Sri Yudhisthira Maharaja said, “Oh JanArdana, protector of allliving entities, please tell me the name of the Ekadasi that occursduring the dark fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada (August-September).”
The Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna, then replied, “Oh King, hear meattentively. The name of this sin-removing, sacred Ekadasi is Aja. Any personwho fasts completely on this day and worships Hrishikesha, the master of thesenses, becomes free of all reactions to his sins. Even one who simplyhears about this Ekadasi is freed from his past sins. Oh King, there is nobetter day than this in all the earthly and heavenly worlds. This is truewithout a doubt.
“There once lived a famous king named Harishchandra, who was theemperor of the world and a person of great truth and integrity. His wife’sname was Chandramati, and he had a son named LohitAshva. By the force ofdestiny, however, Harishchandra lost his great kingdom and sold his wife andson. The pious king himself became a menial servant of a dog-eater, who madehim guard a crematorium. Yet even while doing such menial service, hedid not forsake his truthfulness and good character, just as soma-rasa,even when mixed with some other liquid, does not lose its ability tobestow immortality.
“The king passed many years in this condition. Then one day hesadly thought, ‘What shall I do? Where shall I go? How can I be deliveredfrom this plight?’ In this way he drowned in an ocean of anxiety andsorrow.
“One day a great sage happened by, and when the king saw him hehappily thought, ‘Ah, Lord Brahma has created brahmins just to helpothers.’ Harishchandra paid his respectful obeisances to the sage, whosename was Gautama Muni. With joined palms the king stood before Gautama Muniand narrated his pitiful story. Gautama Muni was astonished to hear theking’s tale of woe. He thought, ‘How has this mighty king been reducedto collecting clothes from the dead?’ Gautama Muni became verymuch compassionate toward Harishchandra and instructed him on theprocess of fasting for purification.
“Gautama Muni said, ‘Oh king, during the dark fortnight of themonth of Bhadrapada there occurs an especially meritorious Ekadasi namedAjA (Annada),which removes all sins. Indeed, this Ekadasi is so auspicious that if you simply fast on that day and perform no other austerity,all your sins will be nullified. By your good fortune it is coming in justseven days. So I urge you to fast on this day and remain awake throughthe night. If you do so, all the reactions of your past sins will come to anend. Oh Harishchandra, I have come here because of your past pious deeds.Now, all good fortune to you in the future!’ So saying, the great sage SriGautama Muni immediately disappeared for their vision.
“King Harishchandra followed Gautama Muni’s instructions concerningfasting on the sacred day of AjA Ekadasi. Oh Maharaja Yudhisthira, becausethe king fasted on that day, the reactions to his previous sins werecompletely destroyed at once. Oh lion among kings, just see the influence ofthis Ekadasi fast! It immediately vanquishes whatever miseries one maybe suffering as a result of past karmik sinful activities.
Thus all Harishchandra’s miseries were relieved. Just by the powerof this wonderful Ekadasi, he was reunited with his wife and son, who haddied but were now revived. In the heavenly regions the devas (demigods)began beating on their celestial kettledrums and showering down flowers upon Harishchandra, his queen, and their son. By the blessings of the Ekadasi fast, he regained his kingdom without difficulty. Moreover, whenKing Harishchandra left the planet, his relatives and all his subjectstoo, went with him to the spiritual world.
“Oh Pandava, whoever fasts on Aja Ekadasi is surely freed from allhis sins and ascends to the spiritual world. And whosoever hears and studiesthe glories of this Ekadasi achieves the merit gained by performing ahorse sacrifice.”