The sage Narada was on a visit to Mahishmati. All around, he saw the signs of abundance and peace. He felt compelled to tell Indrasen, however, that while all may be well in his earthly abode, his own father was suffering in the netherworld. 

According to Narada, he had seen Indrasen’s father in the halls of Yama. His state was pitiable, his once kingly mien now a faint memory. He asked Narada to let his son know of his condition, and to help free him from this troubled afterlife.

Narada did as Indrasen’s father had requested. The King was very troubled at the news; he was insistent on finding a way to help his father but was at a loss as to how it might be accomplished. He asked Narada to stay back in Mahishmati and help find a solution.

Narada told Indrasen that he would need to appease Vishnu to free his father. The sage laid out a rigorous set of rules for Indrasen’s worship — including fasting, chanting Vishnu’s name, and laying out sweet offerings for the Lord. Indrasen followed Narada’s advice, and was successful in pleasing Vishnu. It is said that as soon as Indrasen’s rituals were complete, his father was released from the netherworld and ascended to Vishnu’s world in the heavens. Indrasen himself was blessed and promised the boon of salvation. 

Hindus observe Indira Ekadashi so that they too may, like Indrasen, reap the rewards of their faith in Vishnu. They fast for 24 hours, and offer tulsi leaves, fresh fruits, panchamrit, kheer and homemade halwa to the idol. The bhog follows satvik principles. It is believed that all one’s sins as well as those of one’s ancestors will be forgiven, and there will be prosperity for the devotee and success in their future endeavours.

Singhara (water caltrops/water chestnut) halwa is among the sweets commonly prepared on this day. Surprisingly, water caltrops/chestnuts have an important role to play in religious customs not only in India, but also in China and much of the Sinosphere, where it is an important ingredient of the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations.

Singhara Sheera

By Tarla Dalal

Makes 4 servings.

 Prep time: 5 mins. 

Cooking time: 12 mins.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup singhara flour
  • 4 tbsp ghee
  • 3/4 cup sugar 
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1 tbsp almond slivers
  • 1 tbsp pistachio slivers

Method:

  • Heat the ghee in a nonstick pan and roast the singhara flour in it, on a low flame, for 4 mins or until it turns golden brown. Add two cups of warm water and let it cook for another 4 minutes, stirring constantly. 
  • When the water is absorbed, add the sugar and cook for an additional 4 minutes, keeping up the stirring. Turn off the flame, add the cardamom powder and mix well. 
  • Garnish with pistachio and almond slivers. Serve hot.