King Rukmangada, his wife Sandhyavali and son Dharmangada were devotees of Lord Vishnu. Every fortnight, the king undertook the Ekadasi Vrata also known as Hari Vrata. On all the three days: the day prior to Ekadasi, on the day of Ekadashi and the day after Ekadashi, he undertook fasting and praying. Not only did Rukmangada very religiously and ardently follow all the vows of the Ekadashi Vrata, but he even persuaded his subjects to undertake the Ekadashi Vrata. “Yatha Raja thatha praja”: all his subjects religiously followed the king on the path of dharma and religion.
The Lord decided to test the steadfastness and devotion of Rukmangada. Accordingly, Brahma created a beautiful damsel, Mohini by name and sent her to Rukmangada’s kingdom. One day, when Rukmangada was enjoying himself in his beautiful royal garden, he heard someone singing. He followed the beautiful melodious voice. And there in front of him was Mohini! Her attractive form and charming smile totally captivated him. He asked for her hand in marriage. Mohini agreed but on one condition. The king should fulfill all her wishes, whatever they might be. Rukmangada, who was known for his truthfulness promised to fulfil all her wishes. The king happily married Mohini and took her to his palace. Years passed. The king continued his Ekadashi Vrata without a break.
It was the auspicious month of Kartika. Rukmangada entrusted the Kartika Maasa Vrata to his wife Sandhyavali and she devotedly undertook the same. However, on the day prior to Ekadasi, he heard his own royal attendants walking on the streets of the city beating the royal drums and reminding the subjects: “Tomorrow is the auspicious Ekadashi. Undertake the Vrata and spend your time in prayer and fasting – the surest way to eternal happiness and ultimate fulfilment!” The king who was spending his time in the company of Mohini, suddenly realized that he also had to undertake the Vrata and conveyed it to Mohini.
Mohini however was reluctant to let the king go. She demanded that he remain in her company on ekadashi day and have meals with her. The king was horrified. He pleaded with her to let him go. On the other hand, Mohini reminded him of his promise to fulfil every desire and wish of hers. The king refused to stay back and have meals with her on the auspicious Ekadashi. To him death was more welcome than giving up the Ekadashi Vrata. After a long heated argument, Mohini agreed to let the king go and perform the Ekadashi Vrata, but he had to pay a penalty for not keeping up his promise to her. Not knowing what was in her mind, Rukmangada readily and happily agreed to do whatever she asked in return for allowing him to undertake the Ekadashi vows. Mohini brought a sword, gave it to the king and asked him to kill his son, Dharmangada. Rukmangada was stunned to hear these harsh and cruel words from Mohini, who had become his favourite queen. Sandhyavali who heard these words almost fainted. When the noble Dharmangada heard the words of Mohini, he approached his father and asked him not to waver. He told his father to surrender onto the Lord unconditionally and go ahead and kill him. To a devotee of Sri Hari, not to undertake the Ekadashi Vrata was worse than death! And when the Lord is there, why should a true devotee worry? He pleaded with his father not to give up his vows at any cost. Rukmangada was happy at see his son’s unshakeable faith and devotion towards the Lord, but was full of grief at the turn of events.
Assured again and again by his son that nothing untoward can happen to the devotee of Sri Hari, Rukmangada lifted up the sword to strike his son. At that moment, Lord Vishnu along with his consort Lakshmi appeared on Garuda. The Lord took the sword from Rukmangada’s hand, and told him that it was all a divine plan to test his faith and devotion and steadfastness in pursuing the Ekadashi Vrata. Pleased with Rukmangada’s devotion, the Lord granted him, his wife Sandhyavali and son Dharmangada mukti.
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