The Story of Pandava Nirjala Ekadasi
Once Bhimasena, the younger brother of Maharaja Yudhisthira, asked the great sage Shrila Vyasadeva, the grandfather of the Pandavas, if it is possible to return to the spiritual world without having observed all the rules and regulations of the Ekadasi fasts.
Bhimasena then spoke as follows, “Oh greatly intelligent and learned grandfather, my brother Yudhisthira, my dear mother Kunti, and my beloved wife Draupadi, as well as Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva, fast completely on each Ekadasi and strictly follow all the rules, guidelines and regulative injunctions of that sacred day.
Being very religious, they always tell me that I should also fast on that day too.
But, Oh learned grandfather, I tell them that I cannot live without eating, because as the son of Vayudeva – Samanaprana, (the digestive air) hunger is unbearable to me.
I can give widely in charity and worship Lord Keshava properly with all manner of wonderful upacharas (items), but I cannot be asked to fast on Ekadasi.
Please tell me how I can obtain the same merits result without fasting.”
Hearing these words, the grandsire of Bhima, Srila Vyasadeva said, “If you want to go to the heavenly planets and avoid the hellish planets, you should indeed observe a fast on both the light and dark Ekadasis.”
Bhima replied, “Oh great saintly intelligent grandfather, please listen to my plea.
Oh greatest of munis, since I cannot live if I eat only once in a day, how can I possibly live if I fast completely?
Within my stomach burns a special fire named Vrika, the fire of digestion.
Agni the fire-god, descends from Lord Vishnu through Brahma, from Brahma to Angirasa, from Angirasa to Brihaspathi, and from Brihaspathi to Samyu, who was Agni’s father.
He is the gatekeeper in charge of Nairritti, the south-eastern direction.
He is one of the eight material elements, and Parikshit Maharaja, he is very expert at examining things.
He examined Maharaja Shibi once by turning into a dove. (for further information on this incident see Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s Srimad Bhagavatam commentary to 1:12:20. Purport.)