Vaikunta Chathurthasi is the festival dedicated for worshipping Lord Shiva and Lord Maha Vishnu either individually or together. The festival occurs on the Shukla Paksha Chathurthasi of the Karthika month.
For the Year 2021, Vaikunta Chathurthasi occurs on Wednesday, 17th November 2021. The exact duration of the Chathurthasi Tithi has to be ascertained from the respective regional calendars.
Vaikunta Chathurthasi is predominantly celebrated in Maharashtra, Gaya, Varanasi and Rishikesh.
The festival is also called as Baikunth Chathurthasi, Manikarnika Snan and Karthik Chathurthasi.
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There are a few legends pertaining to the celebration of Vaikunta Chathurthasi.
Sri Maha Vishnu
Once, Sri Maha Vishnu wanted to have the darshan of Lord Shiva at Varanasi. So, He had left Vaikunt and reached Kasi. On reaching there, He wanted to do archana to Lord Kasi Viswanath with thousand lotuses.
He had collected the lotuses and was doing Puja. While doing so, He had discovered that one lotus was missing. As He did not want to discontinue the Puja in search of the missing lotus, He had decided to offer one of His eyes as the thousandth lotus.
Lord Shiva was much moved by the Bhakthi of Sri Vishnu and appeared before Him. Lord Shiva had ensured that Sri Vishnu’s eyes were intact and He had offered the Sri Sudarshan Chakra to Sri Maha Vishnu.
Hence, the day when Lord Shiva had given the Sri Chakra as the weapon to Sri Vishnu is observed as Vaikunta Chathurthasi.
Once Sage Narada had visited Vaikunt and asked Sri Vishnu as to how ordinary people who do not know or do the regular Puja rituals can attain Vaikunt. The Lord had replied that whoever observes the Vrat on Shukla Paksha Chathurthasi of Karthika month would be given direct entrance to Vaikunt. He also asked His guards Jaya and Vijaya to admit the devotees who had observed the said Vrat.
Once, there was a person named Dhaneshwar who was committing sins. On the day of Vaikunta Chathurthasi, the devotees had thronged the banks of Ganga and they were lighting earthen lamps and sending them afloat.
Though Dhaneshwar did not do any Puja by himself, he had just mingled with the crowd. At the time of end of his life, Sri Yama had sent him to hell. However, Lord Shiva had interrupted and told that his mingling with the crowd observing Vakiunta Chathurthasi itself had alleviated his sins.
Hence, Dhaneshwar was placed in heaven.
It was the time when Sri Shivaji was crowned as the ruler of Maharashtra with Rajgarh as his capital. There was a pond named Kushavartha which was full of blooming lotuses.
On seeing the lotuses, Sri Jeejabai, the mother of Sri Shivaji had surmised that Vaikunta Chathurthasi was approaching. She also wanted to do puja to Lord Shiva with thousand pure white lotuses at Jagadishwara temple.
For the puja, she wanted the flowers to be pure, without blemish and untouched by others. As she was aged, she could not pluck the flowers herself.
Sri Shivaji had consulted with his staff. A warrior named Vikram Dalvi had offered to pluck the flowers for Rajamatha without touching them.
Next day, Vikram Dalvi had prostrated before the lotus pond. Then from his bow, he sent arrows to cut the stems of thousand lotuses. Then he got into the pond by boat. From the boat, he had used a pair of tongs to retrieve the flowers from the pond.
Thus, he had collected thousand lotuses untouched. Sri Shivaji and Sri Jeejabai had presented handsome rewards to the warrior for his sincerity and intelligence.
The rituals observed differ from region to region.
Kasi Viswanath Temple
On the day of Vaikunt Chathurthasi, Kasi Viswanath Temple is ascribed the status of Sri Vaikuntam. Lord Maha Vishnu is placed opposite Sri Kasi Viswanath. Lord Shiva is worshipped with Tulsi leaves and Lord Vishnu is worshipped with Bilva leaves. The ritual symbolizes that Sri Shiva is offering Bilva to Sri Vishnu and He in turn is offering Tulsi to Lord Shiva. The custom also signifies the oneness of Sri Shiva and Sri Vishnu.
The devotees take holy dip in the Ganges and offer archana to both the Deities. They offer turmeric rice, Chandan and Kumkum in worship. Then they put the lighted earthen lamps with bathi (wick) on the Ganges.
The devotees of Sri Maha Vishnu chant the Vishnu Sahasra Nama do archana to Sri Vishnu with thousand lotuses as Nishitha Puja (midnight).
The devotees of Sri Shiva do archana to Him with thousand lotuses as Arunodhaya Puja (morning). They take the holy dip at Manikarnika Ghat in the morning.
At Rishikesh, donating of lamps is done amongst the devotees. This donation is considered highly auspicious.
At Thibhandeshwar Temple, Nashik, the Shiv Murti is dressed up with jewels and sliver mask as Sri Ardha Nareshwara.
In some regions, community feasting under the gooseberry tree is observed.