Jaya Ekadashi is a fasting ritual observed on the Ekadashi tithi of the Shukla Paksha (the bright fortnight of the moon) in the month of "Magh." In the English calendar, it falls somewhere between February and March. This day is observed in honor of Lord Vishnu, who is one of the three main Hindu deities.
Almost all Hindus, and those who worship Vishnu in particular, fast on Jaya Ekadashi in the hope of earning the deity's favor. Many also believe that if they fast on Ekadashi, their sins will be forgiven and they will reach salvation. Some Hindu communities in South India, especially in the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, celebrate Jaya Ekadashi under the names "Bhoumi Ekadashi" and "Bhishma Ekadashi," respectively.
The “Padma Purana” and the “Bhavisyothara Purana” both discuss the significance and history of Jaya Ekadashi. King Yudhisthira (the eldest of the five Pandav brothers) asked Sri Krishna to explain the significance of the auspicious Ekadashi Vrat and the proper way to observe it. The power of the Jaya Ekadashi Vrat is such that it can absolve even the most heinous of sins, known as "Brahma Hatya." Due to the fact that both Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva are worshiped on Ekadashi, the month of Magh in which the Jaya Ekadashi Vrat occurs has special significance. And so, this Ekadashi is significant for followers of both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.
The devotees observe a 24-hour fast, during which they do not consume any food or liquid. In actuality, the vrat begins on the Dashami tithi (tenth day). To ensure that a complete fast is observed on Ekadashi, no food is consumed after sunrise. From the sunrise of Ekadashi until the sunrise of 'Dwadashi' tithi (12th day), Hindu devotees fast without water. During fasting, a person must not allow anger, lust, or greed to enter their mind. This fast is intended to purify both body and soul. On the Dwadashi tithi, the observer of this vrat must offer food to respected Brahmins before breaking their fast. One who observes the vrat must refrain from sleeping the entire night and sing bhajans praising Lord Vishnu.
People who are unable to observe a full fast may observe a partial fast by consuming milk and fruit. This exception is intended for the elderly, pregnant women, and those with serious physical ailments.
On Jaya Ekadashi, even those who do not wish to fast must abstain from eating rice and all forms of grains.
A small statue of Lord Vishnu is placed on the altar, and devotees offer sandalwood paste, sesame seeds, fruits, a lamp, and dhoop to the deity. On this day, reciting "Vishnu Sahastranaam" and "Narayan Stotra" is considered auspicious.