Vaikunta Ekadasi is the most famous festival for the Vaishnavaites and the celebration for this at Srirangam Ranganatha Swamy Perumal Temple, No. 1 in the 108 Divyadesams of Lord Vishnu, is something the whole world watches out for. Though the celebrations happen in every other Vishnu Temple in the world, the grandeur of the celebrations at Srirangam will be in a different level altogether.
The Vaikunta Ekadasi festival happens for a period of 21 days. This year it begins on 18th December, and the ritual is called Thirunedunthandagam. Next comes the Pagal Pathu celebrations, the 10 days during which certain designated people narrate the verses from Nalayira Dhivya Prabhandham. This has been followed for many centuries. Followed by Pagal Pathu is the main occasion of Vaikunta Ekadasi. On this special day the presiding deity, Lord Ranganathaswamy is adorned with royal clothes and jewellery. He is brought out of heaven through the door called Paramapadha Vaasal and lacs and lacs of devotees throng this Divyadesam to witness this. This actually happens around 4 am in the morning and devotees start coming to the temple from the previous night itself.
If you think this marks the end of the occasion, you are wrong. The following ten days too are celebrated in the name of Ira Pathu. This will be carried out by the Araiyars. Araiyars are those who recite the Naalayira Dhivya Prabhandham in the Ranganathaswamy Temple.
The temple sees a lot of people coming during these 21 days. It is not just the temple that sees the festivities but the whole Srirangam itself will be in a festive mood. Devotees consider it to be a blessing to be a part of the celebrations at Vaikunta Ekadasi.
According to beliefs, witnessing Lord Rengantha Swamy come out of the Paramapadha Vaasal and worshipping him during the same can provide relief from the cycle of birth and death and help attain salvation.