasi.

Devotees who have, therefore, broken their fast during the year can make up for this on Nirjala Ekadasi.  The Sanskrit word nirjala means ‘no water’ (nir means ‘no’ and jala means ‘water’).  Strictly speaking, all Ekadasis should be nirjala – without food or water (water is also considered food).  Srila Prabhupada gave some concessions to his followers – who, for the most part, fast from grains and legumes on Ekadasi.  Nirjala Ekadasi should, however, be strictly followed.  One should not eat or drink.  Ideally, we should absorb ourselves in hearing and chanting about Lord Krishna for 24 hours.  This may not, however, be possible for all devotees.  At least we should try to refrain from food and water.