Nirjala Ekadashi is the most important and significant Ekadashis out of all twenty four Ekadashis in a year. Nirjala means without water and Nirjala Ekadashi fasting is observed without water and any type of food. Nirjala Ekadashi Vrat is the toughest among all Ekadashi fast due to strict fasting rules. Devotees abstain not only from food but also from water while observing Nirjala Ekadashi Vrat.
According to Hindu epic Mahabharata, one day Saint Vyasa went to visit Pandavas and the Madhyam Pandav Bhima, who was also a food enthusiast, stated that all his brothers, wife Draupadi and mother Kunti observed fast on 24 Ekadasis throughout the year and request him to do the same. But he was unable to perform the ritual owing to excruciating hunger pangs. Saint Vyasa suggested him to observe Nirjala Ekadasi Vrat, which will fetch him the holy fruits of keeping yearlong Ekadasi fasts. Bhima abided by his words and performed Nirjala Ekadasi Vrat. Next morning he became unconscious and was offered Ganga Jal along with holy basil leaves to break the fast. This is why the occasion is also known as Pandava Ekadasi or Bhimseni ekadasi.
On the sacred day of Nirjala Ekadasi, countless religious masses keep strict fast throughout the day and offer prayers to their God. Jagran, (a get together where devotees congregate to offer prayers to God Almighty and sing devotional songs, chant mantras and hymns) is arranged at temples and homes in various parts of Northern India. After a nightlong observance, fasts are broken next morning by drinking water, tulsi leaves, fruits and sweets. Clothes, milk, sweetmeats and fruits are donated for charity to acquire Punya.
Benefits - Devotees who are unable to observer all twenty fours Ekadashi fasts in a year should observe single Nirjala Ekadashi fast as fasting on Nirjala Ekadashi brings all benefits of twenty four Ekadashis together.